Category Archives: Blog

Website Feedback (plus issues with the internets)

When I first began this post, I was sitting in beautiful Tampa at the AAG (Association of American Geographers) conference, and it was a fantastic experience!  Unfortunately it also meant that I missed our weekly sessions, which was kind of a bummer.  More of a bummer was the fact that the internet at the convention center did not seem to like me much, and I couldn’t seem to play the video recordings of this week’s classes without it taking five minutes to load about two seconds of the video.  I guess that’s what happens when you offer wi-fi to about 25,000 people…

Anyhow, I am now back in lovely Fredericksburg, and once again have internet connection!  Unfortunately, for some reason the website of the recordings is down…so although I have internet, I still cannot watch the video recordings.  Sadness.  However, even though I cannot watch the video recording or hear feedback from the other students, I am still going to post about what I thought about everyone’s websites, and the progress that we have all made thus far.

Chris – Montevallo, 1914-1919

First off, I think the theme that Chris is using is spectacular, I love that it almost reads as if it is a newspaper, which I think really fits our project of discussing the Great War.  I also really like his background – I’m a huge fan of setting a single, faded image as a background to presentations, and I really love the effect that this has on Chris’s pages, making them appear simple yet crisp and not boring like if the page had been left black and white.

As for particular pages, I like that Chris named his citations as “Bibliography and Further Reading” since I think this encourages others to conduct some of their own research and read the primary documents that he consulted.  I’m not sure how I feel about the way he broke up the citations, however; on the one hand, I think that his separation of works based on type helps the reader easily locate the sources, but on the other it doesn’t specify where he referenced each source.  So both ways make sense, I’m just not sure which way would be easier for the viewer to navigate.  I know he specifies on the individual pages where exactly the information comes from, so maybe the way he has it set up on the bibliography page offers an alternative of finding the original sources.  All in all, I think Chris’s website is looking terrific!

Jen – No Man’s Land

I was super impressed with all of the research and digitization that Jen must have gone through in order to complete this project, her website really shows the lengths she went to find images and resources from the era.  I particularly liked the section on “Letters from the Great War” because we can see the original letter along with the transcribed version for easy reading.  I think this adds to the narrative of making the website a lot more personable rather than just an archive.

One of the things I think would help make the site even more useful to the visitor would be if navigation was a bit easier – once you start clicking on individual letters and stories, it’s hard to go back to where you left off before you clicked onto a specific link.  The side bar and menu are helpful, but navigation still seems a bit strained.  Another thing I think that might make the site more aesthetically pleasing is a smaller header image, or none at all except the main page.  Every time I clicked on a new page or link, I had to scroll past the image to see what the page contained, instead of instantly being intrigued by a new image, title, or story.  Otherwise, I think Jen’s research shows through her website, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like once it’s completed.

Ryan – Farmington State Normal School

I LOVE the theme that Ryan is using!  I love that it looks like we’re peeking into a file about the Farmington State Normal School, which I think helps to create a narrative about all of the images and media that he is using on his website.  I also like the slider photos that appear on the main page, since they give us a look into life for the girls who attended the school.  I also really liked the page about the “Voices of the Great War” since it offered both readings and transcriptions so that visitors could follow along to the recordings if they so chose.

My biggest critique for the site is navigation – the menu is useful and gets the job done, but for sections that have multiple pages it’s hard to go to individual pages unless you remember to hover over that section and select the specific page.  My fear is that some information might get lost or ignored since visitors might not take the time to select each individual page by remembering to hover.  Perhaps it might be more beneficial to have links to the other pages within the section at the bottom of the page?  There is so much information on these pages and I just want to make sure viewers are aware of them, since Ryan has researched the school at length and has a lot to share about it.

