Post-Draft Update: UMW and Homepage

The end it in sight!

First, the Century America homepage is nearly finished, and we’re so excited about how it’s turning out. The formatting of the layout, the timeline, and the text areas have all been completed, as has the MapsAlive interactive map.

The next and (hopefully) final step will be incorporating the complete map into the site. DTLT (Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies) has helped us tremendously in this process. We will be meeting with Ryan of DTLT once more this week, after which we will be able to officially determine how the map will appear on the homepage. Ryan will show us if and how we could embed the full map into the homepage using an iFrame, which would mean visitors would reach the fully interactive version of the map immediately upon reaching the home page of the site.

As of now, however, we are leaning toward the currently displayed format, in which a screen shot of the interactive map is featured below the header image, which is hyperlinked to the full map on a separate page. We like the clean design this allows for, and are confident this format will preserve all of the interactive features of the map, creating the easiest navigability. It also allows for visitors to read about the project before reaching the full interactive map, which will give them a better sense of what they are using by the time they are using the map to navigate to each of the different schools. This seems to the version that you all (my virtual classmates) prefer, but if there are any objections, please let us know!

As for the UMW Century America page, we are also nearly completion. Text has been completed, images uploaded and formatted, and design elements all finalized. This week we were able to get the side widgets added, which feature our Voices of the Great War element. The last piece of the puzzle for us will be citations. Currently, our pages are cited with wordpress-style endnotes than are then included on a separate “References” page accessed through the main menu. We are currently debating how best to improve accessibility to the notes without compromising the appearance and effectiveness of the site as an educational and enjoyable tool. In our digital history class, a colleague brought up a plug-in she has installed that allowed for a collapsible footnote section at the bottom of each page; this is an option we are considering. We are also debating the benefits and downsides of linking each individual note to the separate reference page, so that visitor could click the note number and be taken to the anchored location on our current citations page. While this would increase accessibility and clean up the site, we also fear it might prove distracting to be clicking back and forth while trying to read the longer text passages. Suggestions?

Overall, these are minor decisions and edits to make, and we are so excited to see the final project coming together so nicely. We’ve been busy admiring our site and all the Century America projects all week. It’s actually becoming a problem.




The Making of the Site

It’s been a very productive week for the UMW team. Both the home Century America site and the site for our particular school are up with the skeleton of pages holding form for how we will structure our information. We also have begun to customize both themes and discuss the design elements of the sites. We’re very excited about the degree of freedom we have to customize with the Parabola theme, especially, and we are beginning to get a sense of how the UMW page will look in the end.

This week I wrote the Knox Family page, as well as some introductory blubs for the About and Credits pages. The Knox page is published, though edits are likely still forthcoming, with the pictures Leah and Jack received from the CRHC. We are currently discussing how to incorporate the Century America logo into both sites and how we will format and include the Voices of the Great War element into the UMW site.

My primary focus at this point is the map for the Century America home page. We are (mostly) settled on using Maps Alive to create this, and I am hoping to confirm this by early next week. Assuming we go with this format, which will allow us to make an interactive, custom map through which visitors will navigate to all the Century America sites, I will begin importing data this week. Right now, I have created the map with the correct hotspots for each school and labeled the hotspots with the metadata structure I plan to use. In the end, visitors will be able to hover over a state that is a hotspot and see a popup window with a picture of the school, a small blurb about the institution and town, and a link to their Century America site. I think it will be a visually engaging, original, and user-friendly introduction to the website, and am optimistic about being able to figure all this out.

It’s so rewarding to see all the research and planning begin to take shape. I’ve really enjoyed reading the contracts from my virtual colleagues and seeing how everyone is planning to tell their schools’ and communities’ stories. We’re making progress, and fast!

Digital History in Research and Education

Digital history holds incredible potential for the way historians research and the way students of history learn; however, a host of challenges remain for determining how digital history should best be approached and in what ways it can be most useful.

