Project reflection & semester review

This semester has been a very tech-oriented one for me and I was happy to be able to put those skills into practice along with my team for our project. The mission statement definition of our project in a broad sense, was to digitize the Civil War letters of Montgomery Slaughter and George Murray. In our contract we outlined several milestones and assigned each other roles to help keep us organized. In the end although we missed a few milestones, I feel that we created a fully rounded space to house these documents. The only area in which I feel we are presently lacking is in advertising. Our group worked steadily from the finalization of our contract, to fixing edits until our symposium presentation to create a worthy website, but I think all this energy may have exhausted us and taken away some time to advertise before the event. Looking back at our contract I think most of my team would agree that we were a little ambitious with our goals, but I think that worked in our favor because even though we sometimes found ourselves in a time-crunch to make up for passed deadlines, in the end the website turned out to be more than just an online archive but also a digital museum in my opinion.

In the group planning stages we envisioned this website as a good primary resource for those interested in Fredericksburg Civil war history, and I think we accomplished that goal very well. I have to mention that I was/ am very proud of the teamwork within my group. I’m not sure if it was due to the survey we initially completed before the start of the semester (I think that was a great idea!) but we ended up having a good balance of skills, Breck and Kathleen as History majors, were already familiar working with primary documents and citations, which really benefited us the entire semester. In addition, Matthew and I brought varying levels of technical skill and experience working with coding and website design which we consistently used as well throughout the semester.

I think the most challenging part for my team was the actual digitization of the letters themselves because it was the most time consuming. I was responsible primarily for the scanning of the Murray letters, and his biographical page on our site. Kathleen and I spent the first weeks of the semester scanning letters, and then the whole team was responsible for uploading and including the correct metadata for a selection of letters. My own contributions leaned more to the technical and creative side of the project. Within the website I worked on configuring our theme on Omeka and the individual page designs for our website. I also created some original art for our homepage including a banner and the decorative image of Murray and Slaughter. One of the biggest challenges I had was figuring out exactly what kind of beast Omeka was. I’m not used to working with websites that are more restrictive, but the experience helped my test myself in working around a problem to find unconventional solutions. One example of this is the image galleries I created to display separate images in both the Slaughter and Murray bios; I would have liked something a little fancier, but it serves its purpose.  In the final weeks I also collaborated with Kathleen to make an introductory video for our website. It was an experience, that I won’t forget soon, after 11 hours in the video editing lab I think both of us walked away with new skills. Ultimately though I feel it’s a nice and necessary addition because it summarizes everything that our website represents in a concise way.

In closing, I’m very pleased with the final product and the experiences I’ve had in this class. I hope our website and the depth of information it holds become a good resource and add to the historical Civil War community in Fredericksburg.

Defense of Contract and Final Reflections

The essential goal of our project, as stated in the Murray/Slaughter contract, was to digitize the letters of Montgomery Slaughter and George Murray, and we have been able to do so. We have completed our website, an Omeka-based digital archive that creatively displays our collections of letters from Murray and Slaughter.

In terms of the details of the contract, in broad strokes, we have done very well. Essentially everything was completed in terms of the website itself. We have not, however, done the intended publicity work, due to the constraints of time though I am willing to send some emails to that effect over the next few days. In terms of deadlines, we missed a few, though only the deadlines for having the letters uploaded and the StoryMap completed were missed by a significant margin. That delay was due primarily to technical difficulties and the fact that the group, due to the complications with Omeka’s item ordering and the relevant plug-in for that, believed we would have to upload the letters in a staggered fashion. The delays in getting Murray’s letters done meant that although I had Slaughter’s transcribed letters ready, we had decided I couldn’t upload them, as we wanted to complete the Murray collection in the complete order first. That ended up taking longer than anticipated. Despite that, once given the go-ahead, the Slaughter letters were up inside of two days. The StoryMap, which required looking at all of the letters, was also delayed as we focused on resolving the technical issues plaguing the letter uploads.

In terms of the parts of the project I was responsible for, my main regret is not fixing the transcriptions of the letters to the best of my ability before they went up on the site, as substantial parts were left blank on the transcriptions I was working with. However, I had a couple of difficulties that partially account for this, the main one of which is that I was working with handwritten transcriptions, which took far of my time in the special collections room than I expected, so I was unable to spend any time also working with the originals, which Kathleen had scanned. Until all items relating to the same letters were up on the website, which did not happen until weeks later than expected, I did not have any terribly convenient way to display both the original transcription and a separate description, so that ended up dropped from the agenda as I worked on other aspects of the project. Relating to this, another area in which the contract also ended up being slightly outdated over time was the tasks assigned to each member, as we ended up helping each other on tasks on originally assigned to one member; in my case, I assisted substantially with the StoryMap and helped with some of the initial planning and clip selection for the video.

