Maps and Timelines

After a bit of a struggle, I successfully created my first Google Map!  The tutorial page was extremely helpful, and the bit that Ryan told us about south and west coordinates definitely saved me a lot of frustration. My struggles didn’t originate from using the spreadsheet and filling out each pertinent cell–they actually came from the apparent speed at which I was editing the sheet. I personally don’t think I was moving too quickly, but apparently the spreadsheet did. I kept receiving error messages about the script, and I had no idea what it was talking about until I read Jessica’s post and saw that she had encountered the same problem. I ended up removing almost all of the rows that I wasn’t using (the spreadsheet gives you 1,000 to begin with…why someone would need that many, I do not know). That way there was less for myself and for the spreadsheet to deal with. I tried entering information less rapidly and giving the sheet more time to update. Finally, when the KML was ready, I again encountered a problem. Even though the KML was ready, the first tab (“start here”) would not give me a link to go view my map. I got pretty frustrated, and ended up just closing the tabs and my laptop and taking a shower. When I came back and opened up my Google Drive, the spreadsheet was ready for me, this time with a link. Finally, my map was done!

Lessons learned: Do not rapidly edit the spreadsheet. (And if you do, give the sheet a few minutes to update itself and catch up with you). Once the KML is ready and you’ve published the sheet, be patient. It may not give you the link to view the map. Try waiting a few minutes, and if it still won’t reveal its secrets, then just close the tabs and come back a little while later.

I just finished my timeline, which I had immense amounts of fun making. The timeline was so much simpler to create than a Google map, and I think it would be a great resource for our project. We have already discussed using it in a number of different ways, such as for general WWI events or for specific events in Fredericksburg or at UMW. It will be a great way to aid our viewers in keeping track of everything! Enjoy my love story of Brick Tamland and Lamp (from Anchorman).

Special Collections and the Masonic Lodge

photo 2 It has been another exciting week for us at UMW! Our group found more items in the Special Collections here at UMW that will be really valuable for our project.  Jack, Julia, and I went back to Special Collections yesterday and spent 2.5 hours looking through President Russell’s papers.  I was hoping to find speeches given by President Russell that are mentioned in the October 1917 Normal School bulletin, but the papers held by UMW seem to deal more with administrative matters like reports to school boards and hiring teachers.  However, we did find other very valuable resources.  It seems that many teachers and employees who sought reappointment in 1918 asked for salaries, and several of them cited the much higher cost of goods and their inability to afford such on their current salaries.  Presumably, these high prices were a direct effect of the war in Europe, and these requests are great examples of not only how World War I affected the economy in general, but also how it affected daily life for people at the State Normal School in Fredericksburg.  We have all also been extremely eager to find documents that address the effect that the influenza epidemic had upon the school’s population.  Julia found a 1918 list of students who had missed a significant number of days, and many of them were listed as having had an “illness.”  Later I found what at the time appeared to be a gold mine of information on the influenza at the State Normal School…until I realized that it was a report for the State Normal School in Harrisonburg (there were four State Normal Schools at this time: Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Farmville, and Radford).  (It was very interesting to see, though, that the SNS in Harrisonburg was so afflicted with influenza that it turned one of its residence halls, Jackson Hall, into a temporary hospital because the infirmary was so overcrowded–it could only fit 12 patients.  The school suspended classes for at least two weeks!)  After some more digging and locating a seemingly lost folder of President Russell’s papers, we finally found the Fredericksburg school’s report that mentioned influenza!  Huzzah!  It seems that, comparatively, the SNS in Fredericksburg was not as severely affected by the epidemic as Harrisonburg was–we only closed for 8 days.  Still, a significant portion of the student body and faculty/staff came down with virus.  Unfortunately, Death came to Fredericksburg: Virginia Goolrick, the Head of the History Department, succumbed to the disease and died within a few days of contracting it.  While I was reading the influenza report, Jack was looking at financial records, and found that he could corroborate the dates of the epidemic, and from a monetary standpoint we could see how heavily the virus affected the school.  During the months of the epidemic (fall 1918), the spending of the infirmary shot through the roof, approaching $500!  We had a very productive day in the Special Collections, and marked down what we wanted to go back and digitize for the project.  At this point, I’m not quite sure how we will incorporate everything into the site, but I think at the very least a timeline would be a good feature for the site.  I would definitely like to work in document images as well.