Alisia – North Adams and the Great War

The home page for Alisia’s site is really crisp and clean, and the navigation menu at the top encourages the visitor to immediately begin exploring the site.  It might be helpful to add some text to this page, but just something brief to not take away from the image or further exploration.  I love the incorporation of blocked quotes into certain pages, which really help to construct a narrative rather than just a collection of images.  What I would suggest in the way of images, if possible, is to make the thumbnails the same size so that they look cohesive rather than some being larger than others.  I think the images offer a lot to the visitors’ understanding of North Adams during the war, and I love that when you click on them in the “Explore the School” section it tells you where/what the images are.  Navigation seems to be pretty clear, my only concern is the section on Mary Curran since the visitor has to hover over to menus in order to get to “biography.”  Perhaps it would be better to just link the second section to her biography?  Regardless, I think the site is aesthetically pleasing and offers an interactive narrative for those curious about the school.

Dara – Near the Great Lakes during the Great War

To me, Dara’s site was one of the easiest to navigate, which I really appreciated since I tend to get overwhelmed when bogged down on too many links and connections.  I think the menu bar was helpful, but what I really liked was the sidebar that allowed me to connect to both larger sections and individual pages.  I also liked the extensive use of images to help tell a story about the school, and I love the inclusion of newspaper articles and other quotes from those who were at the school during the Great War.  My recommendation would be to have little blurbs at the beginning of each page to create a more cohesive narrative, so that we understood the importance of each of the sources and images included.  My other recommendation would be to have a home page about this specific project, and maybe put the information about Century America on an “about” page, so that we are immediately drawn to the narrative about the Superior State Normal School rather than the overarching course.

Colin – Southern Utah University

I was really impressed with how much information was present on Colin’s site – the narrative created through the text was extremely well-thought out and definitely succeeded in giving the reader knowledge of what was happening in Cedar City during the Great War.  I think it might be nice to add in some images as well, so that there is something to go along with the text, but I know it can be hard to find relevant media especially from a hundred years ago.  I really liked the “Voices of the Great War” section, I thought the use of video was unique and creative in telling the story of the B.A.C. and the surrounding community, rather than just using quotes.  I also really liked the “Veterans of WWI” section because it really connects the narrative to the present and how we think about the Great War.

One suggestion I do have for the overall site is the theme – perhaps it would be more aesthetically pleasing to have a background color other than white?  Paired with the black and white images, I think the site could use a bit more color, either with the background or colors of fonts for titles.  Other than that, however, I think the narrative created is successful in telling the tale of Cedar City and its inhabitants during the Great War.

Jimmy – Shepherd University

The website is extensive of just how much work Jimmy has put into this project, and it shows through his research and the narrative he has created with images and text.  The breakdown of both the section on the college and that of the community is clear and thought out, and offers concise but crucial information regarding specific topics.  My favorite part of the website was the “Voices of the Great War” since it was so interactive and there were several quotes and readings.  The recording component adds to the tale because it makes the story seem much more real and personal, something I think is often lacking when simply reading quotes.

My biggest critique for this site is its theme – the current theme is designed for blogging rather than an exhibit or archive, and I feel like it is pretty limiting, especially given the amount of research that has been done on this project.  I don’t know if changing the theme would completely screw up all of the information on the site, but I think it might be something to consider so that the site feels less like a blog.  On that note, it might also be helpful to disable comments via a widget, so that no one comments on pages of text and information.  Aside from minor aesthetics, I really liked this site since it was rich in information and easy to navigate.

Christos – Eastern Connecticut

I like the incorporation of both text and images on this site, particularly the section on “The Fire of ’43″ since the reader can see the original article but also learn other information that was gained by the researcher.  I also really liked the section on the memorial – like with Colin, I think this was a great idea to see how the war affected the community, and is a great way to honor those who served in the war.  I think this section should go before the “Century America” tab on the menu, however, to cohesively connect with the story of Willimantic.

Like with Jimmy’s site, my critique lies in aesthetics and the theme that was chosen since it seems to be more suited for a blog rather than an archive or exhibit.  I would recommend going through some of the general WordPress settings and getting rid of things like the calendar of posts, disabling comments, etc. so that it feels less like a blog.  The menu at the top is a bit overwhelming as well, since it wraps under itself a few times and isn’t as seamless as a simpler, single line menu.  I think once the aesthetics are addressed, the website will be engaging since all of the information is already present.

