This project was, in its entirety, something completely new and foreign to me. Having no experience in archival research, building websites, or with distance learning taking on this project proved to be a very daunting task. However it also a presented an opportunity to gain new experiences and learn new things, something that is still highly important to me. Overall it was an incredibly positive experience despite the fact that there were quite a few bumps in the road and my end result was very different from how I originally envisioned it. But that was all part of the learning process.
One of the biggest obstacles from the onset for me was the distance learning aspect of the course. I am a very shy and independent person by nature and face-to-face classes are helpful in bringing me out of my shell. With the new environment of an online distance learning course I found that I struggled to participate in the same way I would in a face-to-face class. However, I hope that if I have the opportunity to do a similar project in the future that I will have become comfortable enough from my experiences with this class to come out of my shell a bit more.
The best experience I had on this project was discovering how comfortable I was doing archival research even though I had never attempted anything like it before. Ultimately, this made it infinitely more disappointing when I discovered the distinct lack of materials pertaining to this time period that were available to me. As I mentioned during my presentation, I would like to continue my research on this subject because I truly believe that I just barely scratched the surface. With this experience under my belt and more time I think there is much more I can bring to the table if I can just dig for it. I am looking forward to the prospect.
The end result of my website was, at first, disappointing to me. It is only a fraction of what I envisioned. However, I have since realized that what I had originally envisioned was not in line with my skills or resources and what actually came out was really a pretty decent first attempt that I am proud of. It was very difficult for me to reconcile the scarcity of the material and I think that’s why it took so long for me to realize that my website would need much more narrative than I had originally planned. I kept thinking that I would happen upon a treasure trove of material that simply doesn’t exist. But by the end, given what I was able to find, I am proud of the product. The only disappointments I have are not having a timeline, not having recordings (and more material) for the Voices of the Great War section, and not having a section for the community members who fought in the war. I had a timeline completed and uploaded to my site for about an hour before I took it down. It simply did not fit in with the website the way I thought it would and compared to everything else on the site it appeared a little lame. So I took it down. As for the Voices of the Great War section, I had people who said they were willing to record for me but the plans fell through. I really wanted a variety of voices rather than just my own. I did not include a section for the war veterans simply because I could not find the information required to compile a complete list and I didn’t want to appear disrespectful by leaving anyone out. But these kinds of disappointments are par for the course with a project like this and I have learned a great deal from both my successes and my mistakes.
Even with all of the mistakes, obstacles, and dashed hopes this project was a phenomenal experience. I am proud to have been a part of it and I am proud of the work of my fellow students.
It’s almost time. My website is very nearly finished. Just a few more pesky citations (I like to be mean to myself….always leave that wonderful stuff for last) and my work will be finished…and the website will be due. For real. As I think about the amount of work I’ve done on this project I can help but feel a little lame for how little I’ve posted on this blog and how little I’ve commented on others. This was a very new and, at times, bizarre experience for me so often it just never occurred to me to actually, you know, communicate. But I think that’s one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in doing this project.
Alright. I’m going to stop procrastinating now.
Unfortunately I had an extremely busy weekend and was not able to get a head start on getting all the text up on to my website so the bulk of that work will have to be done this week. Luckily, since I have most of my material ready it will just be a matter of plugging things in and making sure they are formatted correctly on the site. My goal is to have the timeline and most of the text and remaining images up and properly formatted on the website by April 10th and have it completed by the 14th. The voices of the great war recordings will be harder to plan for. I have found a couple people interested in helping me record but they haven’t been very good about getting back to me about scheduling etc. so I might just end up recording everything myself. If I can’t pin them down by Thursday I will probably end up going solo. I’d like to have these recordings up on the website no later than the 18th but hopefully well before that. In the mean time it will just be about polishing everything, making sure it all looks right, and possibly seeing if I can find any hidden gems in the archives between now and final due date.
It’s eerie to me how gadgets seem to know when it’s crunch time. Printers suddenly run out of ink, copiers break, cell phone batteries die…
On top of the setbacks with limited space and the server being down this morning, I just lost all my prepared text for the website (which I was working on while the server was down this morning…so much for trying to be productive). So if my website is extremely image heavy at the moment, that’s why. I’m trying my best to roll with the punches, as I never expected this project to go smoothly, but it’s frustrating nonetheless.
And so it goes…
In the past 48 hours I have been from Philadelphia to Boston, from Boston to New Hampshire, and from New Hampshire to North Adams. Now that I’ve had a few minutes to catch my breath I can recap what I found in Philly.
