The Final Step

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.


The Day after This One

Tomorrow is the big day. A complete draft of my website is due. While I am still attempting to finalize a few permissions, my site seems to be coming together. I think that the narrative is coming through a little better with the additions I’ve done, and about 97% of my images and other materials are visible on the site. Thanks to the constant discussion on changing menus, I am happy to proclaim that my menu is no longer alphabetical! I finally figured out what my classmates and professors have been talking about.

I’ve asked a few people to look at it and tell me what they think. It helps to have people from the “outside” look at my site because I’ve looked at it so much I can’t see the issues anymore. They have given me some advice and have noticed problems I can’t see no matter how hard I stare at each page. I will be having a few more people look at it before I can’t make any more changes, just because more eyes are better than less.

I still need to decide about a couple more audiovisual opportunities for my site, but other than that, I’m getting super close to the finish line. I never considered creating a website before. This is crazy. And cool.


End In Sight

Wow, now I see all the comments from my classmates. I wonder why they didn’t show up to approve before. Hmmm. Technology and I don’t always understand each other.

Anyway, I’m closing in on getting the rest of my material prepared to post. Thanks for all your ideas. I have been collecting the comments into a very long list to work through. I wrapped up my final research last week, but have been so busy looking at and posting on all the other blogs that I haven’t gotten to post on my own.

I will have to rework my recordings as they aren’t working quite like I hoped, but I will use a different recorder, so that should work better. I now have two wartime letters I am allowed to transcribe and I got permission to take small sections to use for images on my website! Yay! I am working through the rest of the images I’ve got, and I have a lot more work to do, but I’m getting there. I will have to rethink my vlog since the technology isn’t working out in that respect. I am planning to do some more writing to help create the context for much of the site, and I will need to rework a few of the photos that got mad at me.

It’s been so cool to see everyone’s sites and how far they’ve come. And it’s neat to see how different our sites are even though they are on a common theme. I hope to have a lot more done on my site by Thursday. We’ll see how things go. :)

The Plans and the Dreams

I can’t believe it’s the 5th day of April already. I really like how my website is coming. I’ve gotten some more permissions signed, so I can post more stuff to my site. I have a couple more meetings this week to work on things with various archives, but I’m nearing the end of the posting and will soon begin the refining and editing process. So much to do yet!

As far as my Century America contract, I went through it and highlighted things I’m considering, and things I still need to do. As I’ve gone through this project, I feel that a timeline is not needed. My college really doesn’t have a bunch of big events it took part in for the war effort or anything. It was just constantly working on things during the war, and the local community was involved in most things with the school as well.

I don’t think I will need a second page after the home page. I added the right sidebar with all the pages included in the site (except the home page) because I had someone look at it and they felt a second menu would help with navigation. I’m not sure if I will keep it or not. What do you think?

I still need to add more media to several of my pages, and I need to start my bibliographic page and my vlog (I’ve been working on taking photos and screenshots throughout the course for this purpose). I would still like to create a page with links to local archives and collections as well.

I found out I’m allowed to use at least one letter written about the influenza and the war from one of the local archives. I am trying to set a time to transcribe that info for my Voices of the Great War page, along with the two articles about the tarring and feathering of two locals. I think I’m combining the ‘general impacts’ section into the ‘local news during the war’ section since they are mostly all from the newspapers.

I am working to create at least one photo gallery. I think that will be on the war shipping images I’ve found. I may also create a gallery of several items that a local teacher has from WWI. He let me photograph a circa 1917-19 rifle, wool short/pants, some brass buttons and a gas mask, along with a medal. It was great to see some real objects that are represented in all the photographs and such. I think it will add another element to my website. In the next few days, a majority of the images and most of my writing will be drafted on the site.

That’s what I’ve thought through thus far. Please comment with any suggestions or ideas you have. Thanks!


Rough Week

Well, this has been a tough week for me – emotionally and homework-wise. My research and meetings keep being delayed by the icy and snowy weather, and people keep having other meetings and plans come up so I have to keep switching up my schedule. I also lost one of my co-workers (beside being a friend and mentor) to a brain aneurysm this weekend, so that has  changed my work schedule and energy level. (Bawling one’s eyes out saps one’s energy.)

Tomorrow, I have two meetings and three research (finalization) sessions planned. Lots of paperwork I am trying to wrap up still. Thanks to the wonderful help I got with citation style, I think I’m on my way on that side of things. Thanks for the advice and information!