Overall, I am extremely thrilled with everyone’s progress, and can’t wait to see what the finished projects look like in these upcoming final weeks!

Look how far we’ve come!

First off, everyone’s websites are really coming together, and we can’t wait to see what the finished products look like!  Thanks for all of your updates last Thursday, and your input for the final overarching site that those of us here at Mary Washington are creating!  We will be putting the finishing touches on the site soon, and would like your continued critiques as we complete the remaining tasks.

As for how our progress is going, we can’t really complain!  We’ve been really lucky to have been able to rely on each other, and thank goodness for Jack and Leah and their knowledge regarding WordPress and programming!  Voices_1Often Candice and I feel like we can’t contribute that much in regards to the technical aspect, but luckily this past Thursday night after hours of fiddling with widgets we successfully created the “Voices of the Great War” widget to show up on individual pages, and were able to make them different for each page.  We’ve also just been editing little things about the site, such as fonts, color schemes, and finishing up citations – that will probably consume the majority of our remaining time on the site, since we want to make sure everything is given proper credit.

For the overarching Century America site, we are still working on embedding the map into the site, and have decided to create a new page specifically for the map so that the home page isn’t as overwhelming or distracting.  We are also working on editing the timeline that Leah has put together – we just need to add a few more events and the pictures, so I will be doing that and attempting the citations.  We’re on the right track though, and can’t wait to show our finished site to everyone in our class, and the world!

How to Survive the Digital Age

Even though I am a student of history, I haven’t spent much time learning about the field or how it has changed over time; in fact, this semester has been really eye-opening for me as far as learning about academia and what it means to be a scholar of history.  I was fortunate enough to go to the AHA conference this January with Leah and a few others from Mary Washington, and it was great to see how much the field has progressed in recent years, and how the Digital Humanities are quickly gaining recognition.  Dr. McClurken’s tweets about all things history also help me to learn more about the field!  Anyhow, I’m really glad I had the opportunity to read a few articles this week about the field, and I hope it will encourage my thirst to learn more about history as an area of study and as a profession.

The first article I read, “What Does It Mean to Think Historically,” caught my attention because I didn’t really know what this meant (isn’t that the point of the article though?).  I find that I tend to think historically, and look to the past to think about the future – but this article showed how historians think and how they teach about the past.  The five Cs of historical thinking (change over time, causality, context, complexity, and contingency) are used to answer questions of the past and how to form arguments.  I hadn’t really thought about how techniques come into play when historians approach topics, but now I understand how scholars approach subjects and why the field has been so successful in its foundations for historical inquiry.

The second article I chose, “Citizen Scholars: Facebook and the Co-Creation of Knowledge” (found within Writing History in the Digital Age), piqued my interest because we live in a world where social media reigns supreme.  It makes sense that Facebook and Twitter are quickly becoming launching pads for discussions about the past – after all, don’t most of us have an account with either or both sites (and are encouraged to tweet about this class?!).  There are pros and cons of working with social media to gain historical insight; it can seem like a less-than-scholarly mode of discussion, and although this might be true, it offers a plethora of opportunities in connecting with historians and those interested in history who might not otherwise be engaged.  I love the idea of the “sharing” of authority amongst many people, who can then contribute to a greater narrative that might not have been realized without the aid of digital media and social networking.

All in all, after reading these articles and learning things in both this project and that of my Digital History class, even though I am a firm believer in the past and all things old-fashioned, I am thankful that this digital age has allowed us many opportunities for the expansion of knowledge and the ability to work across borders, time, and space.

Update from UMW: Week 6

After a long process of trying to divvy up the work for this project evenly amongst the four of us, we have finally finalized the work load and prepared a schedule for ourselves which we will use to keep us on track and provide the basis for the group contracts that are due next Thursday.  As of now, in the grand scheme of things we know what we want our final website to look like and have decided on a layout of the material – we just haven’t quite selected the WordPress theme that we would like to use.  We also need to choose a theme for the overall Century America website since we will also be responsible for putting together that home page, along with a map and timeline that will live on the site to show how all of the participating schools correlate with one another.

