“Creating Meaning in a Sea of Information”

That was the title of Part 4 in Writing History in the Digital Age, which is part of next week’s upcoming assignment.  In this article, that title was what stood out to me- “a sea of information”.  They even mentioned an earlier site we looked at and also my favorite digital history site, The Valley of the Shadow.  I went ahead and completed this assignment because once again I’m at home in the snow.  Hopefully we have class tomorrow, so Ben and I can run by Special Collections, at least for a few minutes.  I want to speak with Gene again about finalizing what I will be able to digitize for my site from the UNCA Archives (regarding copyright).

Even though my research has been slightly sidetracked with all the bad weather, I don’t feel overwhelming amounts of pressure that I’m not going to be able to obtain enough information for the website.  Rather, it’s sifting through the availability of information (that “sea of information” again) and presenting what I feel are the most important pieces.  I already know I’m going to have to be careful about not putting up too many documents and photographs and such, simply because there won’t be enough time.  I’m a very visual person, so I also have to be diligent about integrating documents and photographs and the like with enough interpretation that the site finds an ideal balance between an archive and a narrative.  Another key point in the article.

I also looked at the AHA Perspectives article on Marx in the Mountains.  It was about hunger and poverty in Vermont and linking the teachings of Marx to those problems in the Vermont economy.  I related to the information because it sounded a lot like Western North Carolina, and also because this is a very important piece of my website.  The rural poor- in my neck of the woods, classified not so much by hunger, but definitely by poverty.  Self-sufficiency and semi-subsistence lifestyles are themes I want my part of the website to highlight for this area as well.  I think those themes have always been important to this region (especially so during a World War) and that they are still important.

I’ve noticed lots of folks went ahead and posted their contracts.  I shared mine only via Google Docs with Dr. Pearson and Dr. McClurken, but I’m happy to include a blurb regarding my “side” of mine and Ben’s joint website.  My plan is as follows and comes directly from my contract:

Upon entering the “Rural” side of the website, the visitor will come to a homepage with a black and white background of photos from the Great War time period.  The visitor can then choose to click on one of the following headings: Farms and Small Towns, Churches, City Laborers, Rural Color, Prohibition Roots, Flood of 1916, or the Railroad.  Upon clicking one of these headings, an additional page will open with the option of opening the subcategories: Newspaper Articles and Photographs, Ledgers/Records, Diaries/Letters/Journal Entries, Maps, Other Photographs.  Each of these subcategories will likely contain at least one image, perhaps more than one, as well as a narrative to go along with the image.  For example, the “Other Photographs” subcategory under the Flood of 1916 will contain black and white photographs of the occurrence, as well as a small narrative to let the visitor know the background story.  Within the narrative, there may be one or two highlighted words or phrases that link the “Rural” side of the story back over to the “Urban” side of the story.  Again, with the example of the Flood of 1916, there may be a narrative as to the type of damage done to a particular business in downtown Asheville, and that business name would be hyperlinked back to the “Urban” side of the website along with information about that particular business.

So, the plan next week is to start consolidating that “sea of information” and to see if Ben and I can streamline it into a working, interactive, and inviting website.

Project Contracts

I don’t really have much of interest to blog about, and I don’t much feel like typing any longer since I spent the last hour and a half typing a draft for the project contract.

So then.  About the only other item I have to report on is the weather from hell we’re currently having.  In fact, my pipes froze last night, so all in all, I’m in a real stellar mood.  Since the weather has been playing havoc on attempts to gather research, my colleague and I pushed back our trip to Pack Library to next Tuesday.

At least we’ve gotten a start on the contract though.  Perhaps I’ll blog again when my water unfreezes and I can wash some dirty laundry.

Tata for now.


Site Refinement

After finishing Over Here (and before starting the exorbitant amount of homework I have in my other classes), I started thinking about the layout of our planned site again.  I’ve refined my idea a bit, and even though I have it written in my notes, I’d like to add a short blurb about it here as well.

After mulling over what Leah had said, I realized that I want to be careful not to make the overall scope and arrangement of the website so initially difficult that it would take a professional web designer to put it all together.

