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.

 

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Reflections

This semester the class was introduced to various digital sites, tools, and techniques that can be used in future. I am not in the public history program. I think this is a class that all history majors should take if they haven’t already.  I found copyright, Omeka, and social media the most interesting.

Ah copyright for me is something that exists in theory but doesn’t really apply to me. I was taught that there are ways to get around copyright laws as a teacher. There are three words that were drilled into me: brevity, spontaneity, and cumulative effect. I don’t mean I go around voiding copyright willy-nilly but I do use those three words a lot.  So before this class, I didn’t really put much thought into copyright laws. I would never steal someone else’s work. I didn’t know that once I write something technically it is copyrighted without me filing something. It is definitely something that I will keep an eye on when working in digital formats.

One tool that really stood out for me was Omeka. This is a platform used by public historians to present their work. Instead of creating a physical exhibit. Omeka allows historians to create a digital one. The digital exhibit is so much more accessible than the physical one because you don’t need to travel to see them. All a person needs is an internet connection and a computer.  I could see myself using this platform as a teacher. Allowing students to make a visually appealing display that can be viewed online would be such an amazing opportunity and tie into their everyday lives.

I think the most meaningful tool discussed this semester is social media. It is an everyday part of our lives. So it would make sense to use it in our professional lives. Social media allows historians to interact with the public in a worthwhile way. Historians are able to gather information on what people want and then implement those ideas. Historians can also use social media to interact with differing viewpoints. I’m not saying get into an argument, however, listening to each other and explaining your views is important. It is a great way to gather and discuss issues online without going to a conference.

Also, I found Toni Weller’s book History in the Digital Age to be helpful when trying to grasp the concept. The book provides an introduction to digital history and then is broken up into sections that were useful.  I continually returned to the book during the semester to provide extra information into what we were learning.

I really liked Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig’s book Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web. I liked that it was accessible online! Whereas, Toni Weller’s book was print.

I feel like I learned a lot and can’t wait to apply it in other classes!

I’m a Citizen Archivist! How about you??

The National Archives and Records Administration runs the Citizen Archivist project. The site uses volunteers and crowdsourcing to tag, transcribe, and add comments to documents. 

The first step to getting on to the site is registering. This step was really easy. I created a username and password. They emailed me a confirmation link immediately. Making it super easy for me to start. 

They have a section called Citizen Archivist Missions. In the section, you click a topic you’re interested in and it gives you a list of records that you can transcribe or tag. 

I went into the “”Registered Product Label section and transcribed a label registration for Building Blocks from R. Bliss Manufacturing Company. It was pretty easy to transcribe. There were some words I wasn’t sure about so I put them in parentheses. I didn’t do the whole file. I plan to go back in and finish up later. I just wanted to try it out to get my feet wet. Now I know how to do it so I will work on this portion.

I think the concept of this project is great. It allows people to get involved in history. My favorite aspect is the accessibility to the public. You don’t need a degree in history to help the National Archive. For historians, this is a way to work with sources they might not be able to access otherwise.I really like how the National Archive also has rules for how to interact and contribute. I hope they have someone checking to make sure the transcriptions are accurate. This site is something I would suggest all history majors look at. Especially the written portions because it is great practice for reading cursive, which is what most older sources will be in.

 

Podcasting

Last week we talked about having a presence on social media and its relation to history. We talked about the popular sites but this week we are talking about podcasts. I am neutral about podcasts. I like them but then again I don’t use them. 

I like podcasts because they are great for people who have a lot of stuff to do and can listen as they multitask. As a medium they are handsfree. I think my issue comes from the fact that I am a teacher so all I do is listen to people talk all day. I don’t typically listen to them because I want silence. I am trying to get into podcasts as the summer approaches because I feel that there are somethings that I would listen to such as Armchair Expert but that’s because I love Dax Shepard. He has a lot of life lessons in his podcasts.