My professor, Dr. Jeffrey McClurken, has written on this issue and the many opportunities and challenges facing digital history today. Focusing primarily on the digitization of archives, McClurken considered the great benefit to students from having primary source materials accessible online. Where distance from physical archives can be limiting especially in an academic setting, digitization allows students to pursue a wider range of topics and a broader base of primary source material, the foundation for any history student’s training.

But despite the great potential of digital archives, digital history still faces challenges. McClurken points out that not all of the digital history publishing online is up to the standards of scholarship required by publishers of peer-reviewed, printed books. Though the flexibility and mutability of the web can be a great asset, it also presents another great challenge–digital archives can simply move or disappear from the internet in a way physical archives do not. This can be especially problematic for educators, who may depend on a digital archive from one semester to the next and need consistency.

Adrea Lawrence presents another outlook on digital history in education in her article “Learning How to Write Analog and Digital History.” Lawrence focuses on the collaborative benefits of digital history, and the ways digital media can allow students to better learn and work with researchers and each other to understand the process of “doing history.” In her course, Histories in Education, students used both traditional and digital methods to publish their work, even writing and editing Wikipedia pages on their topics. Lawrence argues that the fluid format of Wikipedia, the very aspect of the site that makes scholars most skeptical of its integrity, allows historians to pursue a more collaborative methodology. Because Wikipedia pages are published but then can be edited infinite times by infinite editors, a work of historical research published in this medium will naturally be the result of many different contributions and collect various perspectives along the course of its life on the web.

Lawrence fails to address the many challenges that come with this digital approach however, some of which are discussed above. While Wikipedia certainly could encourage a more collaborative approach, its flexibility also could mean weaker scholarship and an invitation for error. The ease of digital publication is indeed an incredible asset, but brings with it a need for tight monitoring of the quality of that which is published. (Unfortunately, Lawrence’s digital article itself suffers from a few “typos,” despite its strong argument and creative approach.)

Both McClurken and Lawrence agree that digital aspects should be incorporated into the modern historian’s education, and that digitization poses great benefits to the future of the study of history. Recognizing both the benefits and difficulties that come with the versatility of digital media, historians should indeed embrace a digital future while pushing for a high standard of scholarship in digital publications as in print.

Dr. Jeffrey McClurken’s article Waiting for Web 2.0: Archives and Teaching Undergraduates in a Digital Age is published on his website:

Adrea Lawrence’s article is published in the Spring 2012 edition of Writing History in the Digital Age, a born-digital journal edited by Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzk and available at

Timeline Tool: A Brief History of UMW

I never would have believed using a Google spreadsheet and a simple website could produce such a visually appealing, interactive, and user-friendly digital timeline. The whole process was simple and relatively fast; honestly, it took longer to find all the images on the UMW archives website. While the timeline doesn’t provide many options for customization and all images must be first hosted online, it does allow the creator to add all sorts of media, and the final product is as engaging and interactive as the creator wants it to be. I will definitely look at using this tool in the final Century America project, and have already started creating another one with some of the records from the Central Rappahannock archives.

Coming Soon: Interactive Mapping

At Last! Day One at the Elusive CRHC

Today was the awaited day. As the first Saturday of the month, the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center was open- actually open- from 9am to noon. Leah, Jack, Julia and I made use of every second, and it was the gold mine we had presumed it to be.

Rifle Club (c) CRHC

Rifle Club (c) CRHC

First, we went through all the Battlefield yearbooks from the relevant years of the State Normal School. Project aside, it was entertaining reading to get to know the ladies who first attended my college…there were some personalities. In general, the girls were certainly politically minded and aware of the larger events going on around them. The students seemed particularly interested and participatory in Wilson’s campaign, and even held an impromptu parade across campus and downtown when they got word of his election.