This week, we also did a lot of problem-solving with Dr. McClurken to try to figure out what we have to do before we can get started on the building of our site.  We are trying to meet up with some of the wonderful people at DTLT here at Mary Washington to figure out if there is a free map software that we can use for the Century America site – Candice and I will probably also talk to the head of our GIS department here (since we are both familiar with making maps digitally) to see if there is a way to create an interactive map without all viewers owning the appropriate software.  We are also trying to figure out a way to create overlapping timelines with local events from each of the schools as well as national events so that we can see the correlation across the US.

On Monday, we met to discuss the concerns that Dr. McClurken had regarding maps and timelines, but also our alternatives if the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center does not let us digitize the images that we would like to reproduce.  The CRHC has an incredible array of sources that have been useful to us so far in our research, but unfortunately they are pretty strict about their policies and so we are trying to figure out a) how to convince them to let us digitize the material since our work isn’t going towards a profit and b) what we will do if they do not let us digitize the material.  We have emailed the CRHC, and Dr. McClurken has been in contact with a representative of the NPS who has in turn contacted someone on the board the CRHC.  Hopefully this contact will yield favorable results so that we can use what we have found, especially since not much of our total images and sources come from the center.  If we are unable to use any of the materials from the CRHC, we will be “uncomfortable but not paralyzed” as Dr. McClurken would say.  Although we would definitely be bummed out, we would still be able to use the information that we gathered from the Eastburn Diaries to put together a timeline, and if we cannot use any pictures of the Knox family then we will just go downtown and take a picture of the family house that is currently the Kenmore Inn.  So even though the results might not be what we most desire, we will still be successful in accomplishing our goals!

All in all, this week wasn’t so much about research as it was planning, organizing, and problem-solving.  Our group will reconvene this upcoming Tuesday after we do some individual work so that we can decide what we want to do for both our site and the Century America website.  Here’s to a productive week ahead!

Designating Roles: Leading, Supporting, and Advertising

This past week, the four of us at Mary Washington got together to try and divvy up the responsibilities for the site, both for our own project and for the creation of the overall site for this Century America project.  It was an interesting process just because I have never worked on a group endeavor in such extensive terms before, and planning a website is a lot different than simply proposing a paper!  I think we did a decent job of trying to assess what each of our roles within the project are going to be, and how we will work together to create an overarching site that everyone involved will be proud of.

For my part, I will be collecting and publishing the narrative about Josiah P. Rowe (which will be found in the Fredericksburg section of the site) and compiling the information from President Russell’s papers into a section on Administration at the State Normal School (to be found in the SNS section of the site).  This will entail digitizing whatever sources that I think will best contribute to these narratives, as well as writing about what we’ve discovered and what the two sections that I am in charge of will entail.  With Leah, I will also be responsible for creating the page for the State Normal School, from which the viewer will be able to see the different sections about the school during that time.

Lastly, Candice and I will be making a map using Maps Alive in order to show which states have schools participating in the Century America project that is sponsored by COPLAC and the Teagle Foundation.  This map will live on the site home page for the entire Century America project and will hopefully be able to engage the reader and excite them about the diversity of the project.  I might just be a little bitter (just a bit) that we won’t be using GIS and this software isn’t spatial, but I know that for the purpose of this project this will be much easier and user-friendly than trying to incorporate elements from ArcMap.

As for advertising, we have considered going to the Bullet to get an article published on the school website either for our ADH class or the Century America project, which would then hopefully provide links to each of the participating websites so that we can get viewers from there.  On a more realistic scale, we will try to reach out to those students already at our school, and proceed by word of mouth and via social media to get our friends and their acquaintances to view our website.  Because the project is about our school, it should be interesting to those of us who attend the university to see what life was like here during the Great War.  Alumni would also be a potential audience since again they are invested in the university and are likely interested in its history.  Finally, another outlet that would be useful in cultivating an audience would be those who participate in reenacting – these individuals are already interested in military history and would most likely be interested in what was happening on the home front of this war as well.