We recently had a workshop on weighing the benefits or disadvantages of something at work. I made a benefits/disadvantage list 🙂 

The benefits of podcasts are:

  • handsfree- a listener doesn’t need to do anything other than listening.
  • accessibility- many podcasts are free and can be used to gain knowledge of topics you might not know a lot about. There are also a ton of topics available to listen to.

The disadvantages of podcasts are:

  • quality and speed of speaker. There have been a few times where I have been listening to an audiobook and the speaker either talked to slowly or had an annoying voice. I would assume the same issue applies.
  • the quantity of podcasts can be overwhelming if a listener is just starting out and wants to listen to the first one through.

I think as a whole podcasts are a great way for public historians to disseminate information but there is much that needs to be done before it is mainstream. I think historians will need to partake in the podcasting and suggest them to others before it becomes a part of historical work. t

Social Media and My Digital Presence

Compare your digital persona to that of the bloggers and twitterstorians you have been following since the beginning of the semester.  How do you present yourself online? How would you attract attention to your digital products? How can you harness the power of Web 2.0 to engage with and use your audience?

People use social media for different reasons. The problem is for most people they don’t understand that your presence online can be just as powerful as how they present themselves offline.  My dad works in technology and he told us everything you say and do online is there forever. Even if it is deleted it is still on some server somewhere. Yeah, the possibility of someone actually paying attention and tracking what you have posted is low doesn’t mean it should be a free for all online. Wasn’t it a few years ago, that Twitter announced all tweets are going to be archived in the Library of Congress? Think about that for a moment. EVERY tweet you have ever written and posted is sitting in the Library of Congress. I recently heard that the archive is done, they won’t be archiving every single tweet anymore. However, the fact remains, we can’t think because we are sitting in silence behind our keyboards that you can be a nasty as you want.

So that is the regular people using the interwebs. What about professionals? There are “twitterstorians” who are historians on Twitter. They run their accounts very professionally. They are always posting news articles and facts. Generally, they are not personal accounts. They are different than my digital footprint because I run personal accounts. Mostly, my goal isn’t to gain followers nor appeal to strangers or professionals. I have had to alter my footprint in the past two years because of my mom’s 501c3, Kid U Not. Basically, my Facebook is used to share her posts to help her, watch/share animal videos, and interact with friends. I do have a somewhat professional Instagram for my photography. I use twitter to share posts, retweet my favorite celebrities, and catch up with author friends.  I have this blog for class and it is typically 100% professional academic. Basically, I have a lot of accounts on a lot of sites. While my accounts are personal I interact the same as I do offline. It is all appropriate because I work with children and I can’t allow for parents, colleagues, or even (shudder) the students themselves to see me in an unprofessional manner. When I think of running professional accounts I just don’t see a need right this second to do so, I will definitely have these types of accounts later on. Every account is private because I don’t want or need a lot of followers nor “friends.” I have the accounts because I enjoy the platform and I want to interact with certain people.

If I was to harness the power of the web I would probably start with friends because if they really are your friends they’ll support you. From there you can start branching out and contacting other people who are like you. I would definitely utilize hashtags. Of course, institutions have an easier time of this but everyone need to start somewhere.

Space, Time, Place

The Internet helped to make History transcendental. History now goes beyond books and tangible sources you can hold. Digitization condenses multiple resources. Why would I start my blog post with this idea? GIS helps to condense data types to make something users can interact with.  I knew what GIS was as a basic concept, however, I didn’t know what it stood for or really what it did. To make sure I really understand I am going to explain it so bear with me! GIS stands for Geographic Information System. This is a system that captures, stores, displays, and manages the information that is linked to an earthly location. Basically, it is an intelligent, interactive map that helps users visualize the information. What is really cool is GIS relates different data types to each other using shared location. GIS is something we take for granted. I had students that during their recess took an iPad and used Google Earth to look up where they lived and the school. When I was an undergrad I had to do a project using Google Earth and give a virtual tour to my “students.” The fact that people can see the world without leaving their homes is amazing. For historians it allows them to use the past photos and track the growth and change throughout time for historical places as well as towns and cities.