I may need to change some things on the website to mirror the fact that I’m finding little here in the way of local influenza information and stories about local soldiers, but we’ll see how things go. I will keep plugging away at this and see where I can get by the time I need to “turn in” my website draft. I’m trying!

Seeing it More Clearly

A poem printed in Matt Carpenter Junior High School's "War Poems" from 1917. (Superior Public Library Archives. )

A poem printed in Matt Carpenter Junior High School’s “War Poems” from 1917. It seems pretty harsh, but most people seemed very focused on the war and wanted to do anything in their power to promote the war effort. (Superior Public Library Archives.)

After hours and hours of work, I feel like my site is finally coming along. There is so much yet to do, but now that I can see it, it’s going more smoothly. I’m still working on a few of the research pieces that didn’t happen yet due to timing and other issues, so I have some meetings upcoming to go through more paperwork and to go through a few more items. Although I didn’t get any personal artifacts out of my attempt at crowdsourcing on social media, I do have a meeting set up to look at and photograph some military equipment from WWI that a local resident owns. (That should be neat!)

I have some loose ends to tie when it comes to completing some of my pages, but the weather lately has really not been conducive to any travel or setting meetings. We are supposedly going to get up to one inch of ice and then up to 5 inches of snow in the next two days. That really hampers my travel plans. But I will keep going with what I currently have access to.

I am having a little trouble in dealing with the permissions end still, mostly because it’s time consuming and I need to have a list of images or items I plan to use – which seems to be changing daily –  but I have sent a few forms in the mail already, and will be sending out more tomorrow.

The Chicago Style stuff is still confusing me since I haven’t found a decent source to explain how to cite from un-accessioned archival items that I am taking photos of. Anyone have a good place to go for that information? Otherwise, I might have to ask around at school. Unfortunately for me, I’m a Public Historian, so Chicago Style is not my forte. I guess I will master it by the time I get through citing this entire website.

I recorded a couple of war poems so I have the audio in case I can fit it into my website. I’ve been working on my summaries, stories and write ups, photo captions, focus of pages, details on pages, and did a little work messing with the Century America logo. I should probably work on some homework for one or two of my other five classes at some point in the near future.


Dear History Thesis,
I know we’ve not seen each other for quite some time. Tomorrow, I promise to get back in touch – mostly because I would like to graduate in May.
Sincerely, Dara

Website Creation and Sticky Points

Digging into my website this week was fun. And hard. I found that I should have started the media uploading process a long time ago because it is incredibly tedious. I could do write ups for pages in documents and figure out the layers before I post, but I find it’s hard to picture things in my mind that way, so I keep editing until I like how the whole page looks. I have made headway in multiple areas – some behind the scenes and some visible on my website. Things are coming together quite a bit like I pictured for my contract, but I know it’s already crunch time and I have a lot of effort I need to put into this still.

The hardest thing thus far for me was understanding the creation of pages based on menus and sub-menus. Ufftah. I now understand that creating menus and pages is not nearly as intuitive as working with this blog. You have to go here, go there, do that, switch this, swap that, change that . . . Wow. But now I know. One challenge down. Many more to go.

Dealing with photo quality has also been hard. Most of my document scans were .tiffs, which seems good because I like high quality photos, but once they are posted to the website, they disappear and can only be seen once opened. I guess .jpg will have to do, because they should show up on the site itself.

I still have some loose ends to tie up with research, many forms to get signed, lots of decisions about citation and how I will set that up on my site. As far as citation goes, I’m thinking I will somehow relate things to a separate page for full citation because it won’t be public friendly if it shows up with numbers and Chicago Style on every page. I do plan to (and have already worked to) give some information in parentheses about where the source is from. I have never cited from an archives (let alone items that are not really numbered or cataloged yet) and I’m not sure how to, or if I should, include that lots of the photos of documents are mine. In some cases, the documents are online, but have no exact link because they are in a search tool, so I have lots of figuring out to do yet. There are so many things that don’t cross my mind until I am actively engaged in the process! But that makes it more interesting. What would life be without challenges?


March 13 Update


UW-Superior Old Main Fire, March 1914

UW-Superior Old Main Fire, March 1914

What a busy week.