All in all, I think our group is making headway and great progress!  Jack, Candice, Leah, and I can’t wait for what the semester holds for us in this project.  Now to see what bumps we might encounter along the way…

Update on Fredericksburg/UMW: Resources and Website Outline

Today Jack, Leah, Candice, and I met up and discussed the primary resources that we have already collected, assessed the gaps in our research that we needed to fill with more sources, and began to think about how we wanted our final site to be set up. The first two goals regarding sources were pretty easy to complete since we knew what sources we had access to and what more we would like to find; the difficult part emerged when we started discussing the potential layout and design of our website.

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As someone who isn’t very familiar with website tools and is just now becoming familiar with the benefits and negatives of working with both WordPress and Omeka, I had no idea where to begin other than that I thought the website should be easy to navigate so that the visitors wouldn’t get overwhelmed and discouraged when exploring the content. In order to figure out how to divide our sources and informations, like all OCD kids we color-coded our site using post-it notes. Yes, we did lay out these post-its across the chalkboard in the library study room and by the end of it I’m sure it looked more like a football game plan than the outline of a website (but they’re really not all that different in purpose now, are they?). By categorizing and color-coding the information, we were able to distinguish the hierarchy of the site and establish that we would divide the majority of the information we have collected through that on the State Normal School and the greater Fredericksburg community itself. Within each of these menu pages, we would provide links to several main narratives and documents via pictures so that the visitors could easily choose what area they would like to explore in detail without the site becoming too overwhelming. It’s hard to describe since we don’t actually have an image to show of what our proposed site will look like, but here is the “blueprint” or “game plan”, so to speak:

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The page about the State Normal School would contain four main links: Administration, Academics, Student Life, and Influenza. Within this section, the sources we currently have are President Russell’s papers, yearbooks, scrapbooks, and school catalogs and bulletins. These sources would be categorized under the appropriate sections within the State Normal School page, and we would include images and timelines as appropriate.

The page for the Fredericksburg community would also contain four main links: the Eastburn War Diaries, the Knox Family, the Rowe Family, and Influenza. For the community, the current sources we have correspond to the families whose narratives we will be exploring; we will reference the Eastburn Diaries, letters from the Knox family, and letters from the Rowe family. We will also be using articles and information from The Daily Star. Again, timelines would probably be used to show what was happening within the individual narratives.

On the main home page, we have discussed creating a map of important locations on campus and in the community to give viewers an idea of what the area looked like between 1914 and 1918; hopefully we can use GIS software and export the map as an image (since most of us in the group were not fans of Google Maps). We have also discussed perhaps having a timeline of national events, or one with three different colors corresponding to national, Fredericksburg, and State Normal School events. As for the actual website, right now we are considering using Omeka rather than WordPress since it allows for many more interactive features.

All in all, we are quite excited to be starting to conceptualize our site – here’s hoping the journey won’t be paralyzing from here on out!

Home is where the Navy sends you: Explorations of Maps and Timelines

Last Tuesday, we learned how to create maps and timelines, both of which would be useful for our websites.  In particular, the creation of the maps interested me since I do GIS, but the process and end result was quite different between Google Maps and ArcMap (the ESRI GIS software that we use here at Mary Wash).  The timeline option looked fascinating, since information and pictures could be added to the feature making it both informative and visually appealing.

I would be lying if I said creating the map was really fun or interesting.  After spending the past three years working with GIS software and creating maps with multiple sets of data, the oversimplified Google Map just annoyed me.  I felt so limited, and thought that my map wasn’t showcasing everything that it could potentially display.  I guess for its easy and accessible interface the map served its purpose and can be used to visually aid an argument or a website.  I definitely think our group will include a map (of campus and the Fredericksburg community) but if I have any say in the matter I would gladly prefer a more intricate and appealing map created through the GIS software I use rather than Google Maps.


