Hello! a short autobiography.

Hello, My name is Sarah and I am a graduate student at CCSU.

My fascination with history began very early. From the time I was little until now I have been captivated with different eras of history. Every few months growing up I would learn a much as I could about an event or topic then spout facts.

I initially went to school to become a history teacher. However, after graduating from CCSU with my bachelors I began working with the lower grades and fell in love. I started at Southern Connecticut State University shortly thereafter. In 2016, I graduated with my masters in elementary education. I love my job but I really missed the intellectual stimulation from working with history.  So in January 2017, I started at CCSU to pursue a masters in  history. My hope is to become a professor when I am older.

Something else I think is important to know about me is that i love taking pictures. When I was little my dad took photography classes and I became interested in the process. This is something that affects how I think about history. I am excited to be immersed in digital history as opposed to the typical way of “doing” history. Due to the fact I am a millennial (hate that word), I have a lot of experience with social media. I am active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, musical.ly. I do also have a Tumblr and I rarely use it.  In regards to blogging, I have a personal blog that was started for a high school class and I kept it up but I would rather read, talk with friends, or just live life instead of sitting down and typing. I am hoping that working on a blog for the class will help me get back into blogging personally as well as professionally.

 

Introduction to Omeka

Omeka offers the best way to display information digitally. It is a site that has been recommended for museum professionals. Omeka provides a variety of showcase websites as examples of some of the exhibits that can be created using their services. The two I chose to look at are the “Humboldt Redwoods Project” and “The Latina History Project”. The site layouts are very similar to each other.  Both sites have a  landing page with basic information about the site and the organization that compiled it.

The landing page has tabs that lead to the digital collections as well as other information about the site. I really enjoyed the slideshow on the Humboldt Redwoods Project page because I love photography. The displayed photos give the visitor great glimpse into what the site is about. The Latina History Project landing page only has one image and no other photographs. This is a huge difference. For online exhibits, it is imperative to draw the visitor in and entice them to explore further. Both digital and physical exhibits need to be visually appealing to viewers. If not then no one will stop to see what the organization is about.

Accessibility on both sites is quite different. The Latina History Project website is comprehensive with its digital collections and exhibits being able to be browsed individually.  The Humboldt Redwoods Project website only has exhibits.  There is no overview of all the items in their collection. This is a major issues when trying to ascertain whether a site has information that can be used.  The ability to search the content varies. However,  both sites have a fair amount of informational quality in which the items in the collections and exhibits and are organized.

Omeka provides a basic template for creating online exhibits. It is still the creator’s responsibility to ensure their site is organized and appealing to visitors.

Should scholarship be free?

This was supposed to change and post the actual response but it didn’t!

 

So this week was about scholarship being accessible to all with a focus on copyright. I never really gave much thought copyright laws. I know about copyright laws because as a teacher I am a big lover of fair use but it isn’t something I spend a lot of time pondering.

The questions that was asked was if academic scholarship be accessible to all. I think it’s a very complicated issue. Rosenzweig states in his article “should Scholarship be Free?” that scholarship should be free and I agree. The fact that the only people who can access high quality databases have to either pay for the use or be affiliated through an academic institution is a bit maddening. There are people not to able to create amazing papers because they can’t afford or are no longer affiliated with an institution. With a restriction on information there is the stiflement of potentially groundbreaking work.

However, a huge problem with free scholarship is the funding. Publication need to have a financial gain to be able to stay open and that is where the subscription fees occur. In the readings there were multiple ideas for how to overcome the monetary aspect including allowing partial access to journals. Another great idea that is also eco friendly was transferring over to completely electronic output. This would cut costs. Additionally, cost cutting would help academic institutions cut costs because they would not have to be the gatekeepers for these publications.  In a country that does not emphasize historical research and work it is imperative scholarship allow for people interested to have the access they need.

Copyright laws are a bit confusing to many people. The law as established to protect creativity, but in the case of historical research the law does more harm than good. It is really important to receive permission before using another person’s work. I think the laws should be made clearer so people know when it permissions are not required due to fair use or in public domain.  Due to people not understanding copyrights scholars need to become experts in copyright law so they do not become victims of lawsuits. Copyright can be very complicated so everyone in historic scholarship should become familiar with the laws.

Jeffrey Young’s description of the two professors and their guideline for copyrights. I think it is clear that digital historians can quite easily correct infrigements with updates and retractions to their sites. The guidelines would be more helpful to the scholarship done in print. This does return the mind to Rosenzweig’s article and question about scholarship. The article mentions scientific journals making their peer-reviewed journals free to all users. Yet, historical journals are not free to all but a limited subscription base. Many people complain that students and regular citizens are reading flawed or fake junk on the web yet nothing is done to provide access to high quality resources.

