Final Reflection and Contract Defense

Well, this is the end for me. Not only in this class but also at Mary Washington. It has been an interesting four years here and something I wouldn’t trade for the world. By and large, this class has been one of the most beneficial learning experiences at this school. Not only did I apply my skill of critically analyzing historical documents, but I also learned the importance of actively participating in the documents themselves. Reading through the diaries and analyzing them is one thing. But doing both of those things knowing that I am constructing a site for others to use is an almost sublime experience. Knowing that I contributed something useful that can be applied in other people’s research is rewarding.

I was also able to apply the skill of time management to this process. This is something that not only made my tenure at Mary Washington helpful, but also one that I can take with me out into the “real” world and claim confidently that I have worked diligently to first acquire and second hone. Between the hours spent scanning, uploading, and transcribing, all while knowing that there was a deadline as well as other people depending on me to do my role, time management became essential to the success of this project. I think my group, more than any other group, relied the most on time management. The sheer volume of material that we had to scan, upload, transcribe, and edit all while working out the many kinks with Omeka, reflects this challenge of managing our time effectively.

Although incredibly massive amount of things we had to do helped us hone our time management skills, I think it also hurt us. Towards the beginning of the semester when we were working on our contracts, I think my group kind of under estimated the challenge we were tasked with and as a result, the dates we put down did not always match with the dates we actually had the task finished by. Between other classes, graduation, job applications, and everything else in college, it was difficult for me, and I think my group as well, to finish by the dates we set forth. However, this was not due to us being lazy or procrastinating. I think we accomplished the goals we set out on the contract. We wanted to digitize a collection of diaries, with transcriptions, and include a page turning plugin with the goal of other historians or casual visitors to use and explore. And I think my group accomplished these goals. To be fair, we did have some hiccups along the way which did lead to some frustrations. But I know we all took those hiccups in stride and did not dwell on the frustrations but instead used them as learning experiences moving forward. The problems we faced with Omeka were handled wonderfully by Callie as she did not hesitate to ask for guidance. The same could be said about Mike when he was tasked with finding information about Steven Gordon. He maintained an effective line of communication with Luisa who supplied him with the necessary information. James kept his cool throughout the entire process. He was kind of the jack-of-all-trades of the group. He did the scanning, some research, made the timeline, and helped to outline our final presentation. He was essential to the success of the group. As for myself, I would like to think that I was helpful to the group. I worked on the transcription and finished it in time; put all the files on my hard drive and sent them off to Louisa; and stayed up really late the night before it was due making sure that everything was uploaded and formatted correctly (my hands still ache from all the alt-tabbing).

All in all, this semester and this project has been both a learning experience as well as an opportunity for me to apply my historical skills in a new way. It was more than just researching and then writing a final paper. It was an active participation with the historical process, creating a product that can be used by others. It was definitely one of the most rewarding classes I’ve taken at this school.