My biggest finds here were from the 1917 edition. The Rifle Club on campus dedicated a page to Professor and Captain Gunyon Harrison, who founded the club. Almost prophetically, their page echoed sentiments about the war abroad, as well: Who can say but in a few weeks there may go forth the cry, ‘Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?



Thomas Knox (c) CRHC

Thomas Knox (c) CRHC

My favorite find of the day were the records of the Knox family. Through the family collection donated to the CRHC in 2009, I was able to uncover the story of this family that ties together all the major themes of the Century America project, and which happens to read like a compelling, tragic, drama. Of the Knox brothers, Douglas died at the battle of Belleau Woods in France and Thomas died of the Spanish Influenza four months later back in Virginia.

Their correspondences between each other, their mother, and their sister recount their dramatic story of sacrifice, and give a fascinating glimpse into one experience of the time. Since I was wondering how we would incorporate some of the darker realities of the war and the epidemic into Fredericksburg’s account, the Knox family seems to be the perfect key.



Other images from today (c) CRHC:

Today was certainly not a comprehensive visit, but I’m excited to go back and get some good scans and images to use in our final project. It’s exciting to see this thing starting to come together!

Week Three

As our research continues, the Century America project is starting to take shape, and it’s exciting to see themes and stories emerge from piles and piles of archives.

In our Skype sessions, the Century America project has been discussing David M. Kennedy’s work Over Here, and it has provided a strong context for understanding the American home front experience during World War I. As I’m working through the themes he discusses, I’m starting to apply some of the national trends locally to Fredericksburg, and I love seeing the connections between names we’ve found at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center or the UMW Special Collections and the broader historical understanding of World War I. I’m excited to delve more into the specific Fredericksburg experience, now better prepared to place it in a national context.

Dark and Light- Research Continues

One theme in particular I’ve been mulling over: the contrast between darkness and light associated with the war, as first mentioned by Professor Ellen Pearson. On the one hand, American men who went abroad were almost like tourists: their time in Europe was short, and often marked by long period without any action. They experienced the old world, and wrote back home in romantic language about the cathedrals and countrysides they’d touched and seen. At home, the American spirt thrived as communities made joyful sacrifices, like conserving food, to support the war effort. Rallies and campaigns brought people together in patriotic display, and within months, the war was over. But behind the banners and poetry was of course a darker side of war, particularly the modern warfare that World War I has introduced. Soldiers returned home disillusioned, and writings turned to the dark realities they faced. Influenza had gripped the nation, taking more lives than the far-away war.

From our research thus far, it appears the narrative of Fredericksburg and of the State Normal School was dominated by the light. We’ve seen food conservation classes and war effort clubs and patriotic rallies and posters. Though two faculty members served in the war, they were ultimately celebrated, not mourned; in fact the greater loss from the period was certainly the influenza epidemic. How was the State Normal School’s experience different because it was a school for women? I’m curious to see how we will address this theme in our digital project, to communicate the story of the time and place as it was and as the records show, but thinking critically about the sunny glow that seems to radiate from 1914-1918. As we begin the process of organization, these questions of interpretation will be further developed.

Designing the Site

For now, some of the ideas for organization we’re discussing:

  • By place: The State Normal School, Fredericksburg, and national themes
  • By theme: Home front culture, influenza, military, academic experience

Design elements:

  • an interactive map that includes all the schools in the Century America project, with links to their individual projects
  • a comprehensive timeline, including major events in the war nationally and in all the towns and schools of the Century America project
  • short, documentary-style introduction videos at each major section
  • an archive of significant images and scanned documents

A Review of Existing Digital History

Though a fairly new endeavor, digital history sites have already populated the internet, some better than others. There appears to be a learning curve with these projects, with the more recent examples significantly improved from some of the first attempts. Overall, I believe that a good digital history project must be at least on some level interactive. The traditional panel model for museums does not translate well when the exhibit is behind a glowing screen- when a visitor drives to view an exhibit, he or she will stand and read, but on the internet, where impatience seems to be the M.O., reading times must be interspersed with options that require visitor participation.

