Category Archives: Digital Public History

Reflections on Digital Public History

The process of building my Gaming site was a fun one. While I had little experience designing a public history project, I was able to pull in my personal experience as a hobby into the project. My main issue was with finding historical sources, as much of the academic writing has been about psychological or social issues of the people playing the games. One of the thing I like about Omeka is that I can use a wide range of media, and without that element my project would not be as strong. Gaming is based in the audio-visual world, and without seeing and hearing the game, visitors would have a harder time grasping the draw of them. I had experience using Omeka, but that instance was to use the exhibit as a teaching tool one-on-one rather than presenting information to the public. The modules of the course showed me the types of things I can include to help facilitate the discussion, particularly with oral history. If I decide to continue with the topic of gaming this will come in handy, as I can record people’s experience in their own words and then include them in the overall project.

One of the things with my project I am curious about is how the forum would be used. That is outside the scope of the course, but I am curious about what people would say and what sort of suggestions they would have for my exhibit.

Project Update

I’ve been drafting my text for the exhibits this past week. I’m almost ready to start importing the text into Omeka, as well as add the items that I have yet to upload into it that I was unsure if I would end up using. I have a session with people who work with Digital Humanities tonight, where I will ask about the forum software they have used. Once I decide on this, I can add it onto my server and post the initial discussion boards.

Mobile History Readings

The advent of smartphones and mobile internet allowed for the creation of projects that can be used in the physical spaces they inhabit. There are several aspects that have been created using this idea. Some, like PhillyHistory.org, allows users to see the past around them on their smartphone as they walk around the city. Some institutions have created companion applications for smartphones that visitors can use as they walk through established exhibits in a museum, as this exhibit has shown. This type of history has the potential to be groundbreaking, as seen with the Histories of the National Mall, where the information is sent in a way that does not require downloading an app beforehand. By running the project over Internet protocols, this type of project is not limited by changing smartphone capabilities.

 

Exploring with Digital History

I explored my home area of Manassas, VA on Historypin and the result were what I was expecting. The few pins that appeared were focused on the Civil War battlefield and the area around the downtown train station. My experience with Historypin was very simple, in that it showed a few old photographs and a few lines of text related to it. The battlefield photos were interesting in that it overlayed the older photo on top of a current image at the same spot. This allowed me to see how the area has changed since the original photo was taken. I got the sense that these photos on the battlefield were trying to show how the area looked in the past as people are currently walking through the area. There are not that many uploaded at the moment, maybe 5 or 6 images, so it did not take me long to go through all of them.

Oral History

The reading about oral history have shown that with current technology, it can have both positive and negative implications. The Web allows researchers to both post their interviews to a wider population as well as find more people to interview, which allows them to broaden the scope of their project. The major drawback is that this process can be very complex. Ensuring that visitors to these projects are able to view, hear, and use the information presented can be a major hurdle. Accessibility is another concern, because transcribing the interviews is a costly and time-consuming exercise.

The use of oral history has already helped my project, as I was able to find interviews related to an exhibit from the Smithsonian that I can add as a resource.

Local History

One of the things I noticed with local history sites was that funding was a major hurdle. Several articles mentioned that money came through grants one year that were not renewed, and the developers were left with a half finished project. I viewed these projects as more in line with teaching others about the specific location or group and to spread that knowledge to others. This type of site is much more intensive on the creation aspect of the project, with gathering artifacts and conducting research, etc., where it takes a wealth of time and money to complete.

Others local history projects utilized the communities they were researching to help gather materials that went into the project, and I feel this aspect can help my own. My project focuses on a particular group, and since I plan to include a forum component, I can easily include a topic where visitors can suggest ways to improve the exhibit portion of the site.

Reflection on Reading

One of the reading this module talked about whether to design an exhibit linearly or non-linearly. The key design aspect of my project is that there is a historical component and a discussion component. Because of this, this reading brought to my attention that I need to consider that visitors will see one side and not necessarily the other. One of the solutions is to mention the other part of the site at some point, whether it is in the about section, a pinned post, or somewhere similar. Once I have more of the site developed I can see which method works best.