Friday, January 29, 2016

Keeping Things Interesting (Internship Week 3)

This week for my internship, I continued to get acquainted with the wonderful world of metadata! I spent one workday on campus at UCF, inputting metadata into the computer. Then, I spent the next day working onsite at First Baptist Winter Park doing the same thing. The day I worked on campus, inputting metadata was relatively uneventful. Working onsite at the church, however, I got to work with some great people and discover some fun stories in the scrapbooks I was working on.

First, the people! When I was at the church, I got to work with Betty Sample, Shirley, and Rebecca. Shirley is a sweet lady who used to work at the Public History Center. She’s always got a smile, a good story, and a positive attitude. Then, there’s Rebecca! Rebecca is a UCF Lead Scholar who received an assistantship through the Lead Scholars program to work for Ms. Sample and this church archival project. Rebecca is a senior at UCF and is applying for graduate school in both public history and public health programs. Rebecca’s really sweet and great to work with. Thursdays are fun days as I get to work with this great group of ladies.

Then, there’s the scrapbooks! There were several things this week that were fun to read. First, as I was transcribing an article from a newspaper, I noticed there were articles and advertisements on the back of the article I was transcribing. When I flipped the article over, I found an article titled “Russian-U.S. Teams may vie at Winter Park.” As I read this article, I discovered that Winter Park was going to be hosting a Junior Olympics event for track and field athletes. I thoughts this was a fascinating article, given that this article was published during the middle of the Cold War, in 1979. Here’s a picture of the article:

In addition to the article about the Russian-U.S. teams, a second article caught my attention. Just a few days ago, a friend of mine’s uncle went missing. So, when I saw an article titled “Reward for Information,” it caught my attention. Reading the article, I learned that two young men from First Baptist Winter Park were missing. The article then encouraged church members to donate to a reward fund to help in the search for the missing youth. The article also stipulated that if the boys were not found alive, the reward money would be used as a memorial fund. Here's a picture of the advertisement in the scrapbook:

Knowing that this article was over 30 years old, I figured that I could search the internet to see if the boys had been found. Sure enough, I found a digitized copy of the Daytona Tribune, which explained that both boys were found alive and well in California. In fact, the article explained that the boys had staged their whole disappearance, hoping that their stunt would “draw everyone closer to Christ.” How crazy is that?! Here’s a picture of the digitized article:

         Discovering all of this was pretty cool. Not only did I not expect to find an advertisement for missing persons in the church scrapbooks, but I certainly didn’t expect to find that the boys had been found, let alone discover that the boys had staged the entire stunt. Reading this story, and others like it, keeps metadata interesting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Debates in the Digital Humanties (Digital History Week 2)

In this week’s digital history class, we continued to explore the field of digital humanities.  As a class, we looked at an online publication, Debates in the Digital Humanities. To provide better insight into the field of digital humanities, highlighted below are the salient points of the parts of the book I explored.

Part I: Defining the Digital Humanities

Reading Part I felt like a continuation of last week’s class discussion. Part I discussed a variety of concepts all centered around defining the digital humanities. Personally, I liked Kirschenbaum’s comments on digital humanities as he explained that, “At its core, then, digital humanities is more akin to a common methodological outlook than an investment in any one specific set of texts or even technologies.” I also appreciate Michael Kirschenbaum’s description of digital humanities as being a “social undertaking,” a “collaborative” effort of scholarship.
            In addition to Kirschenbaum’s comments, I found myself in strong agreement with Lisa Spiro’s thoughts on digital humanities. Considering the debates in the digital humanities, Spiro suggests that providing a core set of values for the digital humanities will help frame debates and “provide grounds for conversation.” Spiro explains that as most companies have core values to guide and direct their organizations, digital humanities as a discipline would benefit from the direction provided by a core set of values. Specifically, Spiro suggests promoting the core values of openness, collaboration, collegiality and connectedness, diversity, and experimentation within digital humanities. Of the different values suggested, I was most impressed with Spiro’s discussion of openness. Describing her support for openness, Spiro writes, “Rather than cheapening knowledge by making it free, embracing openness recognizes the importance of the humanities to society.” I appreciated Spiro’s concept of openness given that it was strikingly different from they ways in which I have heard openness discussed before.

