Exam Discussion

Top three things you liked about the class structure:
1.) The contracts seemed a bit frustrating at first because we had to plan things out before we had anything done, but they ultimately worked to our advantage. They kept us on target.
2.) Blogging.
3.) The was a good mixture of being able to work on our projects and discussing history in the digital age within class periods.

Top three things you would change about the class structure:
1.) I would have liked to see introductions to more tools that could have been useful to our site. Perhaps other ways to make timelines and interactive maps.
2.) Contracts probably shouldn’t be due until we go over all of the tools and have had a little time to really absorb them. For instance, my group decided on Omeka before we really had the chance to experiment with it. Had we known it would be so ugly…
3.) Um…

One or two projects/topics that you think might be good for future iterations of this class to do:
1.) Perhaps do something with the James Farmer Oral History Project.
2.) Fredericksburg stresses its colonial and Civil War connections, so I’d like to see other periods explored. Maybe something on segregation and the Civil Rights movement. Or 20th century wartime mobilization.

What advice would you give to future students who take this class?
1.) Don’t run away when you hear that you’ll have to work in groups. It’s not so bad.
2.) Talk with your group and try alternate forms of communication.
3.) Google docs will be your salvation!

Posted by on April 26th, 2010 Comments Off on Exam Discussion


When I signed up for this class I had no idea what it would be like or what we would be doing during the semester. I must say I’m glad I did decide to take it. It’s unlike any other class I’ve ever had, and I think I’m more proud of its results than my other classes. We didn’t end the semester with papers; we ended it with websites. I’ve always hated the nature of papers, in that you spend time and energy on them (well, some of us), and they’re mostly just going to be between you and your professor. But with a website, everyone with an internet connection can see your work, and I think it gives you more of a feeling of accomplishment.

Not only can a variety of people see your work, they can directly interact with you. We gave out flyers just this morning, and we’ve already got our first email response! Sure, the person is telling us that further research has proven wrong the previously believed date of the Rowe House, but that’s actually a good thing. We can easily fix the mistake because of the nature of the web, and that correct information will be spread. You can’t do that with a book: see a cookbook with a recipe calling for “salt and freshly ground black people.” Oops.

The teamwork is perhaps what made me most weary at the start. No one really likes teamwork, but a project like this would have been difficult to complete alone in the span of time that we had. This is the biggest project I’ve ever worked on with a group, and I found that we worked well together. We got along, and we each pulled our own weight. I found that the most stressful part of the teamwork was right at the end. I pretty much had my stuff out of the way, but there was still a few days left before the deadline, and I had to wait for my group to finish the little things they needed to get done. Basically, I was left twiddling my thumbs, partly wanting to fix things myself, but realizing that it wasn’t my responsibility (unless it didn’t get done at all, which wasn’t a problem with my folks) and that I really needed to trust them and avoid being an obnoxious micromanager. My internship boss’s response to that: “welcome to my life.” Another grey-hair producing factor is that I had to go back and check to see if everybody did things the same way. Sure enough, we did things a little differently, such as how we cited sources. Communication is an important component for teamwork, and though I think my group did it well, we could have used a little more work.

Ultimately, I’ve very happy with our site. I’m still not overly found of the way Omeka looks or some of its limits, but we worked through those things and produced something really great. My biggest concern was possible navigation problems, but it didn’t end up being as troublesome as we thought it might be. At least, I hope not. That will be up to our visitors who are not familiar with the Omeka layout to decide, and I hope that they inform us if there are problems.

We didn’t end up having to drop any of our contract plans or even alter them much, if at all, and we met our deadlines on time. We had a great map group who got the job done on time and did it well. It almost seems too easy, actually. If only the real world were so simple.

To conclude, I looked through the other sites, and they all look great!

Posted by on April 20th, 2010 Comments Off on Reflections

Week 13

So, Research and Creativity Day didn’t really go great, but it didn’t go badly either. It was less than exciting, but it’s made me think more about what I want to say and how I want to say it for the History Symposium.

