Coding exercise

I’d like to introduce my students to coding–not because I’ll expect them to build something from scratch (unless they want to) but basically to demystify how pages are constructed and structured. I could imagine an activity in which they go through the CSS and HTML lesson on Codeacademy as a weekend assignment. During the next class period we would then discuss their experience; perhaps we could also have a web services staff member on hand and then, using Firebug, look at the coding of digital history sites (again to explain and demystify).



Text mining

There will be no sizable body of digitized material for the project that I’m thinking about, so not sure at first blush if text mining will come in. I found myself generally less drawn to the web services and software we learned about yesterday, probably because my work has yet to include a large, digitized corpus that could undergo analysis of that kind. Looking forward to continuing to explore those tools, though, and learning more about the ways other scholars have used them!

Non-textual sources

Our tour of tools and conversation about sound on Thursday inspired me to think especially about course curriculum and ways that I could build assignments around digital projects. I teach an oral history course every year and Audacity or GarageBand would be great for a podcast assignment. I like that that kind of exercise would allow students to learn the tool and also think about interpretation/presentation of the oral history that doesn’t rely on its textual complement, the transcript.

I’m thinking more about using Scalar and Omeka for my own work. I’ve used Omeka for classes and know that it rocks in that way, but I’ve never thought about how I might use it to present a digital portfolio (or does it even make sense for that?) and/or to organize or present my own research (well, I use Zotero). Scalar is especially interesting based on the range of relationships it can visualize in a given body of work. There aren’t any immediate projects in my docket that would be great for Scalar but I’m most definitely going to continue to explore.

Source: Non-textual sources

In the Valley

I came to the institute with two projects to suss out.  One is more immediate (it will be the focus of a 2015 public history course), and so will take more of my brain space during the two-week institute.  The focus of the project will be the Corra Harris homeplace and farm in Bartow County, Georgia.  The property, called “In the Valley,” belongs to Kennesaw State University and is under management of the Department of Museums, Archives, and Rare Books.

Harris was an active writer from the late nineteenth century until her death in 1935.  Her most famous work, A Circuit Rider’s Wife, was published in 1910, but she wrote twenty other book-length titles as well as numerous essays and newspaper columns.  Though her subject matter was fairly diverse over the course of her career,  she is remembered today for her reactionary conservatism–the kind that led her to defend lynching as a protection of southern white womanhood in an 1899 newspaper article (that, incidentally, launched her career).

A donor offered the property to the university in 2008.  KSU’s subsequent acceptance of the fifty-six acre site was met with anger by some faculty members and students, who called it an insensitive “bloody land acquisition” because of the brutality and racism that underlined Harris’ views.  This tension was never really resolved, despite (or because of) several “open forums” and dialogues hosted by administration to air grievances.  The property became the center of controversy again just this year when KSU’s Zuckerman Museum of Art, which opened in March, commissioned a work by sculptor Ruth Stanford that considered the property’s layered past and the legacy of Corra Harris.  Just before the museum’s opening night, the piece was censored by the KSU president–an act that was met with widespread condemnation, causing the president to reinstate Stanford’s piece several weeks after the opening.

All this is to say that the property is waiting (begging?) for the attention of public historians.  The original plan was to create an interpretive site on the physical property, but, as might be imagined, we’ve not had the support to see the plan through.  The alternative will be to create a web-based site that offers interpretation and some kind of spatial analysis of the property, which has a history of human interaction that predates Harris’ tenure by hundreds of years.  There’s a clear need to build a site that can raise questions and that can potentially be a repository for public reaction; a site that will consider both the history and the charged public memory of the property.

The second project (I hope) will be some kind of collaboration with organizations and community members in Clarkston, Georgia, a small town inside the perimeter of metro Atlanta that became a refugee resettlement site in the early 1980s.  The community is now home to settlers from over fifty countries and has resulted in a profound remapping of the area.  I see this as a more long-term project; though I’ve done work with Clarkston-based organizations during the past year, these relationships need more time to grow.  I could absolutely imagine a project that involves mapping, oral histories, and community-based interpretation of the changing fabric of the small town.  The next two weeks, I think, will give substance to these ideas!

Source: In the Valley