Century America Team Contract, February 25, 2015
Colm Macnab and Britta Buchanan, University of Minnesota-Morris
Our mission in completing the Century America Digital Humanities Project is to successfully document the history of both Stevens County and the West Central School of Agriculture during the Great War. We envision our site to function as an educational exhibit, with an opportunity to prompt visitors with one of two choices: ”1) A list of “highlights” detailing what the visitor can expect to see throughout the site; and 2) an option to bypass the “highlights” page and proceed to the site in its entirety. With this set up, we hope to welcome both visitors who are only interested in getting a brief, basic understanding of our research and visitors who have become familiar with the layout of the site. In essence, the “highlights” page is meant to grab the attention of passing visitors and entice them into interacting with the site in its entirety.The remainder of the site will encompass the outside of the home and highlights page. We hope our website will function as a useful source of knowledge concerning The Great War for both community members in Stevens County and interested faculty, staff, and students at the University of Minnesota-Morris, regardless of if they are looking for in-depth detail or a brief introduction. In doing so we aim to shed light on our little corner of the world at war.
Theme: At this time we are leaning towards using nirvana. We chose Nirvana because of its simplistic layout and minimal focus on text. However, when we want to display our research in a text-heavy format Nirvana allows us to still keep that information clean and structured through modern design formatting. Also important for possible future tools is Nirvana’s compatibility with HTML5. HTML5 is quickly becoming the replacement for Flash, and we aim to take advantage of that by using compatible tools.
Format: We want to take advantage of the simplistic, minimal feel of Nirvana. On the first page, that being the page you are first directed to, we will display the title of our project, followed by a long horizontal image of Stevens County residents, followed by a quote (haven’t decided which one yet) in a descending manner. At the bottom of the page we will compartmentalize our research into two components. First will be a highlights link displayed in big bold, all capital text so as to keep with our modern, minimal look. On the opposite side of the page we will have a link bypassing the main report, and leading the viewer into a screen which divides into either the West Central School of Agriculture or the Stevens County community. On the top left of the page we will have a home button containing a drop down menu bar with the following sections: about us, West Central School of Agriculture, Stevens County community, resources, and sponsors.
For the highlights page we will feature topic statements that showcase the very essence of both our separate analysis, that being a brief overview of both Colm’s research on Stevens County and Britta’s research on the West Central School of Agriculture. This page is meant to lure bypassing visitors into observing a brief glimpse of some of the information revealed throughout the site. Instead of block paragraphs with substantial text we will opt instead for a brief, summative style of prose which details, in very simple terms, the guiding questions we had when starting out our research, and the interesting finds we discovered along the way. There will be images placed predominantly on either the right or left with text wrapping around. A good example of how we envision this page to look can be found on any vice.com article. The separate analyses of our research will come together so as to illuminate the ways in which our spheres of study intersected and interacted with one another. Again, this is not meant to be an alternative to visiting the rest of the site—merely a lure for those swimming by.
For both our respective in-depth analyses we will again segment our pages into one topic page, followed by links on the right sidebar to our respective areas of study. The topic page will provide a brief explanation of what our research is focusing on, as well as what viewers can expect to see in the sub pages. The sub pages will follow the minimal look we are going for. To achieve this we both are aiming to cut down on the amount of non-essential text. The aim here will not be to fall into the trap many content-driven clickbait sites set for unfortunate viewers but to provide an active, engaging experience every step of the way. This means that we will illuminate the complexity and nuance of the narrative provided by our historical sources, but shape that narrative into story which propels the visitor forward, while still promoting critical thinking on their part. Revision, revision, revision will be the key. This will be difficult given that we are both history majors, but the changing climate of content-driven, user-generated social media has shifted the paradigm away from text heavy forms of communicating information to image-based, brief explanations of research conducted with an emphasis on how this information is either useful or can be useful to the observer. The highlights page will use the Nirvana theme, and look no different in terms of overall design from the rest of the website.
For the about us page we plan on giving a brief background of both researchers and information regarding the Century America Project and its sponsors.
For the resources page we plan on showing the resources we have used, cited in the Turabian/Chicago Manual of Style.
Interactive: We aim to feature both a map and a timeline onto some sections of our site. On the homepage, somewhere, we want to display an interactive map which showcases just how expansive and spread out the community was. We will implement this feature on the highlights page as a way to provide a glimpse into our research, while also prompting the viewer to visit the full site so as to receive context. To complement the WCSA then, we will display the location of the school. This way we can provide the necessary context for understanding what was happening within our two respective spheres. For the timeline aspect, we want to use a timeline to display yield data for each respective harvest season. This way the data we produce can easily be cross-referenced with the methods propagated by the different farming organizations so as to yield more crops.
Connecting: There’s a great comment tool called disqus that numerous blogs and social media sites use. Thankfully, it is free to use for the general public so implementation on our site is an absolute must. This will allow our followers to comment, share, and contribute information without having to create a wordpress account. Moreover, it’s extremely simple to use so local townsfolk won’t have a difficult time contributing to the discussion. As taking comments on a website requires continued site-moderation, we will allow comments for the first month or so after the website is completed, and then we will close the comments as neither of us wish to maintain this website for an extensive period of time.