This evening (Thursday, January 29) we continued our archival work, this time venturing to the Masonic Lodge in Historic Downtown Fredericksburg.  We were very excited to visit the Lodge because the Freemasons have a rich and complex history, and we hoped that they would have some good materials for us to look at.  The Masons were delighted that we sought them out for help and are eager to help us with our research–they want a copy of the site/research once everything is completed!  The historian at the Lodge is fairly new (he took on the position in December), and the archivist was not at the Lodge to assist us.  However, as we talked with the historian and the Grand Master, we got some great preliminary information about the Freemasons and their involvement in society, prominent Masons of Fredericksburg at the time.  The Grand Master graciously gave us a copy of their history, written by a Brother, which has a page discussing the Masons’ activities during WWI.  They didn’t have many archival resources for us to look at tonight, but it was more of a preliminary meeting, so that we could meet with them and explain our project in-depth, to give them a better idea of what kind of resources we are searching for.  The Lodge is in the midst of cataloging and digitizing its archives, which will be beneficial to our project.  Once the secretary and archivist are apprised of our project, I am sure they will have some interesting resources for us to look at, like photographs and meeting minutes.  I’m very excited to see what they can find for us!

photo 1

Maps and Timelines

After a bit of a struggle, I successfully created my first Google Map!  The tutorial page was extremely helpful, and the bit that Ryan told us about south and west coordinates definitely saved me a lot of frustration. My struggles didn’t originate from using the spreadsheet and filling out each pertinent cell–they actually came from the apparent speed at which I was editing the sheet. I personally don’t think I was moving too quickly, but apparently the spreadsheet did. I kept receiving error messages about the script, and I had no idea what it was talking about until I read Jessica’s post and saw that she had encountered the same problem. I ended up removing almost all of the rows that I wasn’t using (the spreadsheet gives you 1,000 to begin with…why someone would need that many, I do not know). That way there was less for myself and for the spreadsheet to deal with. I tried entering information less rapidly and giving the sheet more time to update. Finally, when the KML was ready, I again encountered a problem. Even though the KML was ready, the first tab (“start here”) would not give me a link to go view my map. I got pretty frustrated, and ended up just closing the tabs and my laptop and taking a shower. When I came back and opened up my Google Drive, the spreadsheet was ready for me, this time with a link. Finally, my map was done!

Lessons learned: Do not rapidly edit the spreadsheet. (And if you do, give the sheet a few minutes to update itself and catch up with you). Once the KML is ready and you’ve published the sheet, be patient. It may not give you the link to view the map. Try waiting a few minutes, and if it still won’t reveal its secrets, then just close the tabs and come back a little while later.

I just finished my timeline, which I had immense amounts of fun making. The timeline was so much simpler to create than a Google map, and I think it would be a great resource for our project. We have already discussed using it in a number of different ways, such as for general WWI events or for specific events in Fredericksburg or at UMW. It will be a great way to aid our viewers in keeping track of everything! Enjoy my love story of Brick Tamland and Lamp (from Anchorman).

Also, I am in the process of subscribing to all of my classmates’ blogs on feedly.

Digital Tools and Sites

Zotero: WOW! I was extremely impressed with how easily Zotero captured information about sources and translated it into comprehensible resources, like citations and a virtual library. I could definitely see myself using Zotero to create a library of virtual library of my own–keeping track of all of the books that I own, having notes about them, keep track of where they actually are,  etc. I have so many books that I can’t even remember where I keep them all and which ones I actually own, so creating a virtual library with Zotero could be a great use for it.

Omeka: Piggy-backing off of my virtual library idea for Zotero, I think Omeka would be a great tool for making a virtual library accessible on the internet, if (for whatever reason) you wanted people to be able to view the contents of your personal library. Omeka would also be useful in creating online exhibitions for museums (or digital history class projects!). Its versatility and customization options provide great opportunities for creating unique, interactive exhibitions (or websites in general).

WordPress: I have enjoyed using WP so far, and it is definitely a great tool for keeping a personal/class blog. I could see it being useful as a sort of image gallery, with little blurbs of information about each image; a virtual scrapbook of sorts. Several WP themes (especially the minimalist ones) like “Polaroids” would be absolutely perfect for creating an online image gallery/scrapbook. WP could also be useful as a discussion forum.

The first DH site I checked out was the French Revolution site, and it was NOT at all what I was expecting. I noticed that the url has the same beginning as the links for our Digital History text (chnm.gmu.edu), and after reading the chapters for today, I was quite shocked at the appearance.  The page immediately overwhelmed me with its garish red background, and the content of the page itself is quite small–on my computer, it exists in the top, left-hand portion of the page, while the rest is the overwhelming red.  Nor is it particularly clear what the casual viewer is supposed to do with this site–there is almost no text on the homepage to guide visitors, and it looks like the links were dropped haphazardly onto the page.  The main font appears out of date and the images look pixellated on the edges.  The pop-up menus under “Explore” and “Browse” are visually disturbing.  However, the search feature is streamlined and straightforward, a definite asset to the site and for its users.  The “Imaging the French Revolution” portion of the site seems more modern and is definitely more informative and aesthetically appealing.  From this site, I can say I definitely want to avoid jarring colors and appearances, and I would like our site to be more informative and intuitive than this one.  (I would also like it to take up adequate space on a page–but I don’t know if it appears this way for anyone else.)

