Brainstorming About My Century America Website

I have spent quite a bit of time this week thinking about how I would like to design and develop my Century America website, and I have come up with a few ideas and tools that I would like to utilize in my project.

Concept:

The evidence that I have gathered so far seems to support a narrative format, in my opinion. That being said, I have decided that I can either approach this narrative in a traditional, chronological format, or in a thematically-oriented format. If I were to organize the site chronologically, I would probably divide it in this way:

  • Pre-WWI Period
  • 1914-16
  • 1917-1918
  • The Spanish Influenza and the End of the War
  • The Post-War Context

Each of the aforementioned sections would have a narrative flow, with supporting images and a timeline (probably from TimelineJS). If I wanted to organize the site more thematically, I would probably break it apart in the following way:

  • Montevallo at the Eve of the War
  • The Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute in Wartime: Challenges and Responses (Labor Crises, Food Conservation, etc.)
  • Montevallo: Portrait of a Community During the War Years
  • Montevallo and the Spanish Influenza
  • Montevallo in the Post-War Context

I am open to pursuing other, non-narrative formats for my website, but I believe that this approach will be the most logical and well-suited way by which to convey the material that I have discovered.

Site Layout:

Having viewed several digital history websites during the course of this project, I have seen a number of features that I think enhance the aesthetics and accessibility of a website. The homepage of my website will serve primarily as an introduction to the project and an explanation of how to navigate and utilize the materials within the various pages of my website. “Search-ability” and accessibility are very important characteristics to me, so I would like to construct this introductory page as a clear “road map” and access-point for all of the pages and content on the site. I would also like to have a “Guestbook” of sorts on this homepage, so that individuals who visit my site can “sign their names” and leave comments about their experiences with my Century America site. Most importantly, I want the homepage well-labeled, well-organized, interesting, and visually appealing, so that readers feel compelled to continue further exploration of my site.

Depending upon which narrative format I select, the pages of my site will be laid out in that manner. I would like to design the site so that each page has at least a few images and at least one interactive component (timeline, map, etc.). I intend to include a page dedicated solely to a “visual narrative” (one focused on telling the story of A.G.T.I. in the WWI period through images alone). If possible, I would also very much like to digitize some of the local newspapers that I have been viewing throughout the research process. I think they are wonderful resources in helping to understand community life during the wartime period.

The last page that I would like to have on my site is one for external links and further reading, so that individuals who find my site interesting or useful might be able to continue their exploration of the topic on their own time.

Research Progress:

My research project slowed somewhat last week with the snowstorm that affected Montevallo and the surrounding area. The university closed on Tuesday, and classes did not resume again until Monday of this week, so I was unable to access the archives to continue my research. However, I feel that I have made solid progress in my hunt for documentary evidence. I will be back in the archive tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon, and I plan to spend Friday morning there, as well. I have been pleased with the amount of relevant material on the World War I period held within the Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections. While this archive has an abundance of resources, I will continue exploring local and county-level opportunities by which to gain additional sources.

Primary Sources (So Far):

  • Academic Bulletins: I have examined academic bulletins from the following dates: 4/1912; 1/1914; 4/1914; 7/1914; 10/1914; 1/1915; 7/1915; 10/1915; 7/1916; 7/1917; 10/1917; 4/1918; and 7/1918. While these are the only dates I have viewed, the archives have available every bulletin between 1912 and 1920. These bulletins are extremely useful in helping to understand the mission and “goings-on” of the university during the wartime period. One of these (a Food Conservation Bulletin) will be of particular importance to my project. All of these items have been digitized are are readily accessible.
  • Yearbooks: All of the yearbooks from 1907-present are available and have been digitized. I have viewed the yearbook from 1917, and there are several pieces of information within this publication that are relevant to the war.
  • Board of Trustees Minutes: I have read all of the Board of Trustees minutes for the period of interest (1912-1920). These minutes provide an exceptional amount of information related to the challenges the university faced during this period. They also give insight into the administration’s decision-making processes and the running of the university. Both the war and the Spanish Influenza are explicitly mentioned.
  • Presidential Papers: The papers of President Palmer will be useful in understanding general trends about the student population, information about the university’s farm and dairy, and other important information related to the state of the university. I have examined these for the time period between 1913 and 1917.
  • Local newspapers, including The Peoples Advocate and The Shelby County Sun: These two local periodicals provide an amazing level of information about Montevallo and other surrounding communities. The Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute is mentioned quite frequently (more in some years than in others). Some of the other topics/items that are frequently mentioned include the war, crop issues, debt problems, President Wilson, Tuberculosis problems, lynchings, and economic considerations. I would jump at the opportunity to digitize some of these newspapers and include them on my website.
  • Images

Research tools:

I feel comfortable using TimelineJS, Google Maps, and Omeka. I would very much like to use TimelineJS in my project, but I do not think, as of this writing, that I will utilize either Google Maps or Omeka. I will continue searching for additional tools that will help to make my project more dynamic and interactive. If possible, I would really like to have a tool that would allow for the creation of an attractive, interactive photo gallery. If I am able to digitize some of the local newspapers that I have found, I would be very interested in a tool that allows for the sensation of “turning the pages.”

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