Podcasts and Omeka

                This week’s final Omeka lesson got me thinking about our project.  Lloyd and I are continuing with our podcast topic on the 1937 flood.  When we met in the UofL archives to find photos, we were overwhelmed with the amount of pictures on the ‘37 flood.  The archives had folder after folder with the negatives of photos taken during January and February when the flood hit Louisville.  Now we have to pull out our favorite ones and the ones that best tell the story of the flood.  Our plan right now for our exhibit is having a home page that discusses the background of the flood.  Info about how the flood affected Louisville will go well together with the photos that show the actual damage throughout the city.  We were also thinking about using clips from the interviews in conjunction with the photos will really be a nice way to tell the story of the flood.  The only thing that might be a problem is the technical aspect of Omeka.  Lloyd and I both are not particularly well suited to work this program.  But I am sure we will figure it out and hopefully create a really good exhibit.

                I am also very happy with how our podcast turned out.  I think we were able to combine the interviews into a compelling yet informative story.  I look forward presenting to the MSA people with Lloyd next class.  If we show any of our podcast I hope they will like it.  We put a lot of time and work into it, and I am sure the MSA people will be happy with how all of our projects turned out.

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Chapter 4 “Designing for the History Web”

Chapter 4 of Cohen and Rosenzweig’s Digital History discusses how to design a website, and the challenges and problems that present themselves to web developers.  As our class embarks on the creation of our Omeka exhibit this chapter will help us design a visually pleasing, yet informative Omeka project.  The chapter discusses things that website developers need to consider, such as readability and layout.  The website has to be approachable and easily understood by the audience.  Cohen and Rosenzweig discuss design principles that I would never have thought about.  They argue that the text on a website needs to be similar to how we read a book.  Our brain can only process so much, and the 8 to 16 words per line that most books offer is the best way to keep the text of your website from being too overwhelming to your audience.  I doubt I will ever design a website on my own, but this chapter makes you think about the websites that you visit every day.  I have been to plenty of history websites, and some of the best ones have the same principles that Cohen and Rosenzweig talk about in this chapter.    

I am not a web person or particularly creative.  Designing an Omeka exhibit presents a challenge to someone who has never done it before.  Me and my partner’s project on the 1937 flood will translate well to a Omeka exhibit I think.  The University Archives has a collection of fantastic photos from the flood, many of which detail the areas the oral interviews discuss.  Our Omeka page that we design will have a nice compliment of photos and historical knowledge to back them up. 

Ellis Cassity

DMS and the Podcast Project

Our class met in Ekstrom Library’s DMS room to discuss how we will create our podcast.  The DMS tutors were very helpful explaining how to begin our projects.  I have no experience creating any sort of digital production, but the programs that we will be using to create our podcast seem pretty easy to use.  And we will have the tutors there to help us if we run into any problems.  I am going on my sixth year here at UofL and I am still learning all of the different resources they have to offer.  I did not know we had a DMS room, or had the resources to allow students to create digital media projects like our podcast.  I look forward to using the DMS to create a really informative project on the MSA oral interviews.

            After the class, my partner and I met up to discuss the progress on our project.  We are creating a podcast on the 1937 flood and how it affected businesses and people downtown.  After our meeting I felt very good on the progress of our project.  We have our interview dialogue all ready to go.  Our next step is creating a narrative script that makes our project flow and makes sense.  But I think we will be able to create a script and be able to use the resources at the DMS and create a really good project without too much hassle.

Ellis Cassity

Putting the Public in Public History

Benjamin Feline’s “Making yourself at home- welcoming voices in open house: if these walls could talk” is a great example of the direction the field of history has taken in the last few decades.  The Minnesota History Center’s new exhibit Open House reflects the expansion of social history in the 1960s.  Historians began looking at society from the “bottom up,” the marginal people on the social strata.  This exhibit allows visitors to see the history of ordinary people, normally not the section of society most studied by historians.  Public history is a great medium through which to study the lives of ordinary people.  The Minnesota History Center’s new exhibit is an interesting way to tell stories most people wouldn’t able to hear.  One interesting question Feline raised was “how much can a single slice of history tell about the whole.” (139)  This question is always on the forefront of historic sites and museums like the one I work at.  History museums have a particular story to tell, and cannot tell the entirety of a subject.  We must find out how much of the story we are telling is indicative of the subject and society as a whole.  

