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Comparative Site Review

In this post, I will be reviewing and comparing two websites that use digital history methods to display aspects of Frederick Douglass’ life at his last home, Cedar Hill.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Created and maintained by the National Park Service, Reviewed February 16, 2019.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Virtual Museum Exhibit. Created by the Museum Management Program, National Park Service in collaboration with Frederick Douglass National Historic Site staff. Edited by Joan Bacharach, Carol M. Highsmith, Amber Young, Julie Kutruff, Cathy Ingram, Frank Faragaso, and Eola Dance Reviewed February 16, 2019.

Both websites were created by the National Park Service in some capacity. The Google site does  not give credit to any particular individual, however, while the virtual museum exhibit does. This is one thing that this website does more thoroughly than the Google site; it gives more insight into how the website was constructed and maintained.

Another similarity between the websites are the functionality of every hyperlink and interactive element works as expected. This shows that adequate effort has been put into the websites’ designs by the website creators. However, one of the issues with the virtual exhibit is that certain elements require the user to have Adobe Flash Player, which affects the accessibility of the website. Also, the design of the website seems to look somewhat antiquated due to the font choices and overall appearance; the other website has a more modern and sleek design that presents the information within more clearly and in an easy-to-use format.

The use of digital media in both websites has been effective, as both provide ways to see the last home of Frederick Douglass in a way that would not be possible with traditional print media. The Google site has an interactive panorama that allows site visitors to view the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site museum almost as if they were there in-person. The virtual museum tour has a similar feature.

Both projects seem to have similar audiences; people who want to learn more about Frederick Douglass’ life and possibly want to visit the national historic site. I feel that both websites serve their audiences well. The virtual tour website seems to have more of a “guided tour” type feel that provides more context than the Google site.

Creating Items with Complete Metadata and Annotation in Omeka

This week, we learned how to use Omeka, a web-publishing platform useful for libraries and other creators of digital collections and archives. Two activities were combined into one due to adjustments to the schedule, and we learned to add items and exhibits to Omeka with complete metadata (using Dublin Core) and annotations for pictures and text. To add complete metadata, it is best to use an existing collection/archive’s data. These collections usually document their own materials; the documentation can thus be transferred with little additional effort into an appropriate metadata format. The metadata creation process was a little confusing to me at first because I got my materials from an electronic resource constructed and encoded by people not involved in the initial creation of the items. This made me unsure of how to document both the creators of the resource and the source of the actual content of each item in the Dublin Core metadata form that Omeka has you fill out. I eventually came to the conclusion that I would input both information about the original resource and the electronic format in the metadata as separate fields. Once I made this decision, I was able to get through the rest of the process more easily. The two items I was able to create are here and here.

When it comes to making annotations and exhibits with Omeka, I learned some things about close readings of historical data. The items I had created on Omeka were rather lengthy to read, so it took a long time to read and absorb the information. Choosing what parts to annotate when it comes to text was also a difficult process. For these reasons, I now understand that analyzing historical material takes a lot of time and effort, especially when unfamiliar with historical thinking. My annotations can be found below:

Research Process Journaling

The research process is a continually evolving one that requires rethinking and revising one’s methods as more information and sources accumulate. The activity I conducted regarding answering the research question of “How sustainable was the state of slavery in Antebellum North Carolina?” illustrates this. I chose this question to research because I have a background and interest in the study of sustainability. There is also ample documentation of the Antebellum period in the United States. However, to start with, the question I had formulated created a few problems as I searched for primary sources that could provide a starting point in finding an answer to the question. Sustainability is a broad topic that spans several disciplines including economics, politics, the environment, and sociology. The way I phrased the question was a little ambiguous as to how the sustainability of something would be measured. Still, I was able to find several sources that contained some clues to help answer the question. One of the sources was a speech made by a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for a debate-based student organization. In the speech, the speaker mentions how the institution of slavery hindered the development, economically and technologically, of the Southern states. The predominance of cotton as an export did prove profitable, but at the price of reduced soil productivity and hindered technological advancement. As the speech puts it, slavery “stifles industry and represses enterprize [sic]–it is fatal to economy and providence–it discourages skill.” My findings cause me to consider how to rephrase my research question. I could focus on one aspect of sustainability to make the question more specific and allow it to be more conclusively answered. I could ask, “How technologically sustainable was the state of slavery in Antebellum North Carolina?” My next steps would be to look for some secondary sources that could provide me with a clues as to the context in which the question is set. I could also attempt to corroborate the sources I have found.

Introducing… Me!

Hello, I would like to introduce myself in this post. My name is Monica Yen, and I am currently in college studying environmental sustainability. I’m an introvert who enjoys drawing, surfing the Web, and other time-wasting activities. I currently live in the Midwest region of the United States. I hope to gain a career in the field of data science with applications in sustainability.

This blog was started for a class called Doing Digital History, hence the title. This class seems interesting and will give me a new set of tools to use in analyzing data sets from various sources. I have not had much of a chance to learn about methods of research in social science and the humanities, so this will be a great opportunity to learn something new while doing what I love; using the computer!

A Green Screen of Ewan McGregor dancing in a Star Wars speeder
Just wanted to put something here

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