1. Gilded Age Plains City, University of Nebraska Lincoln


The Good:

  • The page begins at a strong, clear introduction page, with the title and subpages clearly displayed. The visitor know not only what the project is but what to expect and how to navigate as they move deeper into the site.
  • Consistent, thoughtful typography and color schemes are used throughout.
  • Though the page includes large bodies of text, it is always divided with bold subheadings that allow the visitor to scroll to the information that interests them.
  • Dividing the story of the city into “Spatial” and “Narrative” sections prevents the visitor from being overwhelmed by information on a single page, and to progress through the website logically, building on the understanding developed in previous sections.
  • The spatial elements are my favorite part of this site. I am particularly interested in applications of GIS to telling historical narratives, and the interactive mapping portions of this site are done nicely. First, the concept of a “spatial narrative” is explained in an introductory page. Then, the map allows visitors to zoom in to an area of the city of their choosing, which gives them an image of the building and a link to the narrative of that particular place.


The Bad:

  • The logo remains at the top of the page as visitors navigate through the site, but clicking it does not return the visitor to the home page. (Picky, I know, but navigability is an critical element of any good website.)
  • Text areas, though subdivided clearly, are lengthy at times for a digital project. The use of images beyond the interactive map is very limited, and more pictures could have improved the readability as well as the overall experience with the website.
  • More information on the murder trial from the beginning would have been helpful. The narrative of the town was clearly communicated, but the framework of the murder was unclear at times.

The Take-Away:

Interactive elements are the core of the successful digital history site, and I absolutely want to include as much interaction in our final project as possible. This site excels because it allows the visitor to explore the town in the order of their choosing, while still maintaining clarity and order throughout. The site also reminds me of the importance of images. I want to incorporate as many multimedia elements as possible in the final Century America project, using text in more spaced-out formats so that no one page is dominated by either words or images.

2. Mapping the Republic of the Letters, from Stanford University

The Good:

  • The homepage is a very unique, intriguing timeline/image compilation that grabs the visitor’s attention from the beginning and gives context for the rest of the site.
  • A welcome video is included on the homepage, a multimedia element that is more exciting and interesting than text explaining the same subject matter.
  • Easy to use tabs on a top menu make navigation back to the home page or to a particular section simple.
  • Instead of simply listing the authors’ names, each letter compilation uses a linked image, giving the page more visual interest and increasing the likelihood that visitors will actually click to read the document.
  • Visually interesting flow maps draw connections between the letters and the spatial relationships between the writers and the recipients. Because of this, the site is not just a digital archive of letters but a unique piece of scholarship bringing new understanding to the documents.

The Bad:

  • Though the homepage timeline is intriguing, it is not interactive and clicking it simply enlarges the image, though not enough to actually read the text at the bottom.
  • Several sections, like “Teaching” and “Publication” are unclear.
  • The page in general could benefit from more explicit, clear explanations throughout. At times I was left asking, “Why?” when viewing a new section.

The Take-Away:

This website again encourages me to incorporate mapping or spatial elements into our final Century America project. The flow maps are particularly interesting in their ability to show movement and change over time. Beginning with a timeline also seems to me an effective introductory tool, though an interactive timeline would be even more likely to grab visitors’ attention, and we should ensure that the image is at least large enough to be easily read. I also definitely want to use multimedia elements, especially video in the final project. Jack had already mentioned using small documentary videos put together in the digital media lab for our project, and I think videos could serve as exciting introductions for each section or theme of our website.

Above all, the project reiterates for me the importance of over-clarifying on digital history sites. Unlike papers, where a thesis stated clearly at the beginning is sufficient, the general message and topic of a web-based project must be repeated over and over again, because digital media is not consumed linearly. For our final project, it will be important to consider the “flow” of the webpage, or the order and manner in which the visitor will navigate the site.