View Larger Map

Fortunately, I was much more pleased with the process and the outcome of the timeline.  Not only was it simple to use and easy to add media and credits to, but the result was a clean timeline with all of the necessary information.  The user could put as little or as much information as he or she desired, but for me the purpose of the timeline was to show location, date, and an image.  Again, I think our group will definitely be using a timeline, or several (so it doesn’t become too overwhelming), to assist in informing our audience of events occurring on the home front during WWI.  We also might contribute to an overall Century America timeline showing events happening nationally and locally at our school’s campuses.  Overall, both the map (preferably ArcMap based) and the timeline will greatly assist in our online archive and exhibit.

Collections and Masons and Archives, oh my!

In case you couldn’t tell, we (the four of us from Mary Washington) had quite the busy and successful week!  Which was a relief considering that we unfortunately could not gather much information last week while we were snowed in for a majority of the week.  Luckily we survived the “snowpocalypse” and made up for lost time by going to Special Collections here at UMW, the Masonic Lodge downtown, and the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

This past Tuesday we visited Special Collections in the Simpson Library, and were aided by the always helpful and sweet Ms. Parsons.  This was the first time I had ever been inside the archive (pathetic, I know, considering this is my last semester and I’m a history major) and I was really quite fascinated by all of the artifacts that have been stored and preserved throughout our school’s history.  While Leah, Jack, and I were there, we looked through President Russell’s papers since he was the president during World War I.  Many of the documents were correspondence with faculty members, and we noticed that towards 1918, after America had joined the war, many professors asked for salary increases to accommodate the rising prices for food and other necessities.  Of other significance, there were many references to students and faculty falling ill due to the influenza epidemic of 1918, and the chair of the history department, Virginia Goolrick, died from the sickness.  Though this was definitely a sad way to view life at the university, we did not find that the war itself greatly impacted the campus community, or at least not directly.

Our second adventure this week was a bit out of the ordinary – on a whim we had decided to contact the Masonic Lodge since they have been around since the eighteenth century, and they quickly got in touch with us to arrange a meeting since they were quite interested in our project.  On Wednesday night, Jack, Leah, and I were able to step into the Lodge to see what they had to offer.  (And to experience National Treasure first hand!  Not really, but it was still pretty neat.)  The two men we talked with were the Lodge historian and the current Grand Master of the Lodge, and both were super interested in assisting us with our research.  They gave us plenty of information about the Lodge and about Masonry in general, which was all very interesting and gave us a good idea of the background and how the organization functioned.  They didn’t particularly have many artifacts or pictures from the World War I, but they did offer us names of members who served in the military or in public office.  A couple of names stuck out, such as John T. Goolrick, William Mosely Brown, and Josiah P. Rowe, Jr. (who I will return to later).  Thanks to names like these, we were able to make connections and picture how the Fredericksburg community operated and interacted with one another during this time.

Finally, finally, FINALLY, we were able to go to the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center!!!  We spent our Saturday morning, arriving at 9am, at the CRHC since their hours are not the most conducive for college students who have a majority of their classes during the small window of time in which the center operates.  The experience was a little intense for me, just because I felt like I was being watched constantly and I was terrified I would mess up anything and everything I looked at.  It makes complete sense that the volunteers are worried about the precious pieces of history that they allow us to view, but I definitely was much more anxious there than I was in Special Collections under the eye of Ms. Parsons.  Luckily for me, I didn’t peruse many of the old documents; instead, I leafed through the published letters of Josiah P. Rowe, Jr. (I said I’d return to him) during his time in Europe as an aviator.  The letters were extremely fascinating, especially because he discussed in detail his escapades with “the fairer sex” in correspondence with his mother, which I found a bit strange.  I wasn’t quite sure how much these letters would tell us about the home front, but they were actually quite useful in pointing out the agony that Rowe felt while overseas without ever seeing the face of a familiar “Fredericksburger” .  Rowe also made note of the care packages, letters, and copies of the local newspaper, The Daily Star, that he received while in the service.  The story was a happy one, ending with Rowe’s orders to return home to Fredericksburg.