For class, I looked at the Digital Harlem Project. The creators aimed show what life was like in Harlem and its growth through time. There is a lot of emphases placed on the famous people that were alive and in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. The project also focuses on the average citizen and how they lived their lives. The project used real estate records to identify placement and size of buildings. They also used police records which told researchers about the crime rates and locations of others who were not in real estate records. The project also shows how nightclubs and speakeasies were helpful in developing parts of Harlem.

The Digital Harlem Project and other projects like it are important. These projects give historians perspective and also the ability to visualize where they are conducting research. Using GIS helps to provide a context when looking at the movement of ideas, culture, and especially the people living in the place Historians are looking at. I think it also is important because it provides the everyday citizen with materials they might not know how to locate or use and then tie them to the context so people get a full picture.

Digitization and Preservation: What elements do you consider important for making a website attractive and functional?  Give examples of model websites.

 

My thoughts on digitization

Digitizing seems like a great idea but there are some issues under the surface of digitizing. One of the major issues that came to mind was in Weller’s History in the Digital Age story of the Portuguese medical historian who went into an archive and barely read a word. He went in and ran each letter under his nose. Using that strategy helped him to track the spread of cholera through the smell of vinegar. Digitizing the letters would help if someone wanted to read the words but to a medical historian, that smell of vinegar would be lost because you can’t digitize the scent of primary sources.

Another issue is how the source is digitized. Does the digitized document be a scan of the source, typed and input with the jpeg of the original sources, or should it also capture the essence of the document such as spacing, spelling, heading, etc?

Digitized sources also sometimes end up on nightmares of websites. This is something I have had to help my mom with. She runs a 501c3 and I had to help her organize her website so that it was easily navigable as well as attractive. A nice design to one person may be an absolute horror for another.

Elements that make for attractive and functional websites are sites that have accessibility features that allow scholars to use sensitive documents that otherwise may be fragile. As well as, the ability to enlarge document based on the needs of the scholar.  The websites also should have ease of maneuverability using keyword searches or other features to enable depth of searchability. There should be a header and table of contents so that it is effortless in finding information. There should be a section explaining what the site is for, specific sections for written, photographic, or video posts.  If the site is sponsored by or is part of an organization. There should be an accessible contact information, with emails and/or phone numbers.  The design should also be understated. There shouldn’t be many colors. It should be visually appealing. Ultimately, the sites should be easy to navigate with key features to enlarge or download the components for research with ease A nonacademic website I love is Pinterest I love the ease in which you can search and save something. An academic website I love is Jstor. I love how easy it is to navigate and find information.

Other examples of websites that are good: Mark Twain House, Harriet Beecher Stowe House, Airbnb, Library of Congress.

Wikipedia

So our task this week was to analyze three related Wikipedia pages.  This is something I was excited about because honestly, the first place people check these days when they need information quickly is Wikipedia.

Article 1:  “The Great Famine (Ireland)”

The article gives information relevant and important to understanding the causes of the potato blight and also the effect of the blight on the country. The most interesting portion of this article is the argument in the talk section. One of the subsections is called “Not a Famine, Technically,” in the section a user details why this “famine” was really a genocide perpetrated by the British. The British purposely withheld aid that could have prevented the deaths of over one million people. The worst part of the section is this one, “In the larger sense, wouldn’t the Irish Potato Genocide Famine be just as bad, if not worse than the Armenian Genocide and others, possibly as bad as the Holocaust? This event in history seems to be overlooked, despite the fact that over one million people were starved to death.”

