Archive for the ‘history web archives digital’ Tag

Civil War Hartford

I would have to say that the hardest part of creating a digital archive is composing a well thought out introductory essay.  It is not that I have trouble writing or that I don’t know the content enough to write about Hartford in the Civil War.  I would have to say that the difficulty is creating a piece of writing that is interesting and sets forth the scope and importance of my exhibit.

In the future, if this exhibit turns into something more than a class project, the introductory essay may be what people (in my case teachers) use to determine if the archive is worth while.  Essentially, it may determine if my archive is relevant and credible.  Of course, I am probably putting too much emphasis on the importance of this piece…that is typically my shortcoming.  I am always striving to change the world or make some sort of break through.  I think my wife puts it best when she tells me to “Keep it Simple Stupid.”  Honestly, this is great advice, but it hurts every time.

When it comes right down to it in this essay I have to determine why people should care about this archive.  Why is the archive relevant?  To answer this question, my archive is relevant because Hartford is like a microcosm of what might have happened if the South did not secede from the Union.  Essentially, in Hartford, there was a large number of Democrats and Republicans.  The climate of Civil War Hartford was very explosive.  There were Democrats who supported the war, known as War Democrats.  There were anti-War Democrats who, in many cases, supported the Confederacy.  As for Republicans, there were basically two types.  There were what would be considered today fiscal Republicans, whom supported the war effort because they were at the forefront of business innovation and wanted protection from a strong central government for their business adventures.  Finally, there were radical Republicans that pushed to end slavery.

Although I think that this information is all extremely interesting it is not the material that would be typically covered in a Middle or High School setting.  For my essay, I have to focus on how local history reflects the trends that were occurring nationally.  That is the focus of my collection and exhibit.  Now I just need to put the thoughts to paper in a way that entices people to utilize my materials.

FYI: Libraries Are Changing

Recently, I went to the Hartford Public Library.  I was there with my wife picking up a book that I needed for a group project in my Public History Seminar.  When I walked into the main lobby, it was buzzing with people.  I was impressed.  I thought that it was amazing that so many people were utilizing the library on a Wednesday afternoon.  Once I walked passed the lobby into the stacks, it was dead.

Being a frequent stack surfer, I was able to use the Dewey to quickly locate the necessary book and shuffle back through the lobby, where I noticed most people using computers for various research needs and social networking sites.  Here is the choice that I have to make.  Am I an elitist who looks down on people for not using the wealth of knowledge in the stacks of the library?  Or, am I a person that is going to recognize that just like every other facet of our worlds (academic or otherwise) the library is changing.

Let’s be real.  People who are still clinging to analogue mediums and not embracing the digital will fall to the wayside.  Take for instance Michael Jon Jensen’s Keynote Speech at the Biannual Meeting of the Illinois Association of College and Research Libraries on March 30, 2006.  In his speech, Jensen lays out how scholarship has evolved with the development of new media and technologies and the groups (i.e. libraries, publication houses) that don’t adapt to the changes they could be left in the dust or worse, totally lost.  Lost in a sense where users will not be able to locate your material quickly and efficiently via the web.

Of course, you can talk as much as you want about creating more efficient ways of accessing archives and reference materials, but the trick is creating and characterizing digital files.  From experience, this is typically not an easy task. If the images are not born digital, then the source (article, manuscript, poster, political cartoon, object, landscape, etc) either has to be scanned or photographed using a digital camera depending on the source.  This is the easiest part.  Next, you have to apply metadata in various forms so that others can search, identify, view, and interact with the source.

The fact is research is changing and if archivists, scholars, and researchers do not step up and set standards in the digital medium, their expertise and collections will be lost.  No one will know what materials are available to them.  Already, we see this happening.  Ask almost any college student and they will tell you that they first place they go for reference is the net.  As a high school teacher, I know that the first, and many times only, place I go to for primary sources is the internet.  Why? Its fast, free, and accessible.   How many people, especially Mr. and Mrs. Everyman, are able to get to a library or Historical Society during business hours?

Although there are some disadvantages to digital media, one of which being potential cost in equipment and man hours, I believe that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.  One of the biggest advantages being increased access to materials displayed online.

Honestly, this blog post could go on and on about advantages and disadvantages of digital media, but it really doesn’t have to.  Here is the bottom line.  Libraries and archives are going digital.  This is great because increased access to information best suits our democratic society.  From what I gather there was a time in the digital humanities debate accessing whether or not we should digitize, what can be digitized and by whom.  Now, archivists, scholars, librarians, are working to define their role in this rapidly changing climate.  Although the medium people utilize to access source materials is changing, there is one thing in the library that will stay true.  Librarians and archivists will still serve the community.  They may serve a more diverse audience than ever before, but they will still hold an important place in the scholarly process.

Digital Archives-Hartford in the Civil War

I am currently working on a digital archive with resources on Hartford in the Civil War.  My intended audience is teachers and students at the high school level.  Overall, I plan to create an online exhibit detailing the socio-political culture of Hartford during the Civil War era.  Visitors to the site will find a wide range of resources from images and newspaper articles to journal articles and biographies.  I also plan to incorporate sample lesson plans and guided reading activities to be incorporated in the social studies classroom.

This is the first time I will take on a project of this scope.  In order to complete this project I will need to learn how to create and manage collections on Omeka.  To build the collections I will need to learn how to create and edit images as primary resources.  In the past I have used my digital camera to take a picture of an image.  I am not sure if this is sufficient for this project or if a better quality image is needed.

I predict that I will need some help with this tech issue.  I plan to go to Connecticut Historical Society to see if they have any suggestions for digitizing images.  I know that they just came out with a book of Kellogg Bros. broadsides.  I plan to use a few of the featured images that they displayed in this book.

Two excellent examples of the type of archive/exhibit I would like to create are Making the History of 1989 by the Center of Humanities and New Media (CHNM) and Lincoln at 200 by The Newberry Library and Chicago History Museum.  It is obvious that these two resources were developed over many years.  In order to complete this project in time, my archive probably will not be as polished as these, but I hope to lay a foundation of resources that could one day be developed into an authoritative site.

These two example sites really incorporate many of the elements of a good digital resource.  These are many of the same elements I have been discovering in my digital history class.  Some important elements include tips on readability such as font and spacing.  Also important is the focusing the users attention on the material and usability of the navigation links.