Lots more research, a little website drafting, a couple presentations, and the week is almost over. On Tuesday, I gave a formal presentation about Century America at my university’s Social Inquiry Conference. I spent about 15 minutes explaining this course, and used my laptop and a projector to show our course blog, my own blog, and the website. I also got to show some photos of the process – a screen shot of our video conference during class, how messy I am when I’m doing research, some of the old newspaper stories I’ve found, and photos of course catalog information from UWS.

I got lots of questions after my presentation about what audience I am creating this website for, how I consider myself to be creating history, what I thought of not being in a classroom setting with my co-students and no “real” contact with my professors, who should be considered a historian, crowdsourcing, and more. These were lots of questions I’ve been asking myself lately, and lots of things we’ve been discussing in class.

When I went down to the state capitol to present on some previous research I did on community gardens, I also got to discuss this course with a few people. I met a girl who did a bunch of research in her university archives and created a little book with 40 photos and the stories or information that made them special. The girl I talked to is the first student I have ever met (in real life) who is going for a Public History Major like me.

Here is the point my Century America UW-Superior page is at. Even though there’s not much of anything there, it is a start. I need to finish up my timeline ideas after I give a presentation today on my trip to Ghana. Then comes a new week full of website work and homework and housework and “work” work that I get to do during my Spring Break.


Response to Readings on Digital History

“The HeritageCrowd Project: A Case Study in Crowdsourcing Public History” (Spring 2012)” by Shawn Graham, Guy Massie, and Nadine Feuerherm., in Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki, eds. Writing History in the Digital Age. Forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press. Trinity College (CT) web-book edition, Spring 2012,

I found the neatest article about the idea of crowdsourcing local history by digital means. For me, this was fascinating. The authors explain how they carried out a study in which they tried to gather local history from local people who are not considered historians by most. They tried to create an online environment in which the playing field was leveled so that non-tech savvy people, or people with poor internet access, would have the same opportunity as any historian or computer programmer to help gather and publicly display history.

The authors give the reader ideas on how to create future projects, such as, having materials already posted to the website so that it is not blank, linking to already existing history sites on the same subject, and use social media to get the word out to the people you want to involve. The whole process of the various projects was explained in detail, and similar sites were linked to show how the idea of public history – the new art of involving non-academics into the realm of history. I found one site to be pretty neat; it’s called Field Expedition: Mongolia. This website allows people to learn how to identify key locations in Mongolia in which to start archaeological digs. Any person anywhere can look over satellite maps and give opinions and ideas.


The other article I read was in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History. “Artifacts as Pixels, Pixels as Artifacts: Working with Photographs in the Digital Age,” was written by Martha A Sandweiss, and published in November 2013. I found that most of her essay was just questions. Questions about how photos can be used by historians, about how so many pictures are digitized, but so few can be used as primary sources. This is because, though it’s great to have photos digitized, many photos are posted online with little supporting information. No date, no photographer, the back of the photo is not digitized, the date is obscured in the picture, and so on.

Sandweiss thinks that while it’s incredibly useful to digitize thousands of photographs that would otherwise be lost in some back room, the way we are digitizing them is similar to the way we started dumping and scanning everything we could when the internet became popular. There is not yet a rhyme or reason in how we post photos online and that is leaving us, according to the author, in a place where it’s there, but we can’t use it as historians because it’s not all there. Although the author has not lost faith in humanity, she seems to be calling for a better way to digitize history so that historians and amateurs alike can use photographs as primary evidence instead of simply as illustrations in an otherwise wordy essay or book.

I found this article engaging because of my work with photography and understanding just how challenging it is to use photos well and to know who took the photo, and how, and where, and even, why. Sandweiss writes that “digitization can flatten the physical differences among photographic prints and conceal or erase information accessible to anyone who consults the original object.” We as historians have a lot to do if we want to use historical photographs to their fullest potential and reduce the need for people to visit the actual objects instead of accessing them online.


Don’t Mind Me!

I’m trying out some of the themes I was considering for my website, so if my blog looks funny, please disregard it as mere artistic license. Once I have a website, I will be able to mess around with it more, but for now, my blog is fair game.

This contract writing stuff is tough. I love using my imagination, but it’s a real challenge to create a website in my head or on a sheet of paper because I’ve never attempted anything remotely similar. I’m sure it will come together once I start creating it, but I have to make choices about options and struggles I can’t foresee. Any ideas you have as I’m building my site would be greatly appreciated. My ultimate goal is to make my site as interactive as possible, and yet to make it useful as a historical research tool. So here I go. . .