As someone that very, very Irish this idea was shocking to me. First of all,  I don’t know a lot about the Armenian Genocide, however, from what I understand The Armenian people were subjected to deportation, property seizure, abduction, torture, massacre, and starvation. While I agree the British government could have done a lot more to help with the Gorta Mór or Great Hunger. The fact is that the blight wasn’t isolated to Ireland. Ireland was just a country that was heavily impacted by the blight. It can be argued that Britain did cause the starvation of the Irish there was never a time that the United Kingdom rounded up the Irish and killed them all (like the Holocaust). The government simply ignored the problem and when they chose to act did not provide enough aid. The true villains were the landlords who seized property held by their Irish tenants and forced them to either emigrate, go into a workhouse and be separated from their family, or die out in the cold.

Article 2: “Easter Rising”

This article details the armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week in 1916. The rising was launched by Irish republicans to end the Brish rule in Ireland. The article provides background that is needed to explain why the Irish Republicans felt they needed to rise up. After the background, the authors provide background on the planning and the buildup to Easter Week. Then breaks down into subsections the days that made up the week in Dublin.

In the talk section, there is a closed discussion that again has to do with genocide. One user wants to discuss whether the British actions during and after the uprising should be considered genocidal. The editors responded with find a citation from a reliable source using that language and then they would discuss it.

I think the fact that two articles so far have discussed genocide in broad terms displays the stance of many Irish. To some Irish what happened in Ireland were acts of genocide. However, this is not to say that all Irish feel this way. I grew up with knowledge of the Gorta Mór and the Easter Rising. Some of my family views both events as genocidal. After the Rising, the British searched out the rebels and executed them which is where the above discussion originated. Not only did the British search out the active rebels but also those that were not out in the streets causing issues. 

Another discussion in the talk section is “the Irish Republic vs. British Empire,” The user that started this discussion believes that it is important to state that the conflict was between the Irish Republic and the British Empire. The “rebels” were fighting with a clear goal and that was the Irish Republic.  These men and Women proclaimed the Irish Republic and had taken up arms to defend it.  The argument rages on with people explaining that the terminology used is that from academic sources and while they don’t disagree the plain fact is the Irish were rebel forces, not a republic yet. It is really interesting to see the arguments taking place and then go back and re-read the article to see if these arguments and discussions changed anything.

Article 3: “Provisional Irish Republican Army”

Keeping with the theme of Ireland I chose to read about the IRA.  For those that don’t know the IRA has existed in many forms since 1916. Initially, the group was called the Irish Volunteers, who staged the Easter Rising. It was a paramilitary group that after World War 1 became active in fighting for Irish Independence. The IRA is still active but not to the extent of the past

PIRA sought the end of British rule in Northern Ireland and want to facilitate the reunification of Ireland. They aimed to do this by causing massive casualties to the British making them want to get out of Ireland. The group is was the successor to the original IRA and called itself Irish Republican Army. The IRA was designated as a terrorist organization in the United Kingdom and an unlawful organization in the Republic of Ireland. One of the IRA’s rules was not to harm anyone of the Republic. Their main goal was to cause as much mayhem to the British.

The talk section was interesting to read because the first section is called “Spades are Spades” in which the poster asks if they can just call a spade a spade and acknowledge that the Provisional IRA are terrorists. The rest of the world has called them such so why can’t Wikipedia. Another section is just about the fact the word “was” should not be in the article because the IRA is still active in Ireland. The poster of this sections states that all the citations claiming the IRA is gone are biases articles and merely depict “diplomatic puffery”. Basically, the IRA is still committing crimes but they are no longer terrorizing Northern Ireland the way they were. I remember my gran telling me stories of going to Belfast in the 1950s-1980s and being told to not go out at night because there were riots. She also told me about an IRA car bomb that went off down the street from where she was staying.

The final discussion in the talk section is about the term “terrorist.” The discussion seems to want to aim for a neutral tone. One poster states that calling the IRA terrorists is pro-British. They feel that there should be a subsection and it should provide both points of view in which the IRA are terrorists and are not terrorists. I have to say I agree. Wikipedia should be neutral and only give the pertinent information. It was interesting to see how people discussed the controversial aspects of the different articles.

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.