UMW Progress Report: Week 7

Earlier today, Jack, Leah, Candice, and I met in lieu of our class to discuss our progress so far and to finalize our group contract.  Since we already completed a contract for our Digital History course here at UMW, this wasn’t all too difficult since we had most of the information already.  It was still good to regroup and make sure we were all on the same page (no pun intended) and that we had a clear idea of where we wanted to head with our final site.

We also decided on some pretty FANTABULOUS WordPress themes!  Sorry for the crazy expression, but the themes we found for both our site and the overarching Century America site are pretty awesome!  Both are free (which is a plus) and extremely customizable, which is exactly what we want.  Hopefully it’ll look even more incredible once we add in all of our information and sources.

We also checked today to see where we were in regards to the milestones we had set for ourselves – the good new is, we are right on task!  We have messed around with our site, as well as decided on a theme, and have finalized the information that we are going to include and what sources need to be digitized (with permission) for the final site.  Hopefully we will be able to get permission soon from both the CRHC and the Library of Virginia since our goal is to have all images and documents digitized the week after spring break.

All in all, I would say we had a brilliant brainstorming/organizing/work session today, and are moving along swimmingly in regards to what we need accomplished.  Our next huge goals are to digitize sources and to begin writing blurbs for the individual pages we are responsible since we will need plenty of time to edit these tricky wordings.  Hopefully all will go well, and that we can keep going strong following spring break!

Update from UMW: Week 6

After a long process of trying to divvy up the work for this project evenly amongst the four of us, we have finally finalized the work load and prepared a schedule for ourselves which we will use to keep us on track and provide the basis for the group contracts that are due next Thursday.  As of now, in the grand scheme of things we know what we want our final website to look like and have decided on a layout of the material – we just haven’t quite selected the WordPress theme that we would like to use.  We also need to choose a theme for the overall Century America website since we will also be responsible for putting together that home page, along with a map and timeline that will live on the site to show how all of the participating schools correlate with one another.

This week, we also did a lot of problem-solving with Dr. McClurken to try to figure out what we have to do before we can get started on the building of our site.  We are trying to meet up with some of the wonderful people at DTLT here at Mary Washington to figure out if there is a free map software that we can use for the Century America site – Candice and I will probably also talk to the head of our GIS department here (since we are both familiar with making maps digitally) to see if there is a way to create an interactive map without all viewers owning the appropriate software.  We are also trying to figure out a way to create overlapping timelines with local events from each of the schools as well as national events so that we can see the correlation across the US.

On Monday, we met to discuss the concerns that Dr. McClurken had regarding maps and timelines, but also our alternatives if the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center does not let us digitize the images that we would like to reproduce.  The CRHC has an incredible array of sources that have been useful to us so far in our research, but unfortunately they are pretty strict about their policies and so we are trying to figure out a) how to convince them to let us digitize the material since our work isn’t going towards a profit and b) what we will do if they do not let us digitize the material.  We have emailed the CRHC, and Dr. McClurken has been in contact with a representative of the NPS who has in turn contacted someone on the board the CRHC.  Hopefully this contact will yield favorable results so that we can use what we have found, especially since not much of our total images and sources come from the center.  If we are unable to use any of the materials from the CRHC, we will be “uncomfortable but not paralyzed” as Dr. McClurken would say.  Although we would definitely be bummed out, we would still be able to use the information that we gathered from the Eastburn Diaries to put together a timeline, and if we cannot use any pictures of the Knox family then we will just go downtown and take a picture of the family house that is currently the Kenmore Inn.  So even though the results might not be what we most desire, we will still be successful in accomplishing our goals!

All in all, this week wasn’t so much about research as it was planning, organizing, and problem-solving.  Our group will reconvene this upcoming Tuesday after we do some individual work so that we can decide what we want to do for both our site and the Century America website.  Here’s to a productive week ahead!

Designating Roles: Leading, Supporting, and Advertising

This past week, the four of us at Mary Washington got together to try and divvy up the responsibilities for the site, both for our own project and for the creation of the overall site for this Century America project.  It was an interesting process just because I have never worked on a group endeavor in such extensive terms before, and planning a website is a lot different than simply proposing a paper!  I think we did a decent job of trying to assess what each of our roles within the project are going to be, and how we will work together to create an overarching site that everyone involved will be proud of.

For my part, I will be collecting and publishing the narrative about Josiah P. Rowe (which will be found in the Fredericksburg section of the site) and compiling the information from President Russell’s papers into a section on Administration at the State Normal School (to be found in the SNS section of the site).  This will entail digitizing whatever sources that I think will best contribute to these narratives, as well as writing about what we’ve discovered and what the two sections that I am in charge of will entail.  With Leah, I will also be responsible for creating the page for the State Normal School, from which the viewer will be able to see the different sections about the school during that time.