Despite the challenges, I am overall pleased with the website. It was completed on time, the entire group was satisfied with how it looks, and it certainly achieves the basic task of digitizing the Murray-Slaughter letters. Overall, I am proud of the work we did for the website, and feel we fulfilled the spirit of our contract.




Hurley Convergence Center Project Reflection

It has been a long fourteen weeks constructing the Hurley Convergence Center project. We had our fair share of road blocks along the way, but that didn’t stop us as group from creating a website greater than we originally imagined. We ended up using just about every tool listed in our proposal except for Audacity and SoundCloud, but there is a reason for that. We decided to get some training in the Advanced Media Production Studio and eventually recorded all of the interviews with the HD cameras and high quality microphones provided. This helped our website appear more professional while also showing off one of the many resources available in the HCC at the cost of taking a bit longer with editing the footage.

We were able to meet most of the weekly milestones relatively early. The WordPress theme that we all agreed to use made mobile integration rather easy, so the rest of that week was focused on the timeline and the documents given to us by our interviewee, John Morello. We had a bit of trouble meeting Week 3/11’s milestone because of interviewees cancelling or rescheduling, but as you may have seen from our various blog posts and presentations, we ended up getting them all finished earlier than we expected anyway. We even completed an extra interview and recorded plenty of short walk-through videos for the resources of the HCC while we had the time.

We couldn’t have done this without working together and dividing up the work evenly among ourselves. Marissa did a wonderful job at contacting and scheduling meetings for the people we needed to interview or ask for some feedback on the current build of our website. Andrew did an amazing job putting together the pages of the website and a rather informative timeline. Jon did a great job creating the transcripts and always making sure the equipment worked in the Advanced Media Production Studio. My main jobs were editing the videos, being at every interview to make sure everything recorded well, and working with Andrew on the website. I have faith in my editing skills, so I believe the videos turned out really well.

I stand by the Hurley Convergence website that we created together. We were assigned to create a website documenting the history of the building, but we proposed an idea for a website that went even further than that, thanks to Kyle Allwine from Admissions. A website that not only told the story of how the building came to be, but one that appealed to students, faculty, staff, and possible university applicants by displaying the various resources available in the building that can be used by anyone. If the website by chance doesn’t have what you are looking or you just want even more information and possibly want to schedule a time with the tutors, we linked to the Convergence Center website that has everything else that you could possibly need. Even if you want to look at all of the files that we studied for yourself,  you can download them by following the links to the MEGA online storage on our website and learn everything about the building and its history.

When I first came into this class in January, I never thought the website that I was assigned to create with my group would turned out as great and mind blowing as it did. I have the resources in the HCC to thank for giving me the possibility to achieve what we did. I want to close off saying that I do hope that Admissions changes their minds about our website and decide to use it as an advertisement tool for the university in the future. If not, that is fine. I am sure plenty of faculty and staff associated with the HCC will recommend our site to students and it makes me happy knowing that students will be using it.

HCC Final Project Reflection

After a semester of planning, organizing, and finalizing our project, we finally have a complete website. Our job was to document the history and development of the Hurley Convergence Center, and we used a contract to help us plan the steps. We started off defining the mission, so that the rest of our project could be focused with specific goals in mind. Our overall purpose was to bring awareness to the building’s features to, both the UMW community and those interested in joining our community. To accomplish this goal our team intended to build a website that would serve as a repository of documents and facts about the building, as well as host video interviews with the individuals primarily responsible for the HCC’s construction and development.

Initially, we met with Kyle Allwine from Admissions to get input on what they would like to see the website accomplish. We received helpful feedback from him which helped us focus more on the audience we would be presenting to. We then took a tour of the HCC to learn more about each room and some of the significant features and capabilities of the building, as well as conducted our own research ourselves. We then spent weeks conducting interviews with committee members who were involved with the development and decision making of the building. We used the Advanced Media Production Studio to film these interviews, after completing a training session which allowed each of us to use the room without staff supervision. We interviewed eight people total; President Richard Hurley, John Morello, Jerry Slezak, Martha Burtis, Cartland Berge, Hall Cheshire, Rosemary Arneson, and Jeff McClurken. Each of these interviewees gave us a unique perspective on all that went into the planning and execution of the building. We also conducted a video walkthrough of the rooms in the building that showcase its technology, features, and resources.

Our website includes a list of the student resources that building has, including a short explanation and video. We also made a timeline on the construction of the building. The video interviews we conducted, including transcripts, additional archives we obtained, and a bibliography crediting all those involved in the completion of our project, are also found on our website.