So on that vein, here is my new idea.  After the home page, where you can choose which “side” to enter- either Urban or Rural- you will have an “additional” home page on the Rural side.  I’d like to have a black and white background, perhaps a map layout of the outer reaches of the county???  Something to that effect, and in front of the background photo just a simple type of menu- not sure yet if I’d like tabs, or something else- but headings for things like Laborers, Prohibition Roots, the Flood, the Railroad, Churches, and Farms.

Once you clicked on each of those, you would get a new page with another menu, again, not sure of the exact layout, still contemplating that one, but it would then have clickable headings for Newspaper Articles, Ledgers/Records, Diaries/Letters/Journals, Maps, and Photographs.  In the background perhaps a 4-way split screen of black and white photos of a rural family farm, a picture of workers in the city, a WWI soldier from the area, and a picture of maybe the Railroad.

Once you clicked on these headings, you would then get the primary and secondary source material, along with explanations if you so wanted it.

This is just my thoughts so far on the project.  I think this is a bit of a better idea for my side of the website, compared to my initial, rather complicated one.

Site Dreams and Primary Source Roads

So my colleague and I decided we had both better complete a post on our primary source list and our planned outline for the site.  The reason being, while we will have ONE main site, we plan on having TWO layered sites.

From our homepage, the plan is for the user to have a choice as to which side of the site to enter; either a section on the urban, affluent, tourist-related side of Asheville, or to enter the side regarding the more rural, farm-country, and economically disadvantaged side of Asheville.  I’ll be focusing most of my research on the latter.

I’m hoping someone, perhaps even in our New Media department here at UNCA, will know about a type of technology where you might be able to scan a real photo, say an aerial shot of a Barnardsville farm, and then I can label certain buildings as menu headings to open additional types of categories.

For instance, the local church would “ping” when hovering over it with a computer mouse, and then if you entered it, you might have a title menu on the next page that gives you the ability to look at church records, dockets, images, etc.  If you click on one of those, it will bring up that document and/or image and you might have a hyperlink that will take you to an analysis of that item, or even link you to another related item.

The seven “menu headings” I plan to focus research on for my side includes rural farms, churches, community buildings (for example, schools, the local Post Office and/or general stores), labor- including the Railroad, early stages of Prohibition, the Flood of 1916, and minorities.  Under some of these headings, such as rural farms, you might find links to see what the farms were producing at that time, or you might find a link to a person from that particular farm that enlisted as a soldier, or perhaps even their letters or diary entries.

The point is, each of these menu headings should have the ability to bring up additional subheadings.  A layered content.  That’s the basic outline for our website.  I’m sure it will evolve, and I’m sure Ben will be able to add to what I’ve already posted here to maybe give a different viewpoint of the “look” of our projected site.

As far as primary resources, I’ve found most of mine in Special Collections here at UNCA so far, but I am indebted to Ben’s research already, as he produced an extensive list for me to delve into more.  The following list includes several primary resources for contemplation of use on the final website.

From UNCA Special Collections:

The Asheville Citizen-Times (stunning primary source photographs, and thanks to Gene for getting the “ok” to use their content)

E.M. Ball Photographic Collection

Asheville: A Pictorial History by Mitzi Schaden Tessier

Fifty-Eight Years in Asheville by Charles Webb (and his other, Forty-Six Years in Asheville)

From Western Regional Archives:

Panoramic Black and White Picture of a Training Camp for WWI Soldiers

Pack Library (Information courtesy of Benjamin Jarrell):

Tobacco Records

Along the Electric Line

African-Americans Working on Streetcar Track

View of Chimney Rock from Esmeralda Inn

Asheville Grain and Hay Company Photographs

The “Barn Hills” (I’m particularly interested in looking at this collection, as I believe it may refer to Barnardsville)

Flood of 1916 (huge collection, and it appears as if quite a bit of it may be digitized already)

View of Mountains, Mt. Mitchell, Rainbow Falls

First Presbyterian Church Records

I still have planned to visit Mars Hill, Montreat, and Appalachian University Special Collections, and there could possibly be other avenues of interest between here and there.  At this point, this is currently where I stand with a dream and a plan.