Lastly, Candice and I will be making a map using Maps Alive in order to show which states have schools participating in the Century America project that is sponsored by COPLAC and the Teagle Foundation.  This map will live on the site home page for the entire Century America project and will hopefully be able to engage the reader and excite them about the diversity of the project.  I might just be a little bitter (just a bit) that we won’t be using GIS and this software isn’t spatial, but I know that for the purpose of this project this will be much easier and user-friendly than trying to incorporate elements from ArcMap.

As for advertising, we have considered going to the Bullet to get an article published on the school website either for our ADH class or the Century America project, which would then hopefully provide links to each of the participating websites so that we can get viewers from there.  On a more realistic scale, we will try to reach out to those students already at our school, and proceed by word of mouth and via social media to get our friends and their acquaintances to view our website.  Because the project is about our school, it should be interesting to those of us who attend the university to see what life was like here during the Great War.  Alumni would also be a potential audience since again they are invested in the university and are likely interested in its history.  Finally, another outlet that would be useful in cultivating an audience would be those who participate in reenacting – these individuals are already interested in military history and would most likely be interested in what was happening on the home front of this war as well.

All in all, I think our group is making headway and great progress!  Jack, Candice, Leah, and I can’t wait for what the semester holds for us in this project.  Now to see what bumps we might encounter along the way…

Update on Fredericksburg/UMW: Resources and Website Outline

Today Jack, Leah, Candice, and I met up and discussed the primary resources that we have already collected, assessed the gaps in our research that we needed to fill with more sources, and began to think about how we wanted our final site to be set up. The first two goals regarding sources were pretty easy to complete since we knew what sources we had access to and what more we would like to find; the difficult part emerged when we started discussing the potential layout and design of our website.


As someone who isn’t very familiar with website tools and is just now becoming familiar with the benefits and negatives of working with both WordPress and Omeka, I had no idea where to begin other than that I thought the website should be easy to navigate so that the visitors wouldn’t get overwhelmed and discouraged when exploring the content. In order to figure out how to divide our sources and informations, like all OCD kids we color-coded our site using post-it notes. Yes, we did lay out these post-its across the chalkboard in the library study room and by the end of it I’m sure it looked more like a football game plan than the outline of a website (but they’re really not all that different in purpose now, are they?). By categorizing and color-coding the information, we were able to distinguish the hierarchy of the site and establish that we would divide the majority of the information we have collected through that on the State Normal School and the greater Fredericksburg community itself. Within each of these menu pages, we would provide links to several main narratives and documents via pictures so that the visitors could easily choose what area they would like to explore in detail without the site becoming too overwhelming. It’s hard to describe since we don’t actually have an image to show of what our proposed site will look like, but here is the “blueprint” or “game plan”, so to speak:


The page about the State Normal School would contain four main links: Administration, Academics, Student Life, and Influenza. Within this section, the sources we currently have are President Russell’s papers, yearbooks, scrapbooks, and school catalogs and bulletins. These sources would be categorized under the appropriate sections within the State Normal School page, and we would include images and timelines as appropriate.

The page for the Fredericksburg community would also contain four main links: the Eastburn War Diaries, the Knox Family, the Rowe Family, and Influenza. For the community, the current sources we have correspond to the families whose narratives we will be exploring; we will reference the Eastburn Diaries, letters from the Knox family, and letters from the Rowe family. We will also be using articles and information from The Daily Star. Again, timelines would probably be used to show what was happening within the individual narratives.

On the main home page, we have discussed creating a map of important locations on campus and in the community to give viewers an idea of what the area looked like between 1914 and 1918; hopefully we can use GIS software and export the map as an image (since most of us in the group were not fans of Google Maps). We have also discussed perhaps having a timeline of national events, or one with three different colors corresponding to national, Fredericksburg, and State Normal School events. As for the actual website, right now we are considering using Omeka rather than WordPress since it allows for many more interactive features.

All in all, we are quite excited to be starting to conceptualize our site – here’s hoping the journey won’t be paralyzing from here on out!

Home is where the Navy sends you: Exploring Maps and Timelines

Last Tuesday, we learned how to create maps and timelines, both of which would be useful for our websites. In particular, the creation of the maps interested me since I do GIS, but the process and end result was quite different between Google Maps and ArcMap (the ESRI GIS software that we use here at Mary Wash). The timeline option looked fascinating, since information and pictures could be added to the feature making it both informative and visually appealing.

I would be lying if I said creating the map was really fun or interesting. After spending the past three years working with GIS software and creating maps with multiple sets of data, the oversimplified Google Map just annoyed me. I felt so limited, and thought that my map wasn’t showcasing everything that it could potentially display. I guess for its easy and accessible interface the map served its purpose and can be used to visually aid an argument or a website. I definitely think our group will include a map (of campus and the Fredericksburg community) but if I have any say in the matter I would gladly prefer a more intricate and appealing map created through the GIS software I use rather than Google Maps.