The site is on its way to being done. Our interactive map is where it should be, and we’ve got Google Analytics going now. We’ve already had visits, but I’m pretty sure it’s just tracking us. At least I hope so. Good God, Vistaprint keeps sending stuff to our site gmail. And every single email stresses that things are “FREE FREE FREE!” Except it’s NOT NOT NOT!

Anyway, I recently uploaded a lot of pictures that John Hennessy didn’t provide us with because I felt that the site needed a little more sprucing up for the exhibits. So, now there are photos and illustrations for more of the pages, like the battles, Gettysburg, and the Christian Commission. I also put up photos of all of the profiled women that I could find pictures for. Everything else that I need to do is just checking tags, footnotes, links, and whatnot.

Posted by on April 15th, 2010 1 Comment

Week 12

So, first I want to ask: why haven’t I heard of H-net until now?

Anyway, I thought the “Blogging for your Students” article was interesting because I’ve mostly been on the actual blogging end of teacher/student interactions rather that the teacher doing most of the blogging. I really think blogging (or wiki-ing) about readings and other class related things forces you to reflect critically on topics rather that it just going in one ear and out the other. It also gives you the opportunity to have discussions with your classmates, as well as to provide quick and easy access to outside sources that are relevant to the discussions. I know I try to provide my classmates with interesting little goodies when I have the chance. Obviously, I try to post some entertaining images for this class, and when I took American History in Film I occasionally posted the soundtracks of the films we were discussing.

With the way technology changes this day and age, I wonder if parts of Dr. McClurken’s article are going to be outdated when it’s finally published? The thing I found the most interesting was the online historical hoax, and I can only ask why don’t any of my classes do something half as cool? After all, the best way to learn is through hands on experience. Hint, hint. Though I think that’s what is good about this particular class. We could talk about digital history until we’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t really have a meaning unless we get our hands dirty ourselves.

Speaking of the project, we got our business cards in a couple of days, despite paying for seven day shipping, which makes me wonder what would have happened if we went for the longer period at a cheaper price. Oy, I can’t believe Research and Creativity Day is on Monday. My group is presenting at 4:00 pm, which means they ignored the times we said we were free, but it should be fine. We’ll be discussing what we want to talk about for the presentation this week. The pressure is building up, but I’m pretty confident. The site is getting there. I’ve written up the information on the Battle of the Wilderness, and the others are finishing up their sections. I have a few more profiles to work on, but otherwise the information work is pretty much done. I’ve tagged my sections and did some interlinking (and can someone tell me why it doesn’t link properly at first and then begins to work the next day?). The main objective now seems mostly about making the site look nice and doing footnotes.

Posted by on April 5th, 2010 2 Comments

Week 11: Freemasons and Dark Cut 2

Our maps are done, yay! Sorry to rub it in, Alumni group. Megan will be working on making the Fredericksburg map interactive through Google maps. This weekend Lauren and Katelyn took pictures downtown, though they still need some work (cars in the streets and freaky Freemasons standing on steps talking about animal sacrifices or whatever it is they do kind of distract from the buildings).

We also ordered business cards that we’ll be able to hand out at Research and Creativity Day. We’ll probably make some flyers to hand out to area museums, schools, and what not when we get closer to our launch day.

My section on women’s relief efforts is almost completely done at this point. I still need to finish up the profiles and set up footnotes. This weekend I’ll be working on the background section discussing the Battle of the Wilderness, as I’ve got the paper I’m writing on it coming up anyway. I put up some more primary source items, this time army reports from the medical personnel in the city for which I also made a collection, and I’m adding source notes and tags to the items as well.

We’re in the home stretch, but I feel pretty good at this point.

By the way, check out this awesome game that I came across due to Lauren’s post about googling and amputated limbs: Dark Cut 2, perform surgery Civil War style.

