As I sit here typing this, I’m in the middle of making some edits on our site and I can’t believe my Century America experience is almost over. I’m graduating in a little over a week and soon I will be on to my next adventure. For now though, I have some school work to attend to and finish up.
Everytime I go onto our site to correct errors and make changes to our content, I feel extremely proud of the work Colm and I have accomplished this semester. It’s been stressful and frustrating at times, but it’s also been an incredibly rewarding experience and I’ve learned a lot about the world of digital history. It was great to get back into the archives and do hands on research, too.
When it all comes down to it, this journey was a trial and error process. I’m incredibly pleased with the way our site turned out, but the journey to get to this point involved straying from the contract and ultimately figuring out what do with the website that was in our best interest as a team with the amount of time we had. Initially, we were going have a “Highlights” and “Full Report” page. The home page would provide links to both pages and it would be the first thing viewers would see when they came to the site.
The “Highlights” page was initially meant to be a platform for people interested in learning about our research without having to read through the full report. It was going to allow people a quick run down of the material that wouldn’t necessarily be as enriching, but would be just as interesting. That page ended up involving into what we called our “Getting Started” page in our first website draft. All it had on it was a few key points from both the Stevens County section and the West Central School of Agriculture section, and a map. It transformed from a run down of the material to an introduction, and it was not being used effectively at all. With more time and a better understanding of digital technologies, I think we could have made an effective use of the “Highlights” page. However, after negative feedback from Drs. McClurken and Pearson and the rest of the class, we decided to scrape the page all together. The “Highlights” and “Full Report” pages were completely taken out and visitors are now immediately greeted with links to the Stevens County section and the West Central School section on the home page.
All in all, this makes much more sense and makes the whole website more accessible to viewers. I’m happy with the way it looks. It would have been neat to integrate a successful highlights page, but Colm and I may have been a bit in over our heads when we included that in the contract initially.
When it comes down to research, I felt like I got started on it later than I would have liked and I ended up having some setbacks along the way–my car wouldn’t start because of the cold here in Minnesota and I was unable to make it to the museum for a couple weeks, which I was worried would set my research back a lot. Fortunately, despite my worries, everything turned out okay. I am proud of all the sources I’ve gathered at both the Stevens County Historical Museum and the on- campus archives at UMM. We had put March 20 as the date that all research was to be completed, and I made sure to be done by then. That said, an opportunity–when the archivist on campus ended up coming across some relevant Morris Tribune articles from the time period–came up later. I took advantage of that opportunity because I wanted to see if there was any more useful information I could garner–which there was–and it was a rather small stack of newspaper copies in the first place.
In terms of general timeline things, I can’t speak for Colm on his research, since we did much of it separately, but I believe I upheld everything on the timeline quite well.
Division of labor remained the same, except Colm and I ended up working on the home page together–it was initially given to Colm as a task, but it just ended up working as a team effort. Colm chose, edited, and uploaded the pictures and I wrote the text.
Much of our project contract is built off of our idea of the “Highlights” and “Full Reports” pages, so it does look much different from what eventually resulted in the final project. Other than that, I believe I’ve upheld my side of the contract rather well. All the pages I said would be created for the WCSA side of the site were created and I’m really proud of the way they turned out. We did say we were going to use a commenting tool, however that didn’t happen–which I think is for the best, as I really like the way the site looks as it is and I fear comments would detract from that.
This project was quite the journey. It was an adventure to utilize digital media in class and in video conferencing into class every week. Technology glitches happened more than occasionally and they were just something we had to accept as a class–it always made for a much more interesting hour and fifteen minutes, that’s for sure! I had so much fun learning about the West Central School of Agriculture and I truly feel a stronger appreciation for UMM’s campus history now that I have all this knowledge about it from the Great War period. This journey wasn’t always easy and mistakes were made, but I’m incredibly proud of the website Colm and I have put together and I hope the citizens of Stevens County, as well as anyone who stumbles across it on the web, enjoys it too.