View Larger Map

Fortunately, I was much more pleased with the process and the outcome of the timeline. Not only was it simple to use and easy to add media and credits to, but the result was a clean timeline with all of the necessary information. The user could put as little or as much information as he or she desired, but for me the purpose of the timeline was to show location, date, and an image. Again, I think our group will definitely be using a timeline, or several (so it doesn’t become too overwhelming), to assist in informing our audience of events occurring on the home front during WWI. We also might contribute to an overall Century America timeline showing events happening nationally and locally at our school’s campuses. Overall, both the map (preferably ArcMap based) and the timeline will greatly assist in our online archive and exhibit.

Collections and Masons and Archives, oh my!

masonic lodge

In case you couldn’t tell, we (the four of us from Mary Washington) had quite the busy and successful week!  Which was a relief considering that we unfortunately could not gather much information last week while we were snowed in for a majority of the week.  Luckily we survived the “snowpocalypse” and made up for lost time by going to Special Collections here at UMW, the Masonic Lodge downtown, and the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center.

This past Tuesday we visited Special Collections in the Simpson Library, and were aided by the always helpful and sweet Ms. Parsons.  This was the first time I had ever been inside the archive (pathetic, I know, considering this is my last semester and I’m a history major) and I was really quite fascinated by all of the artifacts that have been stored and preserved throughout our school’s history.  While Leah, Jack, and I were there, we looked through President Russell’s papers since he was the president during World War I.  Many of the documents were correspondence with faculty members, and we noticed that towards 1918, after America had joined the war, many professors asked for salary increases to accommodate the rising prices for food and other necessities.  Of other significance, there were many references to students and faculty falling ill due to the influenza epidemic of 1918, and the chair of the history department, Virginia Goolrick, died from the sickness.  Though this was definitely a sad way to view life at the university, we did not find that the war itself greatly impacted the campus community, or at least not directly.

Our second adventure this week was a bit out of the ordinary – on a whim we had decided to contact the Masonic Lodge since they have been around since the eighteenth century, and they quickly got in touch with us to arrange a meeting since they were quite interested in our project.  On Wednesday night, Jack, Leah, and I were able to step into the Lodge to see what they had to offer.  (And to experience National Treasure first hand!  Not really, but it was still pretty neat.)  The two men we talked with were the Lodge historian and the current Grand Master of the Lodge, and both were super interested in assisting us with our research.  They gave us plenty of information about the Lodge and about Masonry in general, which was all very interesting and gave us a good idea of the background and how the organization functioned.  They didn’t particularly have many artifacts or pictures from the World War I, but they did offer us names of members who served in the military or in public office.  A couple of names stuck out, such as John T. Goolrick, William Mosely Brown, and Josiah P. Rowe, Jr. (who I will return to later).  Thanks to names like these, we were able to make connections and picture how the Fredericksburg community operated and interacted with one another during this time.

Finally, finally, FINALLY, we were able to go to the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center!!!  We spent our Saturday morning, arriving at 9am, at the CRHC since their hours are not the most conducive for college students who have a majority of their classes during the small window of time in which the center operates.  The experience was a little intense for me, just because I felt like I was being watched constantly and I was terrified I would mess up anything and everything I looked at.  It makes complete sense that the volunteers are worried about the precious pieces of history that they allow us to view, but I definitely was much more anxious there than I was in Special Collections under the eye of Ms. Parsons.  Luckily for me, I didn’t peruse many of the old documents; instead, I leafed through the published letters of Josiah P. Rowe, Jr. (I said I’d return to him) during his time in Europe as an aviator.  The letters were extremely fascinating, especially because he discussed in detail his escapades with “the fairer sex” in correspondence with his mother, which I found a bit strange.  I wasn’t quite sure how much these letters would tell us about the home front, but they were actually quite useful in pointing out the agony that Rowe felt while overseas without ever seeing the face of a familiar “Fredericksburger” .  Rowe also made note of the care packages, letters, and copies of the local newspaper, The Daily Star, that he received while in the service.  The story was a happy one, ending with Rowe’s orders to return home to Fredericksburg.

All in all, I was quite pleased that we accomplished so much in a week, especially given our setback thanks to the sweater weather that’s been sneaking up on us.  We were thankfully able to find some extremely helpful leads, and so now can begin thinking about how we want to organize our site – so far, we think thematically might be the way to go, but that’s by no means set in stone.  As far as the archival experience, I’ve definitely learned in this short amount of time that it helps to always be prepared with pencils, patience, and a positive attitude when working with others, especially those who are extremely invested in the well-being and conditions of their artifacts.