Blog Post #2 – Creative Uses of Digital Tools and Commentary on Digital History Websites


1) Some creative uses of the tools we’ve learned about so far. [e.g., how might you use Zotero for something other than citation/research? What could a WordPress blog be used for other than personal reflection? What creative ways can you think of to use Omeka? How might you use these tools in combination with each other or with others you’ve used outside of class. [Be playful with your ideas here.]]

A good use for Zotero that I have found is that it is easy to share your research and your citations by exporting and importing them. I think this function could serve well on a project’s cite by including the download link of the citations you have accumulated during your research. Obviously, this feature would not replace a “Bibliography” or “Works Cited” page but it could contribute to a more interactive experience as well as allow visitors and other historians to easily access your citations if they use Zotero.

Besides personal reflection in a typical blog like manner, WordPress can be used as a form of an electronic portfolio or resume. It can be used as a single place in which an employer or school admission office can view the projects you have contributed to or writing samples you have written.

Omeka is still a very novel tool to me but I think it lends itself to a more interactive experience which contributes to projects that include more visual items or interactive maps or timelines.

These tools combined can cleanly and effectively layout a portfolio, complete with download links for your Zotero library or a timeline of a college career with works from each year in order to show the progress you have made throughout that timespan.


2) Based on your review of the Digital History websites above: Think about what you like about these websites as a whole, and what you don’t.  What works and what doesn’t?  What elements would you want to incorporate and which do you want to avoid in your own project?

Links to Example Websites I used

Valley of the Shadow:

Good Things: I like how the initial homepage gives a brief introduction of the whole website before you get into the meat of it all. Also, by clicking a link in order to “enter” the website, it gives the feeling of entering a museum or an exhibit which is a hard thing to capture with a website.

Bad Things: I do not at all like the layout of the navigation page. It is a cluttered web of links that is difficult to read and is hard to focus on what exactly you are clicking on and what you are going to get with each click.

Things I would Incorporate: I would definitely incorporate the home page and its role as a gateway to the website as a whole.

Gilded Age Murder:

Good Things: I really like the “Explore the City” feature and the “Interactive Map” that accompanied it. Being able to click on a building and getting a little bit of history about each one is really cool. The side bar next to the map does a good job of categorizing the buildings based on their function and highlights the corresponding building of buildings depending on what you clicked on.

Bad Things: I am not a big fan of the color scheme used. The brown is too in-your-face and the gold color for the font, although it contrasts well with the brown, is a bit too gimmicky in my opinion.

Things I would Incorporate: Although I would love to incorporate an interactive map of some sort, I am not sure my project caters too much to that and I do not think I have the time nor the technological prowess to accomplish something like this.

University of Houston’s Digital History Site (Omeka):

Good Things: I enjoyed the interactive timeline on the homepage and how the background images on the timeline corresponded to events that were prominent during the time periods that are presented. I also liked the presentation of the subsections below the map. It is spaced very well and lays out in a logical order topics or eras.

Bad Things: The layout of the timeline could be improved upon. Most notably, the font on the y-axis is hard to read because it crunches the font and forces the reader to tilt their head in order to read it.

Things I would Incorporate: I would incorporate the cleanliness of the subsection and its logical manner of laying out the topics and links.

Emile Davis Diaries (Omeka) – Really, really good:

Good Things: I really, really likes the overall layout of this site and I think it can serve as an excellent example for the diary project I am working on. The transcribed text directly next to an image of the actual diary page which can be clicked on and enlarged is perfect. At the top, the numbers are a clean way of showing the page numbers as well as the corresponding dates associated with each diary entry. The search function is also really good and is something that I toyed around with a little to test its functionality. The annotations that are scattered throughout the diary entries also give additional insight into names, dates, etc.

Bad Things: I would personally improve upon the “About this Site” section. The section is a too small for the necessary information for the rest of the site and the only way to expand it is to click the “Read More” link at the end of the paragraph. I think a menu heading detailing more what the project is about would be invaluable.

Things I would Incorporate: I will 100% incorporate the manner in which the transcribed diary entries accompany the actual diary entries and the “Annotations” function used to clarify and expand upon items presented in the entries.

Mapping the Republic of Letters (Omeka):

Good Things: I liked the graphic that accompanied scrolling over the various pictures or menu headings. It gives it a cool feeling and does a better job than just immediately giving whatever you are scrolling over a contrasting background.

Bad Things: This site has a lot wrong with it in my opinion. It takes way too long to load anything even on a top tier desktop. The large map on the homepage does not really serve a purpose. It was the first thing I clicked on when I got to the site. Not only did it stall up my computer for a second, but there is not function of it. The only thing clicking on it does is enlarge the picture but even after that, it is still difficult to read any of the details of the picture. In order to fully read it, you have to open it in another window in order to zoom in on it. This is not something the average computer user will know how to do. I also do not link the font used, both the color and the size. The light gray coupled with the small font makes it extremely difficult and strenuous to read.

Things I would Incorporate: I would like to incorporate the effect that came with scrolling over objects.