            This exhibit reminded me of a project I did in another public history class.  Writing a grant proposal for a new museum, I designed a possible exhibit on the different historic neighborhoods in Louisville.  The stories and lifestyles that the Open House exhibit show are similar to the Limerick neighborhood here in Louisville.  In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Limerick neighborhood had a large working class Irish population.  It makes me wonder if something like the exhibit in this article is possible to showcase the history of the people of Louisville.   

Ellis Cassity

A Shared Authority

            This week’s readings, Michael Frisch’s “A Shared Authority,” and “From A Shared Authority to the Digital Kitchen, and Back,” offer an interesting take on the state of, and the problems of the public history field.  Frisch’s first work, “A Shared Authority,” was written before the digital age had taken over public history.  He discusses some of the problems in the public history field, most notably the problem of memory.  His second work was written more recently, and discusses public history’s move into the digital world. 

            Frisch’s “A Shared Authority” has some interesting ideas that directly relate to our class.  Frisch discusses the problems that memory has that relate to the public history field.  He gives two examples, a student forgetting what she learned about the Vietnam War, and a government official selectively remembering the past so that it justified his actions in the fight against communism in Latin America.  The problems of memory to oral histories are apparent.  Trying to accurately recall something decades after will ultimately lead to a distortion of the past, whether intentional or not.  As we listen to the Main Street interviews we need to be wary that they might not be as authoritative and accurate as we would like.     

Frisch’s “Digital Kitchen” article connected in a lot of ways to our class.  A noteworthy section was his discussion of the “Raw” and “cooked” sources of public history.  The “raw” sources are the oral interviews that are stored in a library or archive.  The “cooked” sources are the interpretations by scholars and others that come out of studying the “raw” material.  Our class is trying to take some of the “raw” sources such as the main street interviews and turn them into a “cooked” online exhibit that people can look at without having to trudge through the oral interviews themselves. 

Ellis Cassity

Omeka and Brainstorming

This week’s class I was introduced Omeka, a program I have had no experience in.  Omeka is a tool that allows us to create online exhibits that we can share with the world.  I am looking forward to our project that brings the Main Street Interviews to an online exhibit.  Archival work has always been very interesting to me.  The archival potential in Omeka is pretty evident.  Much of our introduction to Omeka this week was adding the metadata to any potential items we add to the collections.  I think as a class we have a good chance to create a really strong exhibit.  As the first class to do something like this I hope we can set a good example that other similar courses can follow. 

            We also split into groups to discuss our experiences with the oral history interviews to potentially come up with some podcast ideas.  My group had some very interesting stories about the interviews they listened to.  Through our experiences we also came up with a whole bunch of good ideas for a podcast project.  I didn’t know what the podcast project entailed until this class, and our brainstorming session was a real help to get me thinking about possible ideas.   

The Past, Present, and Future of Public History

Ellis Cassity

            Last Thursday I attended the history departments discussion panel Public History Today: Current Challenges, Future Directions.  We were fortunate enough to have to important people in the world of Public History, John Dichtl and Craig Friend.  The discussion was led by our two public history scholars, Dr. Vivian and Dr. Kelland.  The first half of the forum was our scholars asking directed questions to the visitors about the current state of the public history field and the direction in which it is going.  The second half opened the panel up to question from the audience.  I felt that the forum was incredible constructive and informative about where the top scholars see the field of public history is going.  This information is particularly important to the students in the audience, many of whom will become the new generation of public historians.  The discussion on the emergence and blossoming of the public history field was particularly informative.  I am glad to see the field becoming more accepted in not only in the discipline of history but throughout academia as well.  History needed a way to become more in involved with civic engagement.  Public history allowed history, a discipline largely stuck in the ivory tower, to reach out to the community and become more involved.  The speakers also discussed the importance for a public history program to have connections within the community.  UofL has great civil engagement throughout the city with many different local institutions.  The variety of internships available to public history students is a good example of how strong our small public history program is.    

            This forum also makes me happy and proud to be a part of UofL’s history department.  We have a relatively young public history program, and this forum is a great way for us to get out there and become part of the conversation.  I felt the forum went extremely well, but I would be interested to see what others in the field thought of it.  We posted the discussion on the web, fitting for our course this semester, so everyone will be able to see it.  hopefully everyone will see it as a success so we can continue to host constructive talks like this one at UofL.

Historic W Main

Ellis Cassity

                History is a great reminder that there is always more to learn.  Being a native Louisvillian I have been taught since I was young about what makes Louisville unique and important.  Susan Foley’s tour proved to me again that there is always something new and interesting to learn about Louisville.  Louisville has a deep and interesting history that can be easily overlooked, even by those who call themselves natives of the city.  Seeing the effort to preserve W Main and the history it tells makes me feel proud of our discipline.  Many business owners do not want to risk the potential hazards and costs of renovating and preserving buildings like the ones on W Main, but when you find the ones that have a passion for protecting out past then projects like the preservation of downtown Louisville can flourish.    