Part III: Critiquing the Digital Humanities

            Before reading this section, I was not aware of any critiques of digital humanities. Reading Part III, however, I discovered that some scholars believe that digital humanities falls short in dealing with issues of race, gender, disability, and more.  Out of all the critiques of digital humanities, the issue of disability interested me the most. In his essay, George Williams writes that the digital humanities tends to neglect people with disabilities, specifically people who are blind, deaf, hard of hearing, color blind, etc. When I first read the title of the essay, Disability, Universal Design, and the Digital Humanities, I was confused - in my mind, how could a blind person engage with the visual technology on a computer? Yet, after reading Williams’ essay, I realized my ignorance.
In the beginning of his essay, Williams’ describes the different ways that individuals with disabilities engage with technology involving computers. After that, Williams suggests that the digital humanities needs to adopt universal design principles (designing products for everyone) instead of accessibility design principles (designing products for disabled individuals). As an example, Williams writes about garage door openers: an item made with a universal design that is “useful to people both with and without disabilities.” I thought this idea was really cool. Applying this concept to digital humanities, Williams explains that embracing universal design principles will not only help digital humanities attain funding (by meeting certain legal requirements), but it will also prove to be more efficient as it eliminates the need to create a separate technology for individuals with disabilities.
            If you are skeptical of the benefits of universal design, let me convince you of its importance! As a graduate student, I have a ton of reading. So, I was thrilled when I discovered that my iPhone could help me with my homework. Under settings - general - accessibility - speech, my iPhone has a “speak screen” setting. I keep this setting turned on. While I imagine this setting is primarily used by people with poor eyesight, I benefit from this setting even though I have 20/20 vision. Every time I get in my car, I open my kindle app, swipe two fingers from the top of the screen to the bottom of the screen, and my phone begins to read my books to me out loud. It is pretty cool. In fact, I even had my phone read Williams’ essay on disability out loud. Given that my iPhone was made with universal design principles, the speech to text setting allows both individuals with reading disabilities and individuals like myself to enjoy it on the same device.  So, just as a variety of people can benefit from this one technology, I believe that a variety of people could benefit from technology in the digital humanities if the field embraces universal design principles.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Moving Quickly (Internship Week 2)

Have you ever done archival history? No? Me neither – until this internship. And let me tell you, there is a lot more to archival history than I ever imagined! Archival history is definitely an established field with specific protocols…. And this week I got hands on experience learning those specific protocols.
Last week I started my internship with Winter Park First Baptist Church. (If you missed that blog post, you can read it here.) Beginning my internship in archival history, I spent all of last week and the first half of this week going through my church scrapbook and cataloguing all of the items. As I went through and catalogued my scrapbook, I was surprised that I did not find any paperclips or staples that needed to be removed. I was also surprised to discover that my scrapbook did not contain any letters or envelopes that contained extra material in it. Perhaps because my scrapbook was mostly newsletter clippings and photographs, I was able to finish cataloguing my scrapbook much faster than I anticipated.
After I finished cataloguing my scrapbook, I moved on to the next stage in the process of archival history: entering metadata. Until graduate school, I had never really heard of the term metadata. Beginning graduate school, I heard the word metadata here and there. Then, this week in my internship, I learned exactly what metadata was. So what is metadata? Well, when doing projects, especially digital projects, it is necessary to catalogue all of the information about an item into a spreadsheet. All of the information that gets put into the spreadsheet is known as the item’s metadata.
To catalogue the metadata for my scrapbook, I needed a specific excel sheet designed for this project. My director, Betty Sample, gave me access to the spreadsheet I needed. She explained to me that the spreadsheet was based off of a metadata template used by RICHES. The template contained the following categories:
·      Image Number
·      Image Title
·      Historical Background
·      When Created
·      Location Described by Item
·      Address Described by Item
·      Creator/Author/Photographer
·      Original Format (print, negative, etc)
·      Dimensions
·      Collection
·      Collection Location
·      Copyright Ownership
·      Transcript of Text written on item, photo, or mount
·      Key Words

Considering that the scrapbooks we are researching often have connections to people today, Ms. Sample felt that there needed to be an additional category added to the metadata template, “Third Party Information.” Additionally, since there are many people working on this project, Ms. Sample decided to add another category to the template, “By.” Adding these two categories would give us opportunities to 1) input information about the scrapbooks that was not necessarily found in the scrapbooks and 2)  give credit to the individual working on the scrapbook.
Learning about the categories on the metadata was interesting. While I expected certain categories to be on the metadata sheet, there were other categories I would never have thought about. For example, I would never have thought to put a dimensions category on the spreadsheet. But, after seeing all of the different dimensions of the items in the scrapbook, I realized that having a category like dimensions will be incredibly beneficial later in the project when we begin scanning the individual items in the scrapbook.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Digital History: Week 1