Overall, I am very proud of our final project. The website looks better and is more organized than I could have imagined. My main role consisted of setting up interviews by emailing the list of interviewees, and booking time to use the Advanced Media Production Studio during the times we needed it. In order to coordinate all of this, I began emailing prospective interviewees at the beginning of the semester to be sure that we would have enough time to interview everyone. Having more of a business background, I helped my group decide what audience we should aim our project at. I also assisted my group in the planning, organization and design of the final website. To date, our site has had almost 700 views, the most in one day being 164. I would say this is just one sign of the success for our website. I am proud to have been involved in a project that has such important meaning for my school, as well as me personally. The construction of the HCC was completed halfway through my college career, and it has made a significant impact on my academic experience. I am honored to have helped present the history of a building that has so much meaning to me, fellow classmates, UMW faculty and staff, and members of the surrounding community.

A link to our website is found below:

Presentation Prep

Tomorrow is the big day for our websites. My group spent the last few days making sure everything was fixed before the big presentation. We originally thought the edits would take a lot of time fixing, but we ended up finishing most of them Tuesday evening.

I honestly believe that the presentation tomorrow will be a piece of cake for all of us. Everyone in class was  assigned to give a presentation just about every week, so that experience will definitely make the final presentation that much easier. It’s almost like Professor McClurken planned this from the start.

I wish everybody luck and I can’t wait to see the final versions of the other websites

Completion of Final Project

After weeks of planning, interviewing, and collecting information, we have finally completed our final website. My group members and I are very pleased with how it turned out. The project turned out better than I even envisioned it. Our website is user-friendly, organized, educational, and aesthetically-pleasing. The next step is making final edits Professor McClurken gave us. These include grammar edits and adding appropriate source information. After that, we will be ready to present our project at the History and American Studies Symposium this Friday. We will discuss the process of how we put together our project, including the proposal, the tour of the HCC, the interviews, the HCC walkthrough, and the final website.

Penultimate Progress Update

With the deadline for our project drawing near, I am happy to say that we are essentially done. The introductory video has been completed, as has the StoryMap, and the main body of the site, the uploaded and organized collection of Murray and Slaughter’s letters, has been complete for some time. We have made progress on preparing for the final presentation, and all in all, the only thing left is review remaining supplementary materials such as our bibliography that we’ve assembled for the project. Despite some delays in our originally intended deadlines, our project, ahead of the final deadline, is essentially complete.

Final Project Update

This will probably be the last project update for the Convergence Center website. The videos are up, the front page is ready, it works well on mobile, so we are just about finished with everything. I believe there are a few transcripts left, but that will be done before the due date next Tuesday. The walk-throughs are around thirty seconds and informs whomever visits the site about the service or room that they decide to look at on the website.

We weren’t able to get in touch with Jerry Slezak about doing a walkthrough for the IT Help desk, so we decided to go with just an image instead and have a small description of the service as a backup.

We were able to get all of the files stored on the ExploreHCC MEGA account, so everything is currently backed up and ready to give over to whomever is going to manage our website in the future.

Now that we are near the end, I have the say that the website has turned out really well. I can’t really find the words to describe how happy I am with it, but  I hope people are able to leave the site informed on the history and potential of the building.

Final Project Update

As our project deadline approaches, we are making final tweaks, editing written content, video content, and and graphic content. We are also finalizing the organization of the website. We really just have loose ends to tie up, and then we will be ready to submit the final website. Everything is coming together pretty seamlessly, and looking back, we spread out our work load for the project very effectively. We have our last class presentation on our project update, and by then everything should be finalized. Overall, our website has turned out to be intuitive, user friendly, and aesthetically pleasing.

This Week’s Reading Reflection

This week, we read articles about the impact of digital history  on historians and on the practice of history.

One of the articles called Blogging for Your Students, talks about all the benefits of blogging for a class. Blogs allow the author to make updates in the form of a log, and allows for interaction between the author and reader through commenting. Additionally, blogging is a great teaching tool. Because they are open to the public, no passwords are required. Since comments are made public, they tend to be more well-thought out because students know they will be seen. Professors can also post blogs to clarify difficult readings, and it forces students to think about topics before in-class discussions. The article compared making a blog to making an investment in the future. At the end of a semester, professors have organized reflections on all course material that they can use for future classes.

Another article, called Is (Digital) History More than an Argument about the Past?, by Sherman Dorn, analyzes what the relatively new issue of digital history, and how it impacts historians. Digital history poses many new questions for historians. Databases are now more sophisticated. One challenge that arises with publishing digital history is choosing how to display primary resources. Today, there is not so much of an issue of being able to display primary resources, but more so, how they want to display them. Later on in the article, it discusses the wide range of digital history projects that exist, as well as the range of tools available to present history. These tools range to present artifacts, events, teaching and learning, and argumentation. Digital history will require that historians work more in teams to document history. For example, tools will become outdated, so to make sites last for long-term, they constantly need to be updated and fixed.

Both of these articles bring up interesting and important points that historians need to consider when viewing and presenting history in today’s world.