“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.

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