The Century America COPLAC project has provided me with a better appreciation of digital history. Previously, I had regarded digitalization as an easy skill. Grandparents and even elementary age children are able to create Facebook profiles and Word Press Blogs with apparent ease. However, I was unaware of the complicated processes associated with website design and writing. As a history major, I felt unprepared to create HTML and CSS coding for vital components of the digital project. I invested many hours searching through coding books to obtain the correct locations of periods and quotations marks so essential to web design. These unexpected difficulties created obstacles toward the completion of our project contract. My partner and I adjusted our goals to reflect these challenges. However, confronting these difficulties I became a better historian. I learned how to conduct community research and efficiently organize my time. More importantly, I gained an understanding of the skills required to present history to wider audience.
Community research was essential to our project’s success. Through interviews and meetings, my partner and I were able to discovery important sources which altered the course of our research. My project partner, Laura Galbraith, and I first encountered John W. Zimmerman and Kim Ward as they were completing the Call Field Aviation Base mural at the Wichita Falls Municipal Airport. Zimmerman and Ward provided insight on important subjects and gave us contact information regarding how to obtain research. Such information included the contact details of Lita Watson who is the head archivist of the Wichita County Archives. Ward used photographs from the Wichita County Archives to reconstruct the base’s layout which was essential to her mural’s perspective. Laura and I were able to use Ward’s outline to gain a better impression of the base which helped in our own search of Call Field photographs. Ms. Watson of the county archives also contributed toward our search by allowing me to explore unhindered through the vast archive. Often, I would invest my Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons examining records and inquiring with archivists about additional sources of research. Such discussion reviled that the complete collection of the Wichita Daily Times was located at the Wichita Falls Public Library. The Wichita Daily Times was the daily news publication of Wichita Falls during The Great War. This source was essential toward interpreting our project’s topics such as Call Field, The Spanish Flu, the Oil Boom, and the Women’s war contributions. Through an online Facebook Group dedicated to Wichita Falls history, I encountered city cartographer, Paul Bata who reconstructed a map of the Call Field Base. He used old photographs, property records, and satellite imagery to overlay the 1918 aviation field map on the current topography. Bata’s unique map connects Wichita Falls to the past. Although this research was vital to our project, the methods to obtain these records were time consuming. Future students of Century America should be advised that community and field research efforts require greater time commitments rather than secondary source research on databases.
Regarding our project contract, adjustments were needed to accommodate the various research challenges I encountered. Arguably, despite these changes, I upheld my commitments listed in the contact. I was initially responsible for the creation of the Call Field Page, Oil Boom Page, Bibliography Page, the Timeline, and half of the Women’s Page. According to the contract, the Call Field Page was intended to include a detailed list of all service members that perished while training and include the schematics of Call Field Base’s construction. As I was conducting my community research, I overheard concerns that the list of men who perished was also under dispute. However, having compared the memorial stone at the Wichita Falls Municipal Airport with the records within the Call Field Engineer and Call Field Stabilizer, I feel confident that the memorial stone accurately represents those who died while training. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate the original blue prints of the aviation field. In addition, I did not include a memorial listing of all fallen airmen and I omitted the timeline. Debatably, the interactive carousals of the Call Field publication are more useful to student researchers and are more fascinating to local Call Field enthusiasts. Although these carousals do not display the graphics or dates in a linear fashion, viewers are able to see the memorial listings in the original publications. The time required to upload all six carousals made it impossible to construct the timeline. The Oil Page and Bibliography Page were completed with few deviations from the project contract. Since Laura omitted the Genealogy page, I was unable to summarize the individual entrepreneurial families’ successes which in part defined the North Texas Oil Boom. Instead, I focused my discussion on the development of North Texas oil businesses and Call Field. Laura was also unable write the section regarding the Spanish Flu. Therefore, I undertook the Spanish Flu research and arguably satisfied all related conditions according to the contract.
Laura Galbraith’s adjusted contributions included the Women’s Role, the Timeline, uploading the map, and writing half of the home page. She primarily focused on the technological aspects including setting the color scheme, selecting the background image, and setting up the pages. Laura sufficiently described Women’s Roles during The Great War. This section does not deviate from the contract.
Overall, I believe that Laura and I are pleased with the website despite the few deviations from our contract. Unfortunately, we were unable to invest the necessary time to integrate our YouTube videos on an interactive map. These videos may possibly become components on the timeline depending on Laura’s availability. Our project’s accomplishments represent the community’s involvement. Many of the sources that were vital toward our analysis were given and used with permission by various people and entities across North Texas. This process of digitization has helped Laura and I become better historians.