Category Archives: Progress Report

Defense of Contract

This semester has gone by incredibly fast, but, as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. The Century America project was so much fun for me to be a part of, and I had the best group members that I could have asked for. Together Julia, Jack, Candice, and I created a digital history website that successfully fulfills our contract.

We stated that our mission was to “research and exhibit the narrative of the World War I homefront experience at the State Normal School and in the Fredericksburg area” and create an exhibition-like website to showcase this research. We spent many hours going through archival materials to learn about the homefront experience, and our 8 different pages on the site provide many diverse, intriguing narratives that showcase Fredericksburg’s and UMW’s history: Community and War Timeline, Knox Family, Urbane Bass, Josiah P. Rowe, Faculty and Staff, Academics, Student Life, and Influenza Epidemic.

The homepage for the UMW Century America site is not as visually complex as we had originally imagined (images, quotes, other media, map, interactive elements), but I believe that the landing page we currently have is an effective but simple introduction that captures the visitor’s attention without overwhelming him/her. As originally planned, we split the site’s narrative into 2 main sections: Fredericksburg (town/community) and Fredericksburg State Normal School. Though the site is split in such a way, many of the narratives demonstrate the intimate connection between the town and school experience.

The homepage for each subcategory has the image links to navigate to the 4 subsections, and we also decided to add some introductory text with basic information about Fredericksburg and FSNS, as well as a brief summary/preview of what visitors can find within the sections. For the Fredericksburg section we decided to do away with the Influenza page, due to a lack of resources, and instead create a “Community and War Timeline” page based on the extensive Virginia War History Commission materials and the William F. Liebenow diaries (mistakenly referred to in our contract as the Mary Eastburn diaries—there was some miscommunication with different CRHC staff as to the creator and name). This combination of materials and the lack of an Influenza page left us with one slot to fill, which we decided would be for Dr. Urbane Bass. Jack found much material at the CRHC and is fascinated with Dr. Bass’s story of service and sacrifice, so it was only natural to add it to the Fredericksburg section. It also gives a unique look into a small part of the African American experience in Fredericksburg during WWI. No changes were made to the categories for the FSNS section of the website. Some elements that were not mentioned in our contract, but not foreseen by us until actually creating the site, are side navigation links, “Voices of the Great War” stories, and the placement of citations (the bottom of each page).

We also have the “About” and “Resources” page, as listed in our contract, as well as a “Sponsors” page. The main menu is a consistent element on every page of our site. The Resources page includes our bibliography, and as stated in our contract, the page also lists the most important archival collections to our research with links to the collections’ home institutions/organizations.

For the main Century America site, we successfully created a website that introduces all of the Century America projects and captures visitors’ attention with an interesting headline. After many struggles with MapsAlive, we (mainly Candice and Julia) were finally able to create an interactive map embedded in the homepage that links to the other schools. We were also able to create an engaging interactive timeline for the main site. We added “About” and “Credits” pages to the main site in order to give viewers more information and direct them to places that might answer their questions (individual projects, official school websites, digital portfolios, etc.). This site fulfills its mission of introducing and explaining the Century America project and that schools involved in it.

We successfully met our milestones with only a few minor snags that were really out of our control—digitized materials from the CRHC were received a couple days past our deadline, and the Century America homepage/interactive map was not complete due to embedding issues and lack of response from our virtual classmates. Our division of labor was as listed in the contract, and we each made excellent contributions to the project. We also helped each other as much as possible. As far as advertising goes, we have been tweeting a lot about the project and a news story will be released very soon about our project. After final approvals and changes from Dr. McClurken and Dr. Pearson, we will blitz the internet with advertising for our awesome site.

It was such a great experience to work on the Century America project and be part of a groundbreaking digital history experiment. I really enjoyed talking with my virtual classmates from across the nation, and it has been so interesting to compare the experiences at each of our schools during WWI and see what different types of schools were going through and contributing to the war effort. I sincerely hope that we can keep adding to our project because I think it’s safe to say that this little niche in microhistory is one of my new interests! Dr. McClurken and Dr. Pearson, thank you so much for this wonderful opportunity. And many thanks to COPLAC and the Teagle Foundation for sponsoring this project!