3. Virtual Paul’s Cross Project, NC State University

The Good:

  • From the homepage, I was drawn in to this project, and impressed with the graphic design, typography, and overall “feel” of the site. The design is professional, clean, modern, and easy to read and navigate.
  • The premise of the project, a virtual recreation of Jonn Donne’s Gunpowder Day sermon, is interdisciplinary and extremely innovative. The project feels new and original.
  • Easy-to-read tabs at the top menu clearly categorize the work of the project so that the visitor knows exactly what to expect within each division. The sections “Churchyard,” “Acoustics,” “Preacher,” “Occasion,” and “Sermon” break down the recreations of the various elements of the speech, giving a deeper picture of the day than reading the document ever could.
  • The layout of the page is simple but effective. Large, high quality images of the recreations dominate the page.

The Bad:

  • I have a hard time finding faults with this project, but some pages, especially under the “Preacher” tab, have too much uninterrupted text.

The Take-Away:

In the end, this website is so effective because it accomplishes digitally what could not be done with paper or spoken word. The use of audio and visual elements, not just as supplement but as innovative ways to understand a point in history, makes the project a powerful, encompassing experience that yields a deeper understanding of the narrative than a paper could provide. Ultimately, this is what I hope to accomplish with the Century America project for UMW. A digital history project should do what can only be done digitally; it cannot be simply a digitized paper with a few extra images.

Preliminary Survey of Sources

I. Academic Catalogs and Bulletins

We are fortunate to have a digitized collection of course catalogs and bulletins from the State Normal School from 1914 and forward. Many references to clubs, like the YWMC and the Red Cross Club, will provide us a start for further research. Some of these have particularly interesting information with regards to the war and the homefront experience.

  • October 1917: addressed the school’s plan to support the war effort, and references President Russell’s speeches across the region concerning the war.
  • April 1918: lists a special course offered on food conservation for the war effort
  • October 1918: a literature course compares classical texts with the current war, asking questions like, “How would a soldier read this today?”
  • January 1919: discusses war gardens
  • April 1919: addresses the effects of the war on the State Normal School
  • October 1919: “War Activities”: this short bulletin discusses the school’s involvement in World War I, including the service of two faculty members: Gunyon M. Harris (Assistant in Mathematics) and Roy S. Cook (postmaster.)

II. President Russell’s Papers

The archive of the letters, speeches, and other documents President Russell, who served the State Normal School during the war years. We will particularly seek his speeches on the war effort, referenced in the October 1917 catalog.

III. Student Scrapbooks

The Special Collections of the UMW Library houses a collection of scrapbooks made by women at the State Normal School during the war years. These could be an especially valuable resource for a visual element in our final digital project. Some early discoveries include pictures of students dresses as nurses, some standing with member of the military. This also includes the Hamilton Eckenrode scrapbook collection of newspaper clippings from 1914-1915. All of the articles appear to be military in nature, regarding the war in Europe; however, they are indicative of the area’s awareness and interest in the war prior to American involvement.

IV. Battlefield Yearbooks

Many yearbooks from the State Normal School are digitized online, and available in original format from the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center. These are an especially valuable resource for understanding student life during this era, and the ways the war may have impacted their college experience. Information on clubs and events relating to the war effort will be used.

V. War Posters

Also available through Special Collections, these posters are war propaganda, many in French. They are not specific the Fredericksburg area. Accompanying the posters is a senior thesis on the collection written by Paloma Bolasny in 2006.

VI. Administrative Records

The papers of the Board for the State Normal School, including minutes from meetings, is available, though not easily searchable. In the coming weeks, we will develop specific times and topics to investigate in this archive, which will provide further information on the school’s positions and decisions during this era.