Posted by on March 30th, 2010 1 Comment

Week 10: Google It!

I’m sure we all have a few embarrassing searches in our past. Let’s just hope no one releases a study on it… oh, wait.

I use google everyday, most often for personal uses. When it’s time for a paper, though, the googling kicks into hyperdrive. In fact, I just googled “hyperdrive” to see if it’s correct to combine it into one word rather than spell it “hyper drive.” Leary’s discussion about determining the meaning of “please to remember the grotto” is one I can relate to when dealing with primary sources. For instance, I came across the term “locofoco” in several Civil War accounts, and from the context I thought it was being used as some insulting term (like a 19th century equivalent to calling someone a fruitloop or something), but I couldn’t determine it’s exact meaning. So, hi Google! Hello, locofoco! The term on it’s own describes a radical faction of the Democratic Party, but the accounts I was reading were using it very negatively. Obviously, this was not some great and meaningful find, but it still certainly enlightened me and made the primary documents I was reading a little more clear.

However, I don’t think I agree with Leary’s “offline penumbra,” the idea that having online access to historical sources will lead to everyday folks and scholars avoiding offline research. He suggests that students now do most of their research online. Maybe I’m just behind in the times, but I don’t find that to be true at all. I think a fair amount of research can be done online, but for me it’s something that often leads me to the actual printed version. Maybe it’s just a personal preference, but I still feel more comfortable with a book in my hands rather than the digitized version on a screen in front of me. In some ways I feel like I have less freedom when it’s online, aside from the searching capabilities. Though that could be I don’t go around with a netbook or some such. The offline penumbra also suggests to me a sense of laziness about ‘dem young folk, and I’m not sure I like that commentary on my habits. Sure, it’s true about some things, but I try not to let it extend to my researching.

Anyway, on the project: I must say that I’m much more happy with it. We’ve got a theme that looks much better, and there doesn’t seem to be the need for a whole lot of clicking just to get to the actual material. I’ve virtually finished my section on women’s roles, though I still have work to do on the profiles. I feel much less stressed now that there’s more content up on the site.

Posted by on March 22nd, 2010 3 Comments

Week 9: Rumble!

This weekend I finished up looking through primary documents and secondary research on my particular section, which is women’s relief efforts. I picked out a few more people to profile, collected more dates for the timeline, and found a few more buildings to possibly highlight on the Fredericksburg map. I also transcribed a few documents that hadn’t been transcribed by Dr. Hennessy, and I uploaded them to the website.

I was sort of putting off reading one primary source because I knew it wouldn’t be helpful, but I finally read it this weekend. In it, I came across the kind of thing that reminds me why I love history so much. In her autobiography, Half a Century, Jane Swisshelm wrote about her trip to Fredericksburg. Before she got here she came across Dorothea Dix, and Dix does not come off very good! She supposedly told Swisshelm, quite rudely, that Fredericksburg had already been organized by her and didn’t need anyone else. Swisshelm told Dix that she had friends in high places who would pretty much give her the what for if she didn’t back off. Swisshelm got to the city and saw that it was a mess. She came across one or two of Dix’s nurses and wrote that they weren’t very good at their jobs. So, basically Dorothea Dix, according to Jane Swisshelm, was an incompetent, dishonest harpy. Then again, Swisshelm doesn’t come off very well either. She’s very overdramatic and falsely modest. The source is generally useless for my purposes, considering it was written much later, but I got a kick out of it.

In this corner... VS In this corner...

In this corner, Dorothea Dix. In this corner, Jane Swisshelm. Let’s get ready to RUMBLE!

On another note of interest, at least for those Mary Washington folks, Julia Wheelock mentions that she and a few other women visited the Mary Washington Monument when they were here. Of course, her main thoughts are about Mary Washington being the mother of George, and she proceeds to wax poetic about him. You guys probably get a lot of that, huh?

Posted by on March 16th, 2010 2 Comments

Uh, what week is it again?