For the first week’s assignment, the class jumped right into learning about the broader concept of digital humanities through the reading of Digital_Humanities by Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Peter Lunenfeld, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp. In the preface, the authors explain that Digital_Humanities purposes to ask “what it means to be a human being in the networked information age and to participate in fluid communities of practice, asking and answering research questions that cannot be reduced to a single genre, medium, discipline, or institution” (DH, vii). The authors then explain that there are individuals who believe that the humanities are experiencing a “crisis,” sacrificing quality for quantity (DH, vii). Acknowledging this, the authors reveal their “counterargument” that favors a “convergence between quality and quantity” (DH, vii). The authors argue that the humanities are not in a crisis, but rather, the humanities are experiencing a shift in human activity and that the humanities are vital to shaping this shift and change in culture (DH, vii). To support their thesis, the authors look at the transition from humanities to digital humanities, the emerging methods and genres that use and digital tools, the social life of the digital humanities, and the provocations in the future of digital humanities. As examples of the methods and theories of digital humanities, the authors provide several different case studies.
Considering the case studies, one in particular stood out to me: Case Study 4, Virtual Reconstruction of an Afghan Refugee Camp as a Site for Cultural Memory. In this case study, the project purposed to recreate a virtual model of an Afghan refugee camp that existed after the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Having a bachelor’s degree in political science and pursuing my MA in history, this case study fascinated me. First, I was intrigued with the individuals chosen for the collaboration of this project – professors specializing in politics, architectural history, and performance studies (DH, 68). While I would have likely chosen professors in politics and history, I would not have thought to include a professor of performance studies; however, I now see how a professor of performance studies is absolutely necessary.
Yet, perhaps what fascinated me most about this project was some of the ethical concerns in recreating a virtual refugee camp. As the authors explain, it is difficult to attain active participation from the community without trivializing the trauma they personally experienced at the camp (DH, 68). I can imagine how members of the community could see their traumatic experiences objectified and made impersonal through what they might view as simply a video game. In reading about the methods and work plan of the case study, I was fascinated with how closely this project resembled what I imagine to be the development of a video game.
Having read through the book, considered the book’s thesis, and analyzed a particular case study, my eyes were opened to the larger implications for historians, educators, and humanists working in the digital age. While there were many implications that struck me, several stood out. First, I was most intrigued with the concepts of authorship and intellectual property. The book explains that in the digital age, the question is “no longer what is an author…but what is the author function” in the many different aspects of digital design and composition (DH, 83).  This also raises concerns regarding intellectual property – as open source material has been significantly spread in the digital age, “…if code – or any cultural product - is produced by a distributed network of sometimes unknown creators, how is it to be regulated? …who owns it?” (DH, 78). The concepts of authorship and intellectual property are intriguing. In print material, it is relatively easy to cite books and articles, giving credit where credit is due. Considering digital projects, how does a person know the proper way to cite the project? For example, considering the refugee project, as a history student, I would see the history professor’s work as most important to the project and probably not consider the individuals who contributed to the technical side of the project. Yet, if the project is a collaborative effort, does not the professor of performance studies deserve as much credit as the professor of history? While authorship and intellectual property are just two examples of the larger implications for educators working in the digital age, Digital_Humanities is full of thought provoking ideas about the opportunities and challenges that educators, humanists, and historians face in this digital age of the twenty-first century.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Here we go! (Internship Week 1)

Hello everyone! My name is Mary Beth Bensey. I am in my second semester of graduate school in the MA in History program at the University of Central Florida. My research interests center around religious history – specifically Protestantism in early colonial America.  So, when the director of Public History at UCF, Dr. Scot French, told me that there was an internship available working with church history, I was thrilled! After receiving more information about the internship, I learned that the internship involved working with Betty Sample and other volunteers in a church archival project for First Baptist Winter Park. While I was interested in the internship simply because it worked with church history, I was incredibly excited to learn that I’d have the opportunity to work at First Baptist Winter Park.
I was excited about working with First Baptist Winter Park given that it is a church I’m familiar with. During my freshman year of college, I had a wonderful time helping out the youth group, known as “the 407.” I’ve also had several close friends work at the church. Considering my previous experiences, being offered a internship in archival history at a church that I’m familiar with seemed too good to be true.
Going into this internship, I am excited to learn all that I can. Given that I’ve never been in an archive, I hope to learn a lot about archiving and preservation. I hope to learn the process and techniques for preserving historical items. I also hope to learn about digitizing archives, as Betty Sample wants all of the archival items digitized after they have been catalogued.
When the first day of my internship came around, I got to dive right into learning and practicing church archival history! For the first part of my internship, I learned about the archival project. Giving you a brief overview, First Baptist Winter Park is 103 years old. The church has a collection of scrapbooks documenting the church history. Unfortunately, the scrapbooks contain photographs, bulletin clippings, letters, and more in scrapbooks that contain acidic paper. As a result, the historical items are in danger of deteriorating due to the acidity of the paper. Additionally, some of the items contain paper clips and staples that cause additional deterioration to the items. For the archival project, our first job is to catalogue all of the scrapbooks and each item in the scrapbook. For example, I’ve been assigned the 1978-1979 scrapbook. My job is to label each page in ascending order. The labeling system I am using is: WPFB.SB.1978-1979.01.000.000. This label stands for Winter Park First Baptist, Scrapbook, the year of the scrapbook, the page number, the item on the page number, the number of the item on the page. As I go through the scrapbook and label the pages and items, it is my responsibility to remove any staples and paperclips along the way. As an archivist, I wear cotton gloves so that I do not damage any of the items. For the first two weeks or so, I will spend my time labeling my scrapbook. Once the scrapbook is labeled, I will begin documenting the scrapbook’s metadata. Be sure to stay tuned to my blog and follow my journey in learning archival history!