Close to the Finish Line!

This week Julia, Jack, Candice, and I have been working on the UMW and overarching CA websites, mostly just making tweaks to existing content. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for Candice, Candice now has a real-life job at the Virginia Historical Society! It’s really awesome, but we never get to see her anymore. :(

For the CA site, I finally got the timeline to order the categories correctly, thanks to the wonderful Ryan Brazell from DTLT! Ryan informed me that the categories structure themselves based on chronology–so the “International” events appeared before the “National” events because the first International event occurred in 1914, whereas our first National event occurred in 1916. For simplicity’s sake, we decided the easiest event to add would be Woodrow Wilson’s election to the presidency in 1912. We also added his re-election in 1916, especially because his primary platform was neutrality. I also decided to add a link on the home CA page to the timeline within the widget, so that there is something on the home page (besides a menu option) that prompts viewers to explore the timeline. We made the minor changes to our wording that Dr. Pearson suggested. The only other change is on the “About” page. I change the links for each school (within the main content–not the widget) to go to those institutions, rather than the CA websites. Additionally, I thought it would be nice to link to our digital portfolios. Aside from our group, only Dara has told me that she is working on a digital portfolio that we can link to. If anyone else has one, please let me know! The only huge thing we have left to do for the CA site is to add a bibliography with the full citations for images from the timeline.

As far as the UMW site goes, we are currently experimenting with drop caps (inspired by the lovely Jenn!) and footnote placement. For the drop caps, sadly the plugin is not totally compatible with our pages because the first letter of our page content is often not the first letter of the paragraph. I added CSS myself for the drop caps and will have to put them individually on each page, but it really doesn’t take that long. For the footnotes, we ultimately decided that having them on the page will be much better than having them all lumped together on a separate page. We liked the idea of having drop-down citations, and once again, DTLT came to our rescue! Timmy sent Jack some code so that our citations can exist at the bottom of the page, but are essentially hidden until visitors choose to view them. We need to go over each of the pages with a fine-toothed grammar comb. Otherwise, the only huge thing we have to do for the UMW site is to add a comprehensive bibliography.

Since most of what we have been doing is making tweaks to the two websites, our in-class update in Dr. McClurken’s Digital History seminar was an exciting game of jeopardy! If you all are curious, our jeopardy game can be found here. At Julia’s extremely clever suggestion, we rewarded the winning team with Smarties and the losing teams with Dum Dums.

We’re really excited to be so close to finishing our project! (But also sad because we want to research more and add even more to the site!)

Writing and Pulling the Site Together

This week our milestone was to have all of the text for our website drafted, and we successfully met it! Not all of the text has been uploaded and published on our site yet–that is the next step that we will be working on. We also need to add in citations for our work (an issue that we are still discussing: footnotes? endnotes? where do we put them? etc.). Colin mentioned in class that I showed him how to do footnotes in WP. For anyone else interested, here are the basic instructions.

  1. Place the numbers for your footnotes where they would normally appear in the text body.
  2. When you’re writing a post, there are two view options: Visual and Text. The default view is Visual. To make a footnote, switch to the Text view (top right-hand corner).
  3. Find the numbers that you need to superscript.
  4. Enclose the footnote numbers in the superscript tags, like so: “sup”1″/sup”. Except instead of quotes, use the triangular brackets <  > .
  5. At the bottom of your post/page, create a line (I simply use A LOT of hyphens). This step can be done in the Visual or the Text view.
  6. Then start numbering and list your citations! It should look like so:

This is a sentence containing information that needs to be cited.1 If you have any questions, just ask!

Additionally, we’ve also been ironing out navigation issues with our site. I am an advocate of drop-down menus, so that visitors wouldn’t have to return to the Fredericksburg or FSNS homepages in order to choose another category. Basically, it’s easier navigation. However, Julia, Candice, and Jack didn’t like the idea of drop-down menus, especially because they can be distracting if accidentally moused over by a viewer. We have compromised by adding links at the bottom of each narrative, so that viewers may continue on to the next story (or go back), and we will also include navigation links in a custom sidebar so that visitors do not have to scroll all the way to the bottom for navigation. The sidebar is also great because it shortens the width of our text area, which was too large for our liking–we were afraid it would intimidate viewers.