Time goes by really quickly, huh? I feel like I’ve just started on this project, but it’s already halfway through the semester.

Over the break I looked through more sources, including gathering information on the evacuation route of wounded into and out of Fredericksburg for the mapmakers. I uploaded some primary source letters written by women relief workers onto our website. I’ve also been getting together some dates to go into the timeline, as well as a few women relief workers who will be profiled on the site. Not you, Clara Barton! Everyone knows about you.

Uh oh, she’s got Mr. T on her side! Okay, ma’am, maybe just a little bit on you. If it was Chuck Norris, we’d have to dedicate the whole site to her.

Oh, good news! I solved the Fatal Error of Doom on Omeka, at least for the items. Patrick mentioned that there was an issue with Image Annotation being recognized without actually being turned on or something of that nature. I turned on Image Annotation and voila! Rejoice, kittens of the world!

Look, they’re so happy! Unfortunately, you aren’t all safe. The sections within the exhibits are still giving fatal errors. Patrick thinks that has to do with the lack of pages. And we can’t add pages until we know for certain how we want to divide information into pages. I think it’ll make more sense once we actually have our research written out.

P.S. No one will probably see this until Thursday morning when they’re desperately trying to post and make comments before class, but go see the Great Lives lecture tonight! Julia Child was one of the most awesome of super awesome people!

Posted by on March 9th, 2010 4 Comments

Week 7: A Kitten Dies

The last few weeks have been kind of crazy. Last week it was papers, and this week it’s exams. And, of course, I’m as sick as a dog, which always and only seems happens when I have exams, exactly the time I don’t need to be sick.

This week my group and I have been experimenting with Omeka. We’ve set up an outline with exhibits and sections, though we aren’t entirely happy with the way it looks right now. We also aren’t happy with the evils of a “Fatal Error” message. According to Dr. McClurken, a kitten dies every time that message pops up, and while Lauren may be okay with that (it’s not puppies after all!), I’m not sure I’m okay with killing kittens.

Nooo! It’s too cute to die! Anyway, over the break the group is going to continue looking at primary sources. Most importantly, we’ll be gathering information for the mapmaking students, such as the location of hospitals and evacuations routes. We’ll also be collecting dates for the timeline and figuring out who to profile. Finally, while we’ve split up our primary sources, some of the information is relevant to what other members of the group are researching and writing about. We’re going to create google docs for each section, so we can add together that information we come across.

Posted by on February 25th, 2010 2 Comments

Week 6: Wikipedia

Urg, I’m so used to posting on Thursdays that I didn’t even realize this post was due today. Oh, Wikipedia, I have a love/hate relationship with you. I love having a vast variety of information at my finger tips, but I hate losing hours of my life when I only intended to spend five minutes on the site. I often get caught going for a Wiki Walk.

I actually have no experience editing on the Wikipedia, though I have edited on others like Dr. McClurken’s class wikis, as well as TV Tropes and various fandom wikis. I think it’s really interesting that you can watchlist pages to be aware of changes made, which is particularly important when those pages have been vandalized. I think Wikipedia is a fairly trustworthy site because it provides sources and, as Jimmy Wales noted, the people who do most of the editing are people who are involved in the community and are generally intelligent. Who else would devote so much time to creating an encyclopedia?

I’ve never looked at a Wikipedia history page. I think it’s a bit difficult to understand at first glance. And second glance, for that matter. But it’s not so hard once you figure out what all the various sections represent. It’s cool that you can see the process of the changes that have been made, and being able to link to a static page is really helpful in combating the impermanent nature of the web.

I have looked at discussion pages before, and I’ve often found that the discussion is sometimes useless. I always see topics started by people who have a deficiency in grammar and spelling. However, some discussions are really valuable. I’ve seen attempts to make connected pages more uniform in their standards, information, and language, and discussions can provide an insight into some of the interesting interpretations connected to certain subjects.

Posted by on February 16th, 2010 3 Comments