All in all, I was quite pleased that we accomplished so much in a week, especially given our setback thanks to the sweater weather that’s been sneaking up on us.  We were thankfully able to find some extremely helpful leads, and so now can begin thinking about how we want to organize our site – so far, we think thematically might be the way to go, but that’s by no means set in stone.  As far as the archival experience, I’ve definitely learned in this short amount of time that it helps to always be prepared with pencils, patience, and a positive attitude when working with others, especially those who are extremely invested in the well-being and conditions of their artifacts.

All websites are not created equal…

These first two weeks of Adventures in Digital History have been extremely informational regarding the many tools available to students and scholars of history.  We’ve worked through WordPress and its uses not only as a blog but as a website on its own.  The technology is pretty user-friendly, but considering that I’ve been  trying to assemble my site for over a week now is proof that some of us might still find it a bit challenging.  Luckily, however, there are many tutorials online to help those like me figure out how to operate WordPress to our best abilities.

In contrast to WordPress, Omeka fulfills similar functions but operates a bit differently.  It is not as user-friendly but can do some things that WordPress cannot, such as working much better with media forms other than text and simple images.  Omeka also offers a variety of interactive tools that might aid in website aesthetics, which is visible in the “Great Molasses Flood” website, which I will discuss in further detail later.  I think that our group should definitely consider both WordPress and Omeka as options for our site, especially because Omeka can be used to store collections that are private in addition to providing a public site.

I really enjoyed learning about Zotero!  The whole time Peter was talking I was thinking “now where was this while I was doing my thesis last semester…”  At least now I’ll have it in my arsenal though!  It isn’t 100% accurate but it is definitely much more reliable than any of the other citation tools that I’ve tried in the past.

Viewing the websites for today’s class was extremely useful in gaining insight into how I would like to set up my own website for this class.  I had assumed that most of the digital archival sites would appear vaguely similar, with links leading to primary sources and documents concerning the time period/area of study in question.  Now, I completely understand why aesthetics and design are so important; some of the sites were visually appealing while others’ appearance made me disinterested even if the topic itself piqued my interest.

I really liked the “Valley of the Shadow” website; although the topic initially was not very interesting to me, I loved the layout and design.  The website was extremely open and bright, which made it uncluttered and easy to navigate.  All of the links made it clear where you were headed, and it was easy to find the link back to the home page if you ever wanted to view other links.  I also thought the color scheme and floor plan appearance of the links for each time period studied was unique and also helpful because it was clear exactly where each link would bring you.  I would really like to follow the example set by this website because its clear and open appearance made it appealing and easy to navigate, especially for someone who usually gets overwhelmed by websites.

On the flip side, the “French Revolution” website bothered me almost immediately; I don’t know if it was my browser or what, but the formatting was off from the get-go and all of the information appeared on the left-hand side rather than evenly centered.  Not only did this make it off balance, but it made the information appear smaller than it probably should have if only everything had been centered and at an appropriate scale.  The home page was busy and overwhelming, and the links got lost on top of the images, making it much harder to navigate.  Even once a link was chosen, the viewer had to choose from a small drop-down menu which source he/she wanted.  Once a source was chosen, the site brought the viewer to a page that was full of description and lacked many visuals.  Even when I chose “Images” under the “Browse” option, I was given links to images so I had no preview of what image I was viewing.  All in all, this website was a bit busy and cluttered for my liking, and when I design my own website I want each link to bring the viewer to a new, clean page rather than making the home page even more confusing.

I really liked the “Emile Davis Diaries” website- it was so neat that there were pages instead of links to click on, since the viewer was looking at diary entries!  It wasn’t the most exciting in layout since every page looked the same, but I kind of liked the monotony of it because the design worked, so there was no need to alter it in my opinion.  It also made it clear to the viewer exactly what he/she was getting into, so that there was no confusion when a link was chosen.  I think I would like to try a similar layout for my own site, but perhaps be a bit more creative so the viewer doesn’t get bored.  I do think the design was successful, because it was clean and made sure that the viewer was able to navigate to the exact location that was desired.