VII. Goolrick Family Papers

The Virginia Historical Society holds the papers of this influential Fredericksburg family from 1896 to 1927. Some relevant portions may include:

  • Section 8: discusses the rebuilding of the Mary Washington monument, and local historic preservation efforts

VIII. Oral Histories and Personal Accounts

Several transcribed oral histories exist at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center which are relevant to the time period and tagged as war-related. The heritage center also has archived two diaries recounting homefront experiences, along with several photographs from the time.

IX. The Postcard Collection

The Central Rappahannock Regional Library has a valuable postcard collection, digitized and easily available for research via Flickr. Many of the postcards feature images of the early campus of UMW, which could be very useful for the final project.

X. Histories of Fredericksburg and UMW

Several books have been written over Fredericksburg’s long history, several of which are useful for our project.

  • Alvey, Edward Jr. History of Mary Washington College. 1976. (Alvey was also a dean at MWC.)
  • Crawley, William Bryan. University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History. Fredericksburg, VA: University of Mary Washington, 2008.
  • Fitzgerald, Ruth Coder: A Different Story: A Black History of Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania, Virginia. New York: Unicorn Publishing, 1979.
  • Images of America series: these books on Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Stafford are essentially a collection of captioned images from the history of the region.
  • Embrey, Alvin T. History of Fredericksburg, Virginia. 1937.

XI. Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Circuit Courts

We will be utilizing the tax, land deed, and court records available at two regional circuit courts to fill in details about particular people and places we find in our other research. With information about the way the physical town changed over time, including local commercial and residential trends, we could create an interactive mapping element in our final project which would allow visitors to visualize the way the war impacted the town economically, socially, or otherwise. A list of Fredericksburg locals who served in the war overseas is also available from the CRHC.

XII. Other Local Documents

Thanks to the thorough and long-going research of Prof. Gary Stanton in the Historic Preservation department at UMW, a great number of local resources are digitized and available online. Any number of these could be useful to our broad understanding of the town during this era, or to specific ways the homefront experience played out in Fredericksburg.

  • Business Directories: a list of local businesses, their owners and operators, and their locations in town.
  • Census Records: These are available elsewhere, specifically through at the local library, but here only relevant information is provided.
  • Plats and maps

XIII. Google News Archives

The complete archive of the local Fredericksburg newspaper, then called the Daily Star, is available digitally via Google News. Though not keyword searchable, this provides a valuable look into the homefront experience of the town. We will be looking for references to a local recruitment station, rallies, and other war-related ads, rather than the readily-avaiable articles on the larger military events abroad.

XIV: Further Research Plans

Our group is seeking to contact other local institutions we feel may have archives or relevant sources from this era. These include:

  • The Fredericksburg Area Museum and Cultural Center: which has a small exhibit on World War I and the town, and likely has collections from the era
  • The National Museum of the Marine Corp: located in Quantico, VA not far from Fredericksburg, officers from the marine base frequently visited girls at the State Normal School. The museum has a large archive and may have pictures, letters, or other documents related to the school.
  • The Fire Department
  • The Masonic Lodge
  • The Women’s Army Museum
  • Kenmore (George Washington Foundation)

We will also be looking into the vast resources at the Library of Virginia, many of which are digitized. We have yet to determine the resources which may be available there.


–Candice, Jack, Julia, and Leah

Week One

Classes at the University of Mary Washington are back in swing, and the Century America project is now officially underway. Along with my colleagues Leah, Jack, and Julia, I am beginning the first stage of the process: inventorying potential resources for our research.

We are fortunate to have an abundance of local resources available both from the University’s  special collections and from Fredericksburg locations, like the Virginiana Room at the downtown library, the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center, and the archives located at the Circuit Court. Some interesting findings so far are a digitized collection of course catalogs from the school’s beginnings in 1908, Battlefield yearbooks, and a collection of wartime posters. I am excited to begin uncovering the stories hidden in less obvious sources, like local plats, business directories, and Census records to see what trends appear.

We are currently gathering some of these sources and determining which will provide us with the best picture of UMW and Fredericksburg during the Great War. A preliminary inventory is coming soon!