Another navigation issue we struggled with was where to place the icons for each narrative within the Fredericksburg and FSNS main pages. We want visitors to read the introduction text, so we initially placed the icons at the bottom. However, when they are at the bottom, you can’t see them until you scroll all the way down–visitors may never know that they’re down there if they don’t bother to read the whole page! We considered placing them alongside the text, Wikipedia-style, but decided that that method wouldn’t look as visually appealing. Our only concern with having the icons at the top of the page was that visitors would automatically click the icons without reading the introduction. However, as long as we keep the icons a reasonable size (which we are) visitors can still see the text below and know that there is something they should read before looking at the other narratives. A classmate of ours (from UMW’s ADH2014 class) suggested labelling the narratives chapters–an idea which we really like and are trying to incorporate into the site. We aren’t going to number the chapters because that may seem too constricting, so we are just keeping them as categorical chapters.

Aside from the larger issues of navigation and layout, we have been battling the smaller issues in WP like image gallery spacing and visibility of image captions. We have also been having great debates about what pictures to use for the icons on the Fredericksburg and FSNS main pages, as well as the home page for the entire site. It’s taken a lot of backtracking and persistence, but we have finally located images from the time period that are representative of Fredericksburg and FSNS, as well as each of the categories we discuss. (There is one category–Influenza Epidemic at FSNS–that we could not find the perfect image for. We were hoping to find an image of the FSNS infirmary, which I thought definitely existed, but apparently my brain completely fabricated that memory. We settled for a picture of two students in nursing uniforms.) Finding these images has actually been really exciting because they help the site take a much better shape and definition!

Finally, we have also been working on the overarching Century America home page. Candice talked to the MapsAlive people and Dr. McClurken has cleared it for our use!2 This interactive map will be on the CA homepage and have links to the websites for each of our schools. The homepage will also contain brief information about the project and class. On a separate page there will be a large timeline (thanks everyone for sending me your dates and citations!) with school, national, and international events from the time period. The CA will also have a separate “About” page and “Credits” page.

It has been an exciting week for us at UMW–we love the shape our site is finally taking!!

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1.  Wow, a footnote! How cool!
2. Special thanks to Dr. McClurken for finally approving our choice of MapsAlive.

Digitization, Writing, and War Orphans

This week’s progress report for the UMW group can be found here! I just have a few comments of my own to add.

As Jack mentions in the progress report, we went back to the CRHC this week to make digitization requests. The woman who normally scans was not in that day, but the next day she scanned and emailed me all of the items that I requested.  I also received scans from UMW Special Collections (only a few because luckily the main sources from Special Collections are already digitized and online), so everything for my portion of the UMW site has been digitized! I don’t know if we will include every single digitized image on the history pages, so hopefully we can put additional images into the image galleries that Jack is creating.

Our next milestone is March 20, by which date we have agreed that we will all have the text for the website complete. I have started writing the “Student Life” page for the Fredericksburg State Normal School portion of the website, and after completing that I will write the “Academics” page. Both of these pages are really fun to research, and it is fascinating to see the sort of changes that the Great War wrought upon course offerings at the school (some of which you can read about in this blog post). In going back through some of my sources and doing additional readings, I found some really cool bits of information! The coolest find for me was that several professors and student clubs adopted French and Belgian war orphans! It seems that the professors or student groups only cared for each orphan for a year, so the “adoption” was not permanent–nevertheless, I think it is still amazing that the teachers and students were so involved in caring for victims of the war. In all, the Fredericksburg State Normal School adopted 5 war orphans during the war years!

I also found some excellent quotes while I was reading through yearbooks and academic catalogues and bulletins. I will include them below.

