Century America Digital Humanities Project Contract
Student Researcher: Christopher Hightower
Institutional Affiliation: University of Montevallo
Project Site: http://montevallo.centuryamerica.org/
Mission Statement and Objectives for the Website:
This project seeks to explore, analyze, and contextualize college and community life in Montevallo, Alabama, during the period of the Great War (1914-1919). To accomplish this task, the researcher will incorporate into the project a number of primary and secondary source materials, the majority of which will come from the Annie Crawford Milner Archives and Special Collections at the University of Montevallo. Additional resources from the Carmichael Library at the University of Montevallo, the Alabama Department of Archives and History, and the Montevallo community will be incorporated into the project as needed to most effectively construct a cohesive narrative. The ultimate goal of this project is to produce a significant work of digital scholarship that details the history of the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute and the town of Montevallo, Alabama, in the context of World War I. As this project is of particular importance to the University of Montevallo and the Montevallo community, it is expected that the audience for this site will consist primarily of Montevallo professors, students, alumni, and community members. Because these individuals represent an educated community, the researcher will be constructing his website to address a well-educated reader.
The Century America website for the Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute and the town of Montevallo, Alabama, will be oriented around a thematic narrative. The main pages for the website will be:
1. About the Project:
This page will include a brief description of the research project and its aims. A link to the researcher’s Century America blog will be provided on this page so that readers may develop an understanding of the research process that went into creating the final website.
2. About the Researcher:
This page will include a very brief “bio” of the researcher, his reasons for participating in the Century America project, and his thoughts and insights on the project.
3. Montevallo at the Eve of War:
This page will provide the audience with an understanding of the school as it existed at the outbreak of the Great War. Images of buildings, grounds, and relevant historical figures will be included. During this period, the A.G.T.I. served a unique purpose as a technical school for women, so information about its distinctiveness in Alabama will be detailed. This information will be acquired primarily from A.G.T.I.’s bulletins and catalogs, as well as from the Board of Trustees minutes and various administrative files.
4. The Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute in Wartime: Daily Life, Challenges, and Responses:
This page, as well as its subpages, will cover essentially all aspects of university life between 1914 and 1919. One subpage that the researcher has planned out covers the “Running of the School” during the period of the Great War. This subpage will highlight administrative records, presidential papers, freight records, and other documents to show how the university operated in light of the war effort, labor uncertainty, and increases in the cost of living. The researcher also plans to include a “Life for the Students of A.G.T.I.” subpage, which will detail the clubs, activities, curricula, diet, and other facets of everyday life for the students during the war years.
Since Montevallo’s famous homecoming tradition, College Night, began in 1919, the researcher plans to include information about the creation of this tradition. Most of the information included in this section will come from the Technala, A.G.T.I.’s yearbook, beginning with the 1919 publication. Since this tradition is extremely popular among current students and alumni, it is expected that the inclusion of this material will increase traffic to the site. Since this section of the website is dedicated to how the university responded to the war effort, all information about pro-war efforts will be included. For example, a Food Conservation Bulletin from the period will be digitized and included as an example of how the university supported the war effort. The researcher plans to include the first of two “Voices of Montevallo” sections as a subpage here, as well. This subpage will include several poems and other writings by students at A.G.T.I.; these written sources will be taken primarily from the 1914-1919 yearbooks, which have been digitized by Montevallo’s archivist. These yearbooks contain an abundance of writings by the students of A.G.T.I., and they will be useful in providing the project with a “human element.” In addition, the researcher plans to incorporate Lillou McCain’s letter detailing her time at A.G.T.I. in the periods during and after the Great War. Her anecdotes and personal accounts will serve as illustrations of the general themes that the researcher addresses about life at A.G.T.I. during the war years. Certain administrative records will also serve as “voices” in this section.
5. Montevallo: Portrait of a Community During the War Years:
This section will serve the same purpose as the aforementioned section on the university, except that it will specifically cover the town of Montevallo and other surrounding communities. For this section, the researcher will be drawing heavily from The Peoples Advocate, a local newspaper from the period. The researcher plans to utilize numerous newspaper articles from the period to showcase life, relationships, religion, economics, politics, and other factors in the small community of Montevallo. A subpage dedicated to Montevallo men who were drafted into the army and served in the war will appear under this section. The researcher has access to the names of individuals who were drafted during the period, and he will explore ways to create “micro-histories” surrounding these men. This would serve as a second “Voices of Montevallo” page if sufficient materials can be located. In addition, the World War I Gold Star Database at the Alabama Department of Archives and History contains the names of five Montevallo men who died in World War I. Their death cards, bioforms, and photographs will be included as another “human element” provided that the researcher receives permission to publish from the archives. The researcher is currently in the process of negotiating these permissions.