The second site I visited was the Great Molasses Flood site, mainly because I wanted to see what an Omeka site was like.  (And I was curious about what a Molasses flood is.)  I found this site even more difficult than the first one–the newspaper is intriguing, but I wasn’t quite sure what to make of all the randomly highlighted elements of it.  When clicking on an element, a sidebar on the left AND right side of the page popped up, confusing me as to which one I was supposed to be looking at.  On the left sidebar, I think the text needs some differentiation between the categories and information (for example, underline categories like “title” and “description” so that the actual title and description stand out from the categories).  However, I really enjoy the interactivity of the site and how many of the highlighted elements connect to the extra media that the page brings up.  I would love for our WWI site to have some comparable interactive features for users, but I think it would be wise for our navigation to be more intuitive.

The third site I visited was Mapping the Republic of Letters, because I have occupational ties to letters (I transcribe for the Papers of James Monroe), and this site is by far the most impressive of the three.  The color scheme is simple and appealing, and the home page gives a nice introduction to the site/project.  The site also includes other multimedia like videos and images.  The navigation links remain accessible at the top of the page and are appropriate to the contents of each.  (Unfortunately, the “Blog” and “Contact” links do not work.)  My only serious complaint about the site is that on the main “Case Studies” page, the images are all different sizes, so the page is a bit visually jarring.  Each individual case study has wonderful graphics and maps that help viewers to better understand the Republic of Letters.  I hope that our site will be visually appealing and intuitive like this one, with media that enhances our written information.  However, I am a stickler for consistency, so I hope our thumbnail images (or anything similar) will all be the same size.

The last site I visited was Virtual Paul’s Cross Project, and I was extremely impressed. Aesthetically, the site did not set high expectations for the content, but this site is one of the cases in which the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” definitely applies. The content in VPCP is so rich–it takes a singular event in history, and turns it into an immersive experience for the visitor. It details the weather, acoustics, general environment, and so many other small details that surrounded the sermon. This site is one that–to use a cliche that I am not particularly fond of–makes history come to life. After exploring the different parts of the site, I also gained insight into why it was not as aesthetically appealing as I would generally expect websites to be. The gray, muted tones of the site reflect part of the sermon’s atmosphere, particularly the weather–it was gloomy, most likely raining, and London in general has a bleak atmosphere. The site’s color scheme add to what it brings to life by helping recreate the atmosphere of the Gunpowder Day sermon. I think an immersive experience like this would be very cool to try and create on our own ADH site, especially given that we are studying the WWI homefront experience at UMW. It would be a great way to give visitors a close look at that experience.

Digital History Sites: Ideas and Discouragements

The first DH site I checked out was the French Revolution site, and it was NOT at all what I was expecting. I noticed that the url has the same beginning as the links for our Digital History text (chnm.gmu.edu), and after reading the chapters for today, I was quite shocked at the appearance.  The page immediately overwhelmed me with its garish red background, and the content of the page itself is quite small–on my computer, it exists in the top, left-hand portion of the page, while the rest is the overwhelming red.  Nor is it particularly clear what the casual viewer is supposed to do with this site–there is almost no text on the homepage to guide visitors, and it looks like the links were dropped haphazardly onto the page.  The main font appears out of date and the images look pixellated on the edges.  The pop-up menus under “Explore” and “Browse” are visually disturbing.  However, the search feature is streamlined and straightforward, a definite asset to the site and for its users.  The “Imaging the French Revolution” portion of the site seems more modern and is definitely more informative and aesthetically appealing.  From this site, I can say I definitely want to avoid jarring colors and appearances, and I would like our site to be more informative and intuitive than this one.  (I would also like it to take up adequate space on a page–but I don’t know if it appears this way for anyone else.)

The second site I visited was the Great Molasses Flood site, mainly because I wanted to see what an Omeka site was like.  (And I was curious about what a Molasses flood is.)  I found this site even more difficult than the first one–the newspaper is intriguing, but I wasn’t quite sure what to make of all the randomly highlighted elements of it.  When clicking on an element, a sidebar on the left AND right side of the page popped up, confusing me as to which one I was supposed to be looking at.  On the left sidebar, I think the text needs some differentiation between the categories and information (for example, underline categories like “title” and “description” so that the actual title and description stand out from the categories).  However, I really enjoy the interactivity of the site and how many of the highlighted elements connect to the extra media that the page brings up.  I would love for our WWI site to have some comparable interactive features for users, but I think it would be wise for our navigation to be more intuitive.