I think in a perfect world scholarship would be free. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Hopefully, there is a way to make scholarship more accessible to all.

 

Week 3: Discuss how the Web impacts the way you do historical research. How does it change the way you think about sources? Are there qualitative differences between using digital archives and more traditional analog sources?  Why or why not?

The Web has made doing historical research a lot easier. It is more accessible. Instead of having to plan my research around the hours of an archive or library. I am able to get online and do a large majority of my research. My tendency is to do my work at night after a library, historical society, or archive would be closed. This is not something I like doing but I have a full-time job in a school so my hours are not flexible. With the ability to access primary and secondary sources from the comfort of my own home via databases, I am able to get everything done. It also allows me to access sources faster and more efficiently than if I had to dig through archives and shelves.  

However, using the internet has changed how I think about sources. Typically, when using a book I am more trusting of its accuracy. I do investigate the author and publisher to identify the biases that both might have. When I am looking at an online source, sometimes that type of information might be difficult to find.  I am very careful to use information that is reliable. I choose to use databases and sites of professional stature. With the access granted through the library, the peer-reviewed journals and articles are trusted higher than a website because I know the journals and articles have been edited and looked at by other professional historians. I really have to think about the fact that older historians have not always had the technology to do research. For most of my schooling, I have had unlimited access to the internet. One of the first things, I was taught in middle school was researching skills so from the minute I begin researching a topic I head to the internet.

Week 2: How does the medium of the World Wide Web change the practice of doing history? Is Digital History qualitatively different from History?

Much like the transformation of transportation during the Industrial Revolution, the emergence of the World Wide Web transformed how people saw the world. In the 1990s, when web pages became prevalent

Historians and other professionals saw that the average person has more access to information.

Digitizing materials key to the field of history permits others to explore and access sources that they may not have known about prior to the 1990s. The act of digitizing also helps to preserve fragile sources as well as new more sturdy sources. Yet this act of digitizing history does come with challenges to preservation. Toni Weller discusses this in History in the Digital Age. The World Wide Web is fast and ever-changing. Just look at Wikipedia and see how one page can change hundreds of times in a short period of time. For preservationists, it is hard to keep up with the edits versus the original. Also with such a huge number of websites to choose from it would be almost insurmountable for a historian to attempt to preserve every single website on the internet before it can be changed or deleted. Historians are not unbiased so a to one a site might not seem as significant as it would to another.  So the question “What is important to the history of the world and should be saved?” remains.

Something that Weller discusses is the idea that for some historians the use of scanning has actually hindered their sensory understanding of a topic. The example that immediately comes to mind is of a medical historian in Portugal who was researching an outbreak of cholera. As he was reading letters in the archives he also was smelling them because vinegar was used as a disinfectant to prevent the spread of cholera. He was able to use the smell of vinegar to determine the progression of the disease. Weller’s point seems to be that while digitizing letters and other sources can be a wonderful way for the content to be shared, for some their is an sensory experience being lost that cannot be regained.

Is digital history qualitatively different from history?

I think the quality of digital history is not as different from the quality of traditional history. Both types of history have distorted, incorrect, and sometimes unverified pieces of information. There are many times that a monograph can incorporate outdated or incorrect sources. The issues with digital history stem more from the sheer volume available. The quantity of history present on the internet is vast. There are curated sites run by professionals and then there are amateur blogs. This vastness has resulted in many unfactual pieces of evidence and interpretations. This is not an issue that only affects history, there are studies and other medical findings that are incorrect but taken as truth because it is on the internet. Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig discuss on their site “Digital History: A Guide to Gathering Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web,” that the internet and other digital media contain qualities that both potentially allow historians to do things better and pose as dangers or hazards on the web. According to them, there are seven qualities that may benefit historians are accessibility, capacity, diversity, flexibility, hypertextuality, interactivity, and manipulability. These are all words that highlight how great digital history can be.  On the other hand, the five dangers include quality of information, passivity, durability, readability,  and inaccessibility. Just like traditional history, there are issues with digital history. However,  the fact is that the digitization of primary sources has allowed for the sharing of knowledge. There are artifacts and archives all over the world that someone of limited means would never get a chance to visit. It is the job of historians to view and sift through all the information to determine what is real and can be verified versus what is fake and unverifiable. As technology advances so too do the job of a historian.