Archive for January, 2010

Picking and Choosing Useful Tools

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Sites like this are dangerous in that my group and I seem determined to incorporate every tool that we can into our images project. There are so many creative ones that it’s easy to dream up uses for many of them both for class and for everyday life. In reality though it would be quite the stretch to use a lot of the tools listed on eHub for our project. The Twitter tools, for example, are intriguing but probably not very practical for reaching out to older alumni who, if my grandmother’s attitude is any indication, might find using the internet itself to be enough of a challenge. I did notice one tool that might apply well to our project though. It’s called LinkWithin, and from what I gather it collects posts from across your blog and turns them into thumbnails that it then places and the end of related posts. Now a slight glitch is that it repeats the term blog, so if my group is as committed to using Omeka as I think we are, then this may not work. But if it or something similar does, I think it could be a way of helping people to navigate the site. If a viewer comes across a picture of Devil Goat Day 1942 maybe LinkWithin would pair it with Devil Goat Day 1965 and 1973. Of course, I’m not sure how exactly it works on matching posts, but in theory it would help people find pictures that they didn’t search for specifically but might like viewing. At the moment National Geographic is using the tool on their Intelligent Travel blog. (Though, now that I look closely, it seems that viewers reading an article about bus travel in Columbia are encouraged to check out an article on Swedish hip hop. I fail to see the connection.) Just something to mull over as we continue to map out our plans.

An Education in WordPress and Widgets

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Everyone threw a wide variety of tools at us over the past week or so, and now it’s up to us to decide the best way to utilize all of this technology in the best interest of our group projects. I had experimented with some of the tools before, but others were completely new. My group definitely ran with the idea of using Google Docs for collaboration, choosing to use it during class on Tuesday to collectively jot down our initial impressions throughout the rapid fire introduction of the technology. Now when we next meet as a group we can move beyond first impressions into what we think would be most valuable for our photos project. We’ve got a Google Calendar up and running as well, helping us keep track of meetings and potential alumni events. Obviously one of the tools that stuck out the most to our group was the NexGen slideshow feature that we could easily incorporate into UMW Blogs. After all, a blog need not be a constantly updated journal of sorts, but with the right content and layout can serve as a means of presenting our final project. What we haven’t discovered yet but hope to find is a possible widget/plugin that would allow alumni viewing the photos online to click and instantly contribute their knowledge about the pictures. Unfortunately, as far as I know, Google Analytics doesn’t track specific visitors to a site so we wouldn’t be able to find alumni that way, but I think we’ll all be intrigued to see how people navigate to the collection.

But just as everyone was excited about creating a slideshow using UMW Blogs and NexGen, Omeka got thrown into the mix. Omeka I think would be the more complicated option on our end, but the final result very well might be better. Omeka’s ability to present epic numbers of images is exactly what we’re going to need even after we manage to scale down the number of photos we’re dealing with. According to the Omeka Wikipedia entry, the Missouri School of Journalism uses Omeka to store their collection of 38,000 photos. If they can manage to organize and present that many pictures with Omeka, we shouldn’t complain too much about our couple of hundred 🙂

Whatever we decide to go ahead with, one thing is pretty obvious: the current UMW photo archive could use a bit of improvement. After poking through it for a while I understood the frustration caused by the different labels and categories for the pictures pretty well. We’ll need to figure out a standard labeling system, and then I think a tool that allows people to easily search for photos by putting in keywords would be ideal. And maybe we could incorporate an RSS feed of a current UMW news page, contrasting old pictures with contemporary goings-on on campus. Or we could include a delicious page with links to school news/alumni event related sites. People might be interested in seeing what a 21st century Devil-Goat Day looks like after seeing pictures of one from decades ago. Anyway, I’m sure there are many, many, more uses for these tools out there. Here’s to hoping we find the ones we need to help us create a good final product!

First, Introductions…

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

Hello fellow digital history adventurers, and welcome to my blog. My name is Mary Ann, and I am a junior History and International Affairs double major here at UMW. I’ve loved history, especially American history, since I was a little kid traipsing around the backyard in one of my grandmother’s old, long skirts pretending I was on the Oregon Trail, so I was lucky in that deciding to be a history major came very easily to me. I can’t imagine myself studying anything else. But I also have a longstanding love affair with travel, an interest further solidified during my semester abroad. I spent the Fall 2009 semester living and attending classes in Salzburg, Austria, and those three months were full of all kinds of moments, both eye-opening and just plain silly, that I’ll never forget. I’ve been back here in the States for a month now, but it’s still a bit surreal to be able to read a newspaper without a dictionary nearby or walk to class without the steady drone of church bells in the background.

At the prompting of my family and friends, I kept a blog to document and share my experiences in Europe while I was there. I ended up having a lot of fun with the project and really enjoyed tinkering with some of the technology involved, so when I saw that a digital history course was being offered this semester it seemed a good opportunity to become more fluent in the crazy language of technology and to learn how it can be applied to the study and presentation of history. There is so much going on out there that just isn’t covered in a normal lecture-based class. Plus, in the handful of resource materials that I read describing the class, Dr. McClurken seemed very enthusiastic about the course, which was intriguing. I’m looking forward to working with my group members to tackle our project centered on the collection of old photographs of the people and places of UMW. Multiple people have now told us that we’re pretty much entering unchartered territory with this assignment, which is rather scary, but I think that suits the nature of digital history and should make our work this semester all the more interesting.