Archive for February, 2010

The Alumni Group Meets Real Live Alumni

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Saturday morning the four of us in the Alumni Images group sat in on a meeting of the Alumni Board meeting that was not nearly as boring as it sounds. When the time finally rolled around for our mini presentation we showed the members of the board our Omeka site where we had thrown up a handful of photos to demonstrate what our site will look like when launched. Our presentation basically mirrored the one we gave in class last week, though we left out some of the technical tools involved and focused more on the site itself. Everyone seemed pretty excited about the idea, and Caryn was awesome and made business cards with the URL and launch date of our site that she passed around as reminders to them all to help us out after we get our site up and running. The board members had a few helpful suggestions, such as that we should take into consideration the fact that many alumni have different names for places and buildings on campus (i.e. Arrington Hall was New Hall way back when), so we’ve decided to include a glossary of sorts in our site to help visitors find and identify the places they are looking for. It was great to present to such a receptive audience, and it definitely built our enthusiasm for the project even further. We’ve got people counting on us to make something of this site. And we got a free lunch and some stories about life at UMW in the ’90s out of the deal, so not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Since the meeting we’ve all been pretty swamped with midterms and whatnot, but we divided up our two hundred images by decade and assigned group members to each decade, so we now know which groups of images we’ll each be responsible for uploading to the site and researching for further information. We also picked the four categories we’ll have as special, thematic exhibits on the site so that not everything is simply divided by decade. We worked out a pretty solid plan for the map and are now just waiting for the input of the geography students as to what they can and cannot do with our ideas. We hope to have all of the images uploaded after break and then we can start researching and working on additional items like our guestbook and a slideshow for the front page. Counting the days until our site’s launch!

Everyone Can Edit

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Any technological tool that gives UMW President Hample the nickname “The Rampage” for even a short amount of time has lots of interesting pros and cons. Watching the video about Wikipedia I was amazed to learn that, at least when that video was made, most of the work that goes in to maintaining the site is done by volunteers. I can’t even imagine the extensive amount of dedication involved in committing to monitor the flood of information that is Wikipedia. But I really admire their goal of giving everyone access to an encyclopedia, especially if they follow through on the portions of that goal that involve improving access to computers and internet for those throughout the world who don’t currently have the use of them. It’s very cool to be able to trust in the collective knowledge of society to build such a large and diverse resource.

At the same time, the sheer numbers of contributors and topics in Wikipedia bring a certain degree of chaos. Looking through the history of a couple of sites, including the entries for Ellis Island and the Oregon Trail, it wasn’t all that uncommon to find random phrases like “Mandy is the greatest person! Ever!” tossed into the entry. Fortunately, most got removed fairly quickly. Most of the changes though seemed to be fairly insubstantial. People move pictures around, change punctuation and occasionally add links to other sites. I had never really taken the time to look through the history pages on Wikipedia, so it was interesting to see that even the page for UMW itself has been edited many, many times over.

I found the discussion pages to be even more intriguing. The things that people debate were equal parts arbitrary and substantial. The Ellis Island site had a bit of a spat over when exactly the facility closed. A November 12th and a November 29th camp emerged, which seemed kind of odd to me. Something like a date for the closing of a major government facility should be fairly easy to access, but I guess this shows why teachers are always reminding us that even the most basic of knowledge might not be accurate in Wikipedia. The Oregon Trail page questioned the substantial inclusion of the Donner Party despite the fact that the Donners had been headed for California, not Oregon. I think it’s very important that people utilize the discussion site, because they do bring up valid arguments about the information in the site and can help to keep Wikipedia accurate and current. Some people used them to ask questions about the material, and several participants brought sources to the discourse, bringing weight to their points while also helping to provide Wikipedia with citations. Some are as odd as suggesting the inclusion of a song that happens to be called “Oregon Trail,” while others attempt to prove mathematically the number of victims of cannibalism within the Donner Party. Wikipedia has its flaws certainly, but I think that as a forum for academic exchange it certainly has its merits.

Snow and Selecting Images

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Despite the seemingly endless amounts of snow, my fellow Images group members and I accomplished a lot this weekend in that we sat down and picked out the final set of images we are going to be working with. All of the images are numbered, and so we divided the pictures among us and agreed to pick fifty each from our assigned group. It was a bit of a challenge searching for the pictures that I thought would be both the most interesting viewing and contained easily recognizable people or places. Our final choices are currently compiled in a Google Doc, and they represent a wide variety of dates and events from throughout the school’s history. Hopefully we can find alumni willing and able to help us to identify the people and places within them. My group also ironed out our contract and turned that Doc in for review. As it turns out we still have quite a bit of thinking to do before we have our project fully visualized, but we’re on the right path at least. Some things we need to consider: how often we want to pester alumni for information, whether our site is meant to stand alone or complement the current archive system, and how exactly we’re going to categorize and arrange the images within our site. Hopefully we’ll have some time in class tomorrow to discuss our ideas for these issues.

PS- Has anyone figured out this new Google Buzz thing?

Making Progress

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

We finally got our Advanced Omeka lesson this week, and rather than scare us I think it only further convinced our Images group that Omeka is the best route for our project. Because we’re working with so many photos, we’ve agreed that 50 per person should be workable, we’re going to have to be exceptionally thorough in planning out our site before we start building it. Hopefully an Omeka test site will let us play around with different ways to present and organize the pictures. But we’re excited about all of the possibilities for creating different collections and exhibits as well as the plugins that will let us add annotations to the images and enable alumni to contribute information about each picture. Should definitely work out.

We’ve been working on getting our contract finalized as well, and I think we have the parts in place, they just need to be polished a bit. After that is finished, our next steps will be to begin reaching out to alumni as well as narrowing down our pool of 200 photos from the 750 we have to choose from. We’ve all been looking through the archive (when it’s working) and making note of our favorite photos and potential categories for organizing them. Jonathan and I met with Mrs. Parsons at the library last week for an overview of how the archive process works from the library end. She showed us how to navigate the site and how to download the images, something that will save us lots of time because we can use the photos without having to rescan all of them. She gave us a list of photos she thinks have sufficient information as well as ones she thinks would benefit from our contact with alumni. She’s hoping that our project collects quite a bit of information and can then maybe be expanded because she has about 1,000 more images waiting to be put into the archive, some well documented others not. She also gave us a list of data that the library tries to collect for every photo and instructions as to how to label the photos (i.e. whether we use graduation or commencement for that diploma awarding ceremony held every spring) so we can maintain consistency in our work.

Basically, we’ve laid a lot of the foundations for our project, and now it’s time to compile all of the pieces and all of the help from our different resource people and get to work actually creating.