SCHEDULE OF MILESTONES
March 6, 2015 – ¼ of the images scanned, as well as documents placed online for storage.
March 18, 2015 – Skeleton site completed.
March 20, 2015 – Complete all research; have all images/documents centralized in a TBD location, have all key dates (and images if relevant) sent to Leah for main site timeline.
March 27, 2015 – Rough draft of all text should be completed.
April 1, 2015 – First version of website completed.
April 15, 2015 – Finalized version of text should be completed to allow for one week to integrate into site and tweak any on site problems without having to worry about textual content.
April 22, 2015 – Revised version of website completed.
April 22-May 9 – In the last 2.5 weeks of the semester, we will focus on advertising our finished project on campus and in the community…advertising methods TBD.
Colm: Completes all information under category Stevens County community plus the main page and his own short biography for the About page. Colm will also complete the title page.
Britta: Completes all information under category West Central School of Agriculture plus the about page, which will include project information, author biographies, and sponsorship information.
As citations are quite time consuming, both Colm and Britta will work on the resources page together.
STEVENS COUNTY SUBCATEGORY
Most of the information concerning Stevens County will have to do with the various institutions and organizations formed by the community in response to WWI. However, other organizations implemented by various community members before the outbreak of WWI soon shifted their efforts so as to aid the war effort. The specific institutions I will be looking at are the Stevens County Farm Bureau Association, Non-Partisan League, United States Food Administration, and War Garden Commission. While for the most part communities implemented these institutions throughout the nation, with the exception of the NPL, West Central Minnesota’s efforts during WWI revolved primarily around the production of foodstuffs. Thus, I aim to illuminate Stevens County’s unique and crucial role in feeding the nation’s soldiers by focusing on the mentalities shaped and shifted within the community in response to the outbreak of WWI. Ultimately, I aim to contextualize the war experience for those living in Stevens County through the lens of food production, which was and still is the primary industry keeping this small community well and kicking.
The Stevens County community page will be comprised of five essential components.
Resources from the Stevens County Farm Bureau Association will be displayed. These include newsletters, bulletins, as well as yield data for the seasonal harvest. Community members with deep pockets created the SCFBA in response to the growing demand for wheat during WWI as a way to make more money. This organization essentially sold insurance in the form of information and continues to do so today in Morris, MN. The extent to which the impact WWI had on this organization, and how in response this organization shaped the mentalities of Stevens County residents concerning the production of foodstuffs will be my main focus.
Resources from the Non-Partisan League will be displayed. These include, but are not limited to, reports, newsletters, journals, etc.
Resources from the United States Food Administration. These include nationwide pamphlets that were distributed to Stevens County residents, and more importantly, the ways in which Stevens County residents aimed to maximize efficiency of the means of production. Also I will display documents showcasing how the fixing of the price of wheat affected the farmers within this area. This particular organization will often be referenced in conjunction with the SCFBA as they recorded the gains made each year through new techniques.
Resources from the War Garden Commission will be displayed. In keeping with the food-related theme running throughout my research I will focus on the WGC’s drying and canning activities. There are numerous bulletins, newsletters, and propaganda posters I will use to showcase this particular group’s impact within the community.
Voices of the Great War section. This section will be devoted to the documents produced by residents within Stevens County during WWI. Thus far these will include, but are not limited to, diary entries, newspaper collage clippings, and profiles on prominent members within the community.
WEST CENTRAL SCHOOL OF AGRICULTURE SUBCATEGORY
In researching the West Central School of Agriculture, there will be focus on the school’s involvement within the war itself and the effects of the Spanish Influenza and other post-war notes. There will also be a key focus on the history of the school as its own entity, separate from the international events going on at the same time. The West Central School of Agriculture opened its doors in 1909 and underwent a significant amount of expansion during the 1910s. At the same time that the war was going on, the school was building itself up–while it was very much involved in activities revolving around the Great War, it was also experiencing its own story of growth at the same time. I envision the WCSA subsection to be rather chronological, documenting the WCSA from its beginnings in 1909, through its growth and experiences during the war years.
The West Central School of Agriculture page will be comprised of four subsections:
A brief history of the West Central School of Agriculture, including the shutting down of the Sisters of Mercy Indian Boarding School and the opening of the WCSA, and how the campus was growing during the 1910s, specifically during the war years. Included on this page will also be some pictures from the earliest days of the campus.
A page specifically devoted to the architecture of the campus. With campus growth came new buildings. A documentation of the buildings that were constructed during this time period–along with images taken shortly after they were constructed–will be essential in understanding this growth. A short list of any buildings that were torn down to make room for new buildings during this period may also be included.
A page devoted to WCSA and the war–how students and the administration reacted to the war and how it affected the campus. This includes, but is not limited to, administrative pamphlets encouraging students to attend WCSA to support the war effort through agriculture, quips and cartoons from student yearbooks, and the school’s efforts to remember the war in its aftermath.
The WCSA and the Spanish influenza will be a major page. At this point, I have actually compiled more information regarding the Spanish Influenza’s effect on the campus than on how the actual war affected the campus–this makes sense, given that the actual war was being fought in Europe while the campus experienced the influenza first hand. Included on this page will be letters sent by the administration regarding the flu to parents and quips and comments from the 1919 school yearbook regarding how students looked back on the flu using humor.