The last site I visited was Mapping the Republic of Letters, because I have occupational ties to letters (I transcribe for the Papers of James Monroe), and this site is by far the most impressive of the three.  The color scheme is simple and appealing, and the home page gives a nice introduction to the site/project.  The site also includes other multimedia like videos and images.  The navigation links remain accessible at the top of the page and are appropriate to the contents of each.  (Unfortunately, the “Blog” and “Contact” links do not work.)  My only serious complaint about the site is that on the main “Case Studies” page, the images are all different sizes, so the page is a bit visually jarring.  Each individual case study has wonderful graphics and maps that help viewers to better understand the Republic of Letters.  I hope that our site will be visually appealing and intuitive like this one, with media that enhances our written information.  However, I am a stickler for consistency, so I hope our thumbnail images (or anything similar) will all be the same size.

Archival Survey–Great Finds!

My colleagues and I at UMW have compiled a (lengthy) list of archival resources that will be valuable for this project.  Jack and I went to UMW’s Special Collections this past week and found some great items!  One is a student scrapbook, which contains pictures that show us what the State Normal School was like during WWI.  In addition, several of these pictures show female students posing with males dressed in uniform.  Our initial thought for this scrapbook is to create a digital image gallery or scrapbook.

Another excellent resource at our Special Collections is the collection of academic catalogs and bulletins.  (As luck would have it, almost all of the catalogs and bulletins from the WWI era have been digitized and are searchable!)  These bulletins are excellent windows into what the State Normal School experienced during WWI.  For example, from these bulletins we know that SNS offered a special class during the war on food conservation, and we also know that two faculty members served in the military during the war.  (I am particularly excited about these bulletins–I think it’s so amazing to be able to see in such detail what the school was doing during WWI and how it adapted to new and different demands!)  We can also look through the President’s Papers of SNS and the school’s yearbooks, both of which should give us a further view of the school’s homefront experience.

The Central Rappahannock Heritage Center is another place that holds promising resources.  Using its online catalog, Candice located oral histories from the WWI era, two diaries that recount the homefront experience in Fredericksburg, and photographs and documents of Fredericksburg’s Washington Guard.  We are heading to CRHC this week to get a personal look at these resources–I’m excited to see what they have for us!

The Central Rappahannock Regional Library contains promising collections of postcards and oral histories.  The Virginiana Room contains special collections, several items of which pertain to the WWI era.  We are hoping to visit the Virginiana Room within the next week or so, in order to get a clearer picture of what resources it has to offer.

Although not necessarily local to Fredericksburg, the Virginia Historical Society is local to my home location and hold the Goolrick Family Papers, spanning from 1896-1927.  The Goolrick family was a very prominent family in Fredericksburg, so this collection may contain some valuable documents relative to our interests. I am hoping to visit the VHS soon to see some sections of the Goolrick Papers.  Other potential resources in Fredericksburg and Virginia exist, and we are in contact with people at these places, but for this post I have just highlighted what seem to be our most promising resources thus far.

Deciding to Partake in the Adventure

I am a senior History Major (with a Mathematics minor!) and I decided to take this course when Dr. McClurken told me about this cool Digital History project that would research the homefront experiences of different universities during World War I. UMW is definitely an interesting college to look at, especially because it used to be an all-girls school, so the homefront experience is bound to be interesting! I also thought that this class would be a great opportunity for me to learn about Digital History and actually get some research experience in the field. I love working in archives, and archival research is part of my group’s project, so it was yet another inducement for me to partake in this adventure. I can’t wait to see what this project has in store for me!

First Progress Report…Only Just the Beginning!

I am very excited to be a part of this digital history experiment, and so far it is going very well for my colleagues and I! Julia, Candice, Jack, and I have found some great resources to start looking at.

Jack and I went to UMW’s University Archives on Tuesday to take a look at the collections that the archivist thought would be good places to start. Our University Archives have several items pertaining to WWI, but only a couple of them will be good sources for the homefront experience. One is a student’s scrapbook, and it contains pictures of female students with males dresses in military attire. Another resource that I think will be very helpful in elucidating the homefront experience is the academic catalogs and bulletins of the school (at that time it was called the State Normal School). The first one that we found that made a mention of the war was the October 1917 Bulletin. It is entitled “Patriotism Through Local History Conservation in War Time Reorganization of English School Activities”–we struck gold!

Luckily, many of the school’s academic catalogs and bulletins have been digitized and are available on the Internet Archive, and we can search these digitized sources for key terms like “war” and “crisis,” in order to assist our research. We are going to look through these sources more, as they seem to hold promising information about the homefront experience of the State Normal School during WWI.

We also have a list of other local resources and organizations that we are contacting in order to find more research materials. This upcoming Thursday we are taking a trip to the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center to look at the WWI resources they hold. I can’t wait to see what is in store for us–this is only just the beginning!