“The world has moved, and to those who stay at home is given an opportunity, too often neglected by parents and ignored in homes, to awaken through the heroes and heroines of a locality the spirit of American democracy.”
–Fredericksburg SNS Bulletin, October 1917, page 4

“The interests of these valiant and sacrificial nations must be our interests and their needs ours, for they are fighting our battles.”
–Fredericksburg SNS Bulletin, October 1917, page 11

“It was a beautiful spirit of co-operation between school and community.”
–Fredericksburg SNS Bulletin, January 1919, page 4

“Teachers, the war is over. . . . From the school-houses of our Commonwealth, the children are calling as never before for your patriotic service.”
–Fredericksburg SNS Bulletine, January 1919, page 14

Note: The featured image for this post is from the 1918 Fredericksburg State Normal School viewbook.

Storming the Archives

After agonizing weeks of waiting, we finally made it to the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center! All four of us made it, and we found some excellent resources–as we had hoped we would. We looked through many items, some of them useful, and some of them not. We started with Battlefield yearbooks, because they were the easiest items for the volunteers to pull. The CRHC has a very strict policy about copies and photos, but luckily the Battlefield yearbooks are digitized and available on the Internet Archive. The yearbooks had cool tidbits of information here and there that we can hopefully incorporate into the project about the homefront experience, and the ones before US entry into the war give us a good picture of how SNS was relatively unaffected by the war until 1917. I got to look through the 1915 Battlefield yearbook, and the Alumnae Pages had an interesting (and amusing) quote from an SNS graduate, Kathleen White: “She is much excited over the European War, and being a patriotic Canadian, she expresses a desire to enlist if worst comes to worst.”

Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

Candice got to look at some postcards, and one of them is amazing! It depicts soldiers lying on the ground, holding their weapons and says “On The Firing Line.”  It is from a man named Emmett to his Grandma. He writes: “Dear Grandma. Am at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga. Saw Dr. Pratt today. I don’t know where I’ll go from here. Love to all. Emmett.”

Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

Image copyright Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

Candice also went through a collection of items from the Knox family and put together an awesome Google doc for us with lots of information about them! It contained personal letters, newspaper articles, a family history, photographs, recipes, and more. Another item that we were looking forward to getting our hands on was the homefront diary of Mary Eastburn–Jack got to look at these diaries and they are absolutely amazing! They are an excellent source of information about the homefront, like prices for goods and material shortages. We definitely want to construct a homefront timeline, and these diaries will most likely form the crux of it. Jack has already set to work entering the information into the Timeline tool that we learned about earlier this week. I’m so excited to see how everything turns out in the end! We would like to get digital images of the diary, but unfortunately that will have to wait for a little while, due to the CRHC’s policies and the expense of actually getting the digital images ($2.00 per image). Candice and I looked through several letters from the Stearns sisters, but they didn’t seem to be relevant to WWI. They made no mention of the war, but it is possible that other letters in the collection do–the collection is quite large and has not been cataloged yet. However, unless we end up with ample amounts of time to go through this collection, it doesn’t seem like the letters will be useful to us.

The last item I looked at before I left the CRHC was a book of minutes from the Mary Washington Hospital Association. It ran from 1913 to 1919, so I actually started at the back of the book first, thinking that I would come across mentions of the war sooner from that direction. The January 21, 1919 entry mentioned Liberty Bonds that the association purchased, and several entries from 1918 mention the “question of coal,” which may have been related to war shortages. Interestingly enough, the books of minutes skips almost an entire year–it goes from October 6, 1918 to October 15, 1919. This jump in time startled me, especially because the fall of 1918 was when the influenza epidemic hit Fredericksburg in full force, so I was expecting to find some entries making mention of the virus. It is a very conspicuous absence of information, and Jack and I are wondering if the association kept a separate book of minutes during the time period that is missing. We shall see! We didn’t finish looking through the book, so when we return to the CRHC I would like to skim over the rest of it.

I’m very pleased with our progress and really looking forward to seeing what more we can find!

Interesting Finds in the Archives:
“The time has come” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things.” (1915 Battlefield Yearbook)
A woman at the Mary Washington Hospital caused a large controversy when she gave birth to a child and then put it into the hospital’s furnace, unbeknownst to hospital staff.

Special Collections and the Masonic Lodge

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

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

photo 1

Archival Survey–Great Finds!

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

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

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

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

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