My overall experience at the PMA archives was absolutely fantastic. The archivist was so kind, helpful and very interested and enthusiastic about this project. As for what I was able to find on Marry Curran, it was not as much as I hoped to find. While there was info on her time in North Adams, the bulk of the material had to do with her activities in Pennsylvania. However, I did find a number of interesting items to include on the website. Curran was heavily involved with the National League of Girls’ Clubs (previously the National League of Women Workers) and founded and was the first president of the North Adams Girls’ Club. I found an article on the history of the Girl’s Club in North Adams and a letter from Curran to the League that gives great insight into her goals and motivations.
Now that I’m back in North Adams I can use what I found in Philadelphia to attempt to fill in some of the blanks.
This week has been so hectic trying to finalize travel plans and appointments that I haven’t had a minute to think about anything else, let alone sit down to blog. For a while I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to make it down here afterall. But I left yesterday and arrived in Philadelphia this morning! In a couple hours I’ll head over to the Museum of Art archives to begin my research. I’m so excited to see what I will find and I sincerely hope there will be enough materials of interest and relevance to have Mary Curran be a prominent feature on my site. I’m also hoping I can find some hint as to the nature of her leave of absence for military service.
I’ll make another post later to let you all know how it went!
I was in the library on completely unrelated business this past weekend when I spotted a display case of old images featuring the school and town in relation to the Mohawk Trail. It turns out that the opening of the Mohawk Trail in 1914 as a scenic tourist route and the Mohawk Trail Pageant in North Adams was arguably a much bigger deal for the people than the first World War would turn out to be. I knew about this event but it kind of slipped to the back of my mind because at the time I didn’t feel it was relevant and I didn’t realize how important it was for the town. After pursuing further research on the subject I’m excited to devote a significant portion of my website to this event.
The image that caught my eye in the library is a group photo from the pageant featuring faculty and students form the North Adams Normal School
I forgot to mention Mary Curran! I found her name in the city report under leave of absence for military service and googled her name on a whim. It turns out she was a very active figure in the North Adams community as well as the other places in which she lived. She grew up in North Adams and taught at one of the schools here. There is a collection of her papers open for research at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Unfortunately they are not digitized but I am more than willing to make the trip as she seems like an important figure to discuss. I still have not been able to find out the nature of her leave of absence for military service.
As far as the basic outline of my website goes I will definitely be taking a narrative approach. I have a decent amount of materials to work with but it’s still rather on the slim side so I think that would be the most appropriate route to take. Going off of what I have right now, it would make the most sense for me to focus on a few key figures (WWI veterans, students at the Normal School, Teachers, etc.) but have those figures supported by a larger narrative of the city and the school.
I like to think of it as an upside-down pyramid where the information gets more specific as it comes to a point.
I would really like to use the Timeline tool for my site, though I’m not quite sure yet how I would manage it or what information I could use to fill it out. But I think it’s a fantastic, simple tool that would add a lot to my site without being over-complicated or difficult to maneuver. Depending on how much more information I can find on the Influenza epidemic in North Adams I might use it for that. I can’t really think of any other tools I’d like to use at the moment. I’d really like to keep my site as clean and simple as possible, aesthetically and technically.
I think it would be fantastic if all our websites were linked in someway. I think its very important to show that even though we are all doing different schools, this project was is very much a group effort and learning experience. The simplest way to do this would be to have each of our sites link to a page that gives a brief overview of the project and contains links for all the schools.
Sources so far:
MCLA Archives-Local Newspaper, Student scrapbooks, yearbooks, course catalogs, sheet music, and misc. items.
North Adams Public Library-Annual city reports, Hoosac Tunnel Collection, No. Adams Monday Club Collection, Ruth B. Browne Collection, Berkshire Genealogy Index.
I thoroughly enjoyed creating my practice timeline in TimelineJS. It is incredibly easy to use and the finished product looks gorgeous. I will definitely think about using this for my final website as it is attractive, user friendly, fairly simple to create, and is a nice way to relay historical information. I really love the different media options it is able to include…not that I think I’ll be including any tweets in a timeline about WWI, but it’s nice to have the ability to do so if I wished. I’d give this tool an A+!
I have found some wonderful things this past week that have made me very hopeful for the end product of this project.
In the City’s 1918 annual report I found a transcription of a fantastic speech given by the Mayor which touches on the effects of war time on North Adams. I’ve also been looking through the yearbooks, which have luckily been digitized.
The 1918 yearbook in particular offers a great picture of the school activities during the war.
I also visited two of the massive cemeteries in town and found a gentleman who was twice a congressman on both State and Local levels and served on the World War Draft Board in 1917.
Overall it’s been a great week for this project and I’ve found that there are more materials available to me than I’d previously thought.