Our tour with Susan reminded me of a project I did in Dr. Vivian’s Historic Preservation class.  We were assigned a building in downtown and we had to research its history.  It was a great project to show the economic history of downtown Louisville because most of the buildings assigned were commercial businesses.  It is difficult to talk about the importance of historic Main Street without talking about economic history.  Architecturally Main Street is beautiful and important.  It is with great pride in my city to know that we have one of the largest collections of Iron facades in the country.  And the building Susan mentioned was supposed to be the greatest example of Iron Façades was an undeniably beautiful building.  But as a lover of economic history I am much more interested in historic Main Street for what it says about economic life in Louisville in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. 

                Susan’s discussion of the oral history project that she undertook was illuminating.  I can now dive into the histories that we have been assigned without reservation.  The tour, along with Susan’s talk, helped me put the oral history assignment into a context I can better understand.  I look forward to listening to the business leaders and what they have to say about life in downtown Louisville.  As a public history grad student who has a leaning towards economic history, this project makes me happier than a magnet in W Main.

Digital History Weekly Response wk 3

Ellis Cassity

Chapter 2 of Cohen and Rosenzweig’s Digital History seemed a bit outdated to me as I was reading it.  It was still interesting and informative to me as someone who has no background or particular knowledge of programming or website development.  The most surprising part of the chapter was the authors’ explanation on the importance of a websites name.  I had no idea how much went into the name of a website or all the things a web developer has to be aware of when choosing a name.  This chapter is a testament to the need of a new addition to this book, only eight years after its publication.  This is probably be explained by the quick, and ever-changing internet, which has developed even further since the book came out.    

            Chapter six of Digital History had a lot of useful and interesting information.  The authors’ discussion of the different ways the average public can get involved with history on the web.  Their discussion made me think of crowdsourcing and how useful it can be to engage the public when it comes to history.  Collecting history can be a very tedious job, especially when it involves archives and collecting and organizing large amounts of information.  The authors write how important it is to make it easy for people to contribute to your website.  This is good information and advice to anyone wanting to create someone on the internet with the help of the public.

            A quick note is warranted on the case study since I am writing this on the twelfth anniversary of 9/11.  The Digital Archive that was created to preserve and protect the memories of all who talked about that day is a great resource that I did not know existed.  It is great that momentous moments in history can now be saved with the memories of the average people who lived through them.  Future historians researching 21 century terrorism can look back at these records, which is a great vindication of those who worked so hard to push social history in the 1960s.    

Digital History Weekly Response Wk 2

Ellis Cassity

Reading the introduction to Digital History makes me think about the past and future of our discipline.  The authors Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig raise an interesting question when they ask “How might our history writing be different if all historical evidence were available?” (4)  Digital media allows people to save all historical evidence because it is so easy and inexpensive.  It makes me curious about what historical writing will look like in 50 or 100 years, and how historians are studying and writing about the end of the twentieth century and later.  Educated guesses to fill in the gaps left by incomplete primary sources will be a thing of the past when historians have easy access to everything our culture does now because it is all saved.  Of course, the discipline of history is not unfamiliar to vast and sometimes quick changes.  From Herodotus to today, History has undergone many changes to become the rigorous discipline it is today.  So to all future historians reading this note that has been added to the web forever, provided SkyNet hasn’t taken over and started the robot apocalypse, I ask what do historical studies looks like in the future.

                As a child of the internet and computers I feel bad thinking about how past historians did not have the vast resources the internet provides.  The online databases and archives make it so easy for even an untrained college freshman can find the relevant works and the current historiography on a given subject.  Easier access to the primary and secondary sources allows for better history to be written.  Less time for the historian can be spent traveling and collecting the sources and more time researching and writing.

                The authors introduce some interesting statistics in Chapter one: Exploring the History Web.  The authors write that a web search for “FDR” yielded a result of 49 hits in 1995.  Ten years later the same search came up with 950,000 results.  I did another search for “FDR” in 2013, and I found 12,400,000 hits on Google.  This interesting statistic shows that the internet, including history websites, is only getting larger.  History websites can offer great benefits to many groups of people.  A student can look up additional information on a topic that sparked their interest in the classroom.  Teachers can use history websites as a way to get more information to students.  The “History Web” as the authors call it is a great tool for those in the discipline, or for those with just a cursory interest in history.