6. The Spanish Influenza and the End of the War:
The researcher has not found a significant amount of information on the Spanish influenza’s effect on A.G.T.I., but there is enough combined A.G.T.I. and local coverage to justify a modest page on the website. This influenza information will be grouped in with a section on the end of the war, which will detail the readjustment to peace time in Montevallo. Secondary sources will be utilized to provide a broader historical context for the Spanish influenza epidemic and the end of the war.
7. Montevallo in the Post-War Context:
This page will cover all aspects of the university and town in the years immediately following the war (no later than 1922). It will serve as a way to wrap up the narrative concisely and draw meaningful conclusions about the war’s effects on A.G.T.I. and Montevallo. Based on a review of surviving materials, it appears that the war had an impact on the functioning of A.G.T.I., particularly in terms of financial matters. However, as the school was an all-female institution at the time, the student body was spared any direct contact with the war itself. The town of Montevallo was affected by the war to a somewhat greater degree, as men from the area were drafted and subsequently served in the war effort. These matters will be discussed extensively in relation to A.G.T.I.’s students and Montevallo’s residents.
8. Bibliography and Further Reading:
The bibliography page will include a list of all materials cited on the website and those that inspired the researcher’s conceptualization of Montevallo in the period of the Great War. In addition to this bibliography page, footnotes will be incorporated on each page on which any material is displayed or quoted. The further reading page will include links to the researcher’s blog, the Montevallo archives, the WWI Gold Star Database, the city of Montevallo page, the University of Montevallo page, pages on the Spanish influenza and World War I, all of the other Century America websites, and other websites as deemed appropriate.
In terms of site features, the researcher plans to incorporate at least two timelines on two or three of the site’s pages. One will be a general timeline of the university’s history leading up to the outbreak of the Great War. This timeline will be found under the “Montevallo at the Eve of the Great War” page. The second timeline will be found under the “Alabama Girls’ Technical Institute in Wartime” page, and it will include a general layout of major events that occurred at A.G.T.I. in the years between 1914 and 1919. The researcher will include a similar timeline for the Montevallo community in the “Montevallo: Portrait of a Community During the War Years” section if the content can effectively be displayed in that manner. All timelines will be created using TimelineJS. The researcher has decided against utilizing any type of mapping technologies for his Century America project. The campus of A.G.T.I. and the town of Montevallo were not large enough to justify the effort of putting together a map. If Dr. McClurken and Dr. Pearson decide that video blogs should be incorporated into the Century America sites, the researcher will certainly be willing to provide a video blog, provided that tutorials are offered. If the researcher does elect to do a vlog, he will need to be informed of audio and video editing technologies that will allow for this. As the site comes together, the researcher will explore additional tools that will help to provide a richer experience for potential visitors to the Montevallo site. One idea is to pursue a plugin that will visualize images and allow for rapid rotation between different images; the researcher intends for this feature to provide something of a museum- or exhibit-like experience for site visitors. In addition, the website will utilize a guestbook that will allow visitors to contribute their own experiences, materials, or feedback about the website. In terms of common features, the researcher intends to incorporate the COPLAC Century America logo in some manner on each page of the website. With permission, the researcher also intends to incorporate the University of Montevallo’s logo on the website. The researcher is coordinating this effort with the university.
The researcher has not definitively decided which WordPress theme he would like to use for his Century America site. Based on an initial analysis of a number of WordPress themes, several common features appear desirable for the Montevallo Century America site. If possible, the researcher would like to utilize a theme that incorporates header images, provides options to add subpages, and displays cleanly-laid-out page labels. An initial examination of WordPress themes indicates that the Bushwick theme may provide all or most of the desired features. This theme should also allow the researcher to match the overarching site in terms of navigation features, general homepage layout, and color schemes. As soon as the researcher has been notified of the appearance of the overarching website, a final decision regarding themes and plugins will be made.
Schedule of Milestones:
March 7: Send Jack representative images to consider for use in Century America logo
March 14: Send UMW group dates and images for overarching timeline
March 18: About the Project, About the Researcher, and Bibliography and Further Reading sections will be completed; ½ of the images, scans, and documents will be placed online for storage (some images will be in place on the Century America website)
March 21: ¾ of the images, scans, and documents will be placed online for storage (most of the scanned images will be in place on the Century America website); a rudimentary narrative for most of the sections will be in place
March 28: All of the images, scans, and documents will be placed online; a richer narrative will be in place for all of the sections
April 3: Complete Draft of Website Due
April 10: All image, documents, and scans will be finalized
April 17: All narrative elements will be finalized and submitted for review
April 24: Revised Version of Website Due