Finally, I checked out the “Great Molasses Flood” website to see how Omeka operates in action.  It was definitely very different than the other sites I visited!  Although extremely neat in layout and how it presented the available information, the site used too many interactive features on the home page making it appear chaotic.  The different colors used were extremely distracting, as was the information that popped up after scrolling across the page.  Despite its busyness and over-enthusiasm with the interactive features, all of the files were easy to access and the overall topic was interesting and one that is not as well-known in American history.  I think the site does offer insight into some of the many awesome features that Omeka has to offer, and I’m sure my group and I will consider the pros and cons of using some of these features when it comes to constructing our own site.

Viewing these sites gave me an idea of what I want to include in my own; layout and color choice were the biggest things I noticed, since if a site was too busy I became disinterested quickly, whereas if a website was brighter and less cluttered I felt like I could tackle the information given.  I definitely want links to be clear as to where they are going, since sometimes the sites offered links that brought to a page with description and more links, and I was no longer interested.  I hope that I will be able to break through my lack of technological experience and create a website where not only digitally-challenged folks like myself will find it appealing but those with more expertise might still find it enjoyable and interactive.

Website Critiques

Viewing the websites for today’s class was extremely useful in gaining insight into how I would like to set up my own website for this class.  I had assumed that most of the digital archival sites would appear vaguely similar, with links leading to primary sources and documents concerning the time period/area of study in question.  Now, I completely understand why aesthetics and design are so important; some of the sites were visually appealing while others’ appearance made me disinterested even if the topic itself piqued my interest.

I really liked the “Valley of the Shadow” website; although the topic initially was not very interesting to me, I loved the layout and design.  The website was extremely open and bright, which made it uncluttered and easy to navigate.  All of the links made it clear where you were headed, and it was easy to find the link back to the home page if you ever wanted to view other links.  I also thought the color scheme and floor plan appearance of the links for each time period studied was unique and also helpful because it was clear exactly where each link would bring you.  I would really like to follow the example set by this website because its clear and open appearance made it appealing and easy to navigate, especially for someone who usually gets overwhelmed by websites.

On the flipside, the “French Revolution” website bothered me almost immediately; I don’t know if it was my browser or what, but the formatting was off from the get-go and all of the information appeared on the left-hand side rather than evenly centered.  Not only did this make it off balance, but it made the information appear smaller than it probably should have if only everything had been centered and at an appropriate scale.  The home page was busy and overwhelming, and the links got lost on top of the images, making it much harder to navigate.  Even once a link was chosen, the viewer had to choose from a small drop-down menu which source he/she wanted.  Once a source was chosen, the site brought the viewer to a page that was full of description and lacked many visuals.  Even when I chose “Images” under the “Browse” option, I was given links to images so I had no preview of what image I was viewing.  All in all, this website was a bit busy and cluttered for my liking, and when I design my own website I want each link to bring the viewer to a new, clean page rather than making the home page even more confusing.

I really liked the “Emile Davis Diaries” website- it was so neat that there were pages instead of links to click on, since the viewer was looking at diary entries!  It wasn’t the most exciting in layout since every page looked the same, but I kind of liked the monotony of it because the design worked, so there was no need to alter it in my opinion.  It also made it clear to the viewer exactly what he/she was getting into, so that there was no confusion when a link was chosen.  I think I would like to try a similar layout for my own site, but perhaps be a bit more creative so the viewer doesn’t get bored.  I do think the design was successful, because it was clean and made sure that the viewer was able to navigate to the exact location that was desired.

Viewing these sites gave me an idea of what I want to include in my own; layout and color choice were the biggest things I noticed, since if a site was too busy I became disinterested quickly, whereas if a website was brighter and less cluttered I felt like I could tackle the information given.  I definitely want links to be clear as to where they are going, since sometimes the sites offered links that brought to a page with description and more links, and I was no longer interested.  I hope that I will be able to break through my lack of technological experience and create a website where not only digitally-challenged folks like myself will find it appealing but those with more expertise might still find it enjoyable and interactive.