Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I can see how my work with the Archives’ has helped. When I’m looking for something for class, or even on my own, I don’t limit myself to one type of document. Knowing that there may be a photo or artwork associated with a particular thing has allowed my research to be more dynamic. This stems from delving into the online database and seeing the wide range of items that comes from a simple one or two word search.
The thing I enjoyed the most was this search, and seeing the depth the Archives has in their collection. It was an exploration into things that I had little exposure to in the past. By contrast, some of the searches became tedious as I ran into roadblocks with my keywords. Having a large collection can be daunting if there is no specific thing I’m looking for. This will help me in the future, as I have more of an idea of how to navigate large collections.
Creating the content calendar reinforced the idea that there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes with any Digital Humanities work. My previous experience taught me that there is a great deal of work that needs to be done before anyone in the outside world sees anything. This proved to me that this applies in most aspects of DH work.
The work I have done for the Archives finished a few weeks ago, and I do feel that it has helped them. I have seen a few of my suggestions within the calendar I created posted to their social media, so I know that they are looking through it and generating ideas from my spreadsheet. My mentor said was pleased during our final video conference as well. The only real challenge I had was to pass along where I left off in creating the calendar. I was well beyond the materials they had at the beginning, so I had to gather all the various links and web searches I was pulling information from and write out where I had left off. All in all, I enjoyed the work and am sad to see it end.
My time at the Archives of American Art is nearing its end. I have continued to build their social media calendar using feedback from the work group at the Archive and additional sources I have found. Through this interaction with the work group, I have a better understanding of what types of posts are popular and helpful for the people. I have had more contact with people within the institution, so I feel that the work I have done can be beneficial for them in the long run.
Over the last few months I have worked on creating a detailed calendar for social media posts, where staff can find suggestions for specific items to post. The social media team at the archives have used a number of different calendars that had one specific purpose, such as a calendar of artist birthdays or a general calendar sent out by the Smithsonian Institution. My task is to use these as a basis for my own calendar, and adding anything the archive has already digitized and made available on their public website. While tedious at times, I am enjoying the search through the digital collections for the items. There is already so much online that I find myself looking at items that appear even if they are not related to what I am looking for.
I have worked with the Archives of American Art for a few months with their social media accounts, and my experience has been interesting. Since I do not have a background in art, my main challenge has been familiarizing myself with the institution and their collection. This was not particularly difficult because they have already digitized a large amount of their collection All I really needed to do was peruse their website and various social media accounts to get an idea of what they have and the types of posts they distribute.
One of the things that I have enjoyed is going through a series of oral history transcripts for quotes to create posts for social media. Most of the interviews discuss an artist or photographers’ life story, how they started in the art field, and some of the reasoning that went into the creation of their art. I am fascinated by some of the stories these artists tell. Some days I get so engrossed that I spend too much time with the one project.
Since all of my projects are done via the Web, I feel that I am connected to them even though my role is virtual. The only real concern I have is ensuring that I am completing everything in a timely manner. My mentor has had a Trello board set up with my tasks from the beginning, so keeping track of what to work on during a given period is completely on my end. Communication between the department and myself is quick and everyone is open for email, so I don’t have any issues there.
Watching others talk about the projects they have worked on showed me that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, but there are a couple similarities that exist among them all. The first is to be specific about what I want the project to do. Nate Sleeter described how he had one idea in mind for the content of his project, but as he did research he had to narrow it down in order for it to be manageable. Jeri Wieringa and Celeste Sharpe, however, wanted their project to teach students how to be better writers. They also had an issue with the scope of the project, both for the students’ understanding as well as their work as students completed the work. Both of these examples show that having the proper mindset about what the project is going to accomplish allows me as the developer to implement the best practices for success.
Another commonality I found was how much the students interact with the sources. A few of the projects seem to be in conjunction with an official course, which allows for more opportunities for dialogue than in an exhibit format. The issue I have in designing exhibits is that there are no assignments, so it is more difficult to gauge how effective the materials are in teaching the content. One of the things I can do is provide visitors with a mixture of types of sources (videos, photos, text) to showcase the different information that exist, and to ask questions about the material. As I design and develop my projects, I can find these types of sources early in the process, which I can then use to plan the scope of the overall content.
For my project I will be focusing on how video games utilize history, folklore, and pop culture within the games. There are a number of genres that lend themselves to this: from Sid Meier’s Civilization series to Call of Duty. My project will highlight some of the ways developers have used history as a means for entertainment. The project I built for the previous course was a brief history of video games in general, and I am debating whether to add a second exhibit within that site or creating a separate instance of Omeka to build this particular project.
Digital media has become such an ingrained part of American culture that historians are now able to utilize it in presenting the past. The prevalence of smart phones and mobile Internet access allow a large part of the population to get immediate answers to their questions. We as historians can play a significant role in how people are looking at the information they find. Teaching how to look at a particular piece of information from a historical perspective can allow people to judge how it plays a part in the story being told.
There is so much information at people’s fingertips through the Web, it becomes necessary to differentiate between historical context and complexities. Using media to compare how different time periods view a particular event. As an example, the American Civil War is one event that has had numerous films produced about it from the earliest use of the medium. A film produced in the mid 20th century is very different from one in the 21st century. Looking critically at the content and presentation in both films can provide insight into not only the Civil War, but also the time is was made.
The role of digital media within history can have a huge impact on how we teaching it. Not only can we find a large source base for research, but new tools allow these sources to coalesce into a coherent narrative of the topic. Educators can provide content in ways that text alone cannot, using visuals like film and photos alongside text to provide a clearer sense of the topic. With access to the Web being readily available, it is easier than ever to walk through how historians find and use sources in their work.
I found a blog post by fellow GMU student Trevor Owens from a few years back about the historical elements within the game Fallout 3. If you do not know what Fallout is, you can find more detailed information here. Owens does a good job of describing Fallout and how there is a way to ‘do’ history within the game’s mythology. I have come across several people talking about how history has seeped into games, and at this point I am considering including this aspect of gaming into my project. To be honest, I am currently having trouble finding specific examples for comparing board games and their electronic counterparts. I may simply have not found the right keywords to search, but since I have found sources such as this one I am considering changing my idea to include of them within the project.
While my project at this point focuses on comparing board games with electronic versions of those games, the games have crossed into other media as well. Below is a clip from the 1985 film Clue. The film is a comedy based on the game of the same name, and shows how the entertainment industry looks to things that are already familiar to the public. The same is true for the video game industry, which is filled with sequel, remastered editions, and games centering on characters from previous consoles.