Century America was more than a semester of college work for me. It was a trial run for my future career. As a Public Historian, I am sure I will be working to connect the digital age with the past in many ways. As many people turn to the internet and digital applications that allow them to learn about history in a way they are accustomed to, historians must embrace that fact and do what they can to keep our important history available to current consumers. This means advertising, marketing, and creating digital exhibits that allow people to engage with history as history becomes a more public realm than a place for intellectuals to make and test hypotheses.
This semester was a tough one for me – this Century America website was a part- to full-time job without pay, and fitting in five other classes (including a senior thesis) and four jobs took a toll on my sanity. I’ve never missed so many deadlines (like posting this essay) or stayed up so late to get everything in before the magical midnight hour. I never considered creating a website before I got the information about this class, and never thought I would even understand the process. But here I am at the end of this project, and as I look back, I can see how far I’ve come. I keep having to tell myself, “I just created a digital history website. I did it. Not by myself, but I did it!” It still hasn’t sunk in.
As I look through Near the Great Lakes During the Great War, I feel like it is mostly how I pictured it would be: a place where people can look at the history and read for themselves what local residents read during the Great War. They can see items that would have been used during the era, hear poems written for the war, and see photographs taken a century ago. In my contract for creating my website, I had many things I hoped to accomplish. A few of them did not pan out. Technology not being my specialty, I am actually amazed by what did get accomplished. I had hoped to create a process video with a slideshow of images taken through the project, but after getting help with some issues, I found out I would not be able to make the video using the Vlog software I hoped to work with. Although I am bummed that it didn’t pan out, I feel that I can still explain a little of the process and help viewers gain insight into this course concept by adding some information, and possibly images, to the process page. I had hoped to list the servicemen from Superior who fought in the Great War, but the information I could find gave conflicting details and never a full listing with good information. Fortunately, there was a lot of material about local servicemen in the local newspapers.
I wasn’t sure about creating a timeline, because it would have been very short, and very boring, especially when compared to timelines on some of the other websites. I do like the speech plug-in I found that allows viewers to highlight text and have it read to them.
Overall, I feel like I accomplished a great deal of work it far too short a timeframe. Dealing with challenges about permissions and fees took most of my time, as did simply trying to find out more information on the topics I was interested in displaying on my site. Searching through newspapers on microfiche took several days of my time, and gave me headaches, but the newspapers, in my opinion, truly give a window into what people of the area were thinking about and doing toward the war effort. I still have a few more images to add, but am still working on getting the permissions dealt with since there has not been the communication channel I would hope for in that area this semester.
I do think I might work on my website a little more in the future. I know I did not have the time I could have used to gather more local information the Great War for my website. A year would have been nice. Or longer. But, for how little time I had to actually work on my website, I feel like it’s complete, although in the digital age, you can add to things that are “finished.”
So, I must say, this experience helped me grow as a public historian, as an author, as a web editor and as an individual.This class was crazy, made me angry, wore me out, strained my people skills, over-estimated my abilities, and was one of the greatest college courses I have ever taken – because it made me think, try new things, do what I had never done before; and it helped me realize I am on the right path as I head toward my dreams. The end.