Category Archives: End of Semester Reviews

Wrapping Up Digital Public History Course

My experiences this semester have been overwhelmingly positive. Like any moment of growth and learning, however, there have also been moments of struggle (social media is not my forte, so module 9 was particularly painful for me). I am surprised by how time consuming and how energy-sapping the development of my prototype has been. At the same time, I am also looking forward to  continuing work on the website beyond this class. It’s a project that I am very passionate about and I am excited by the prospect of further collaboration in order to better create a piece of digital history that exists for and with the public.

Much of what I learned this semester felt like a reinforcement of what I know from working in the physical public history space. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that digital public history projects have to work just as hard (if not harder) to captivate audiences. In my time as a museum employee, I have witnessed many a family double down on an outing that has lost its enjoyment simply because they had already invested a significant amount into the experience (the drive, parking, paying admission). From my limited experience, once a visitor is on-site, they will want to get their money’s worth and stick it out. If the  experience is unenjoyable, they probably won’t return, but it’s unlikely they will immediately head for the exits at the first sign of boredom.

With most digital history projects, the opposite is true — no time or monetary investment is required to partake. If nothing is at stake, users can jump ship at the first sign of discomfort, frustration, or distraction. Therefore the content, methods, and overall projects produced by digital historians seeking to engage the wider public must exceed user expectations within the first three seconds of the experience. What a tall order! With this in mind, I feel like I am now constantly on the lookout for extraordinary examples of digital public history projects.

I can’t resist including a few more words about the future of my project. Since the content matter is so lacking in audio and visual, I’d love to collaborate with a law school or mock trial group to reenact testimony from the Joint Committee Investigation; I was really inspired by the “Eavesdropping at the Well” piece we read by Richard Rabinowicz. Despite my aversion to social media, I want to implement a campaign to solicit community contributions to post on the website. Finally, I want to dive deeper into the historical content in order to expand the existing exhibit and create new ones (what role did WWI and German propaganda play in Florencio’s lynching?).

Wrapping Up Intro to DH Course

What an informative experience this has been! I have learned so much about digital humanities, what it can look like, and how to do it.

We began the semester by writing our own definition of DH. Looking back on my definition, I’m still satisfied with it. I believe my definition emphasized both the application of DH and the fact that DH is in and of itself a field of study. Invention is crucial to DH, as is perspective. If anything, I would modify my definition to include the importance of perspective and context to the field. DH tools can provide users and researchers with new perspectives on familiar data, but at the perils of reducing or eliminating precious context.

I’m really surprised by how much I’ve progressed this semester. When I filled out the survey at the beginning of the course, I considered myself a bit of a helpless cause – too technologically challenged to learn much about digital tools. I was eager to learn the basics of Omeka, learn basic DH terminology, become comfortable with at least one digital method, and use DH methods to make history research accessible to the public. I feel that I’ve met all of these expectations. Using for my project, I became relatively comfortable with GIS mapping. I also believe that most (if not all) DH tools have the potential to make research accessible to the public, especially podcasts and games/AR/VR which we covered in some of our final modules.

In addition to the mapping module, I enjoyed learning about Omeka. I am excited to create an exhibit with Omeka and perhaps try my hand at including a GIS map in an Omeka exhibit. I would also like more experience with network analysis and topic modeling – those subjects are the ones that I feel I understand the least, so I’d like to bolster my knowledge with more experience in those areas.