The Great Finale

I have found this course to be very useful as a student and as a historian.

As a student, I have expanded the possibilities for research. I was able to learn about resources that I was not previously aware of. I learned how to more effectively use the archives (it helps if you know the archivist!). I also learned to broaden my concepts of how to present the information I have gathered. Throughout university, I have been required to write essays, complete with proper footnoting and bibliography. The final project pushed me out of my comfort zone in terms of displaying my information. I did find this format to be frustrating and quite foreign at the start of the project and I was not sure how to proceed. However, as I continued to work, I found creating a website from my information became easier. Once I was able to remove the mindset of creating a twelve page essay in Chicago formatting, I found the project quite enjoyable.

The ability to present information using methods other than an essay is also very important for further career options. Essays are an important format to understand, especially if you are looking into the academic field of history, submitting journal entries and papers. However, many people are not interested in this pathway, myself included. I would prefer to devote my time and effort into a more general public history. While articles and essays could be read by the general public, most are not. As some of the others in the class experienced, having a big block of text can be overwhelming. Being able to use digital tools to understand the information and then present it to the public is a very important skill to obtain. Even just being required to keep a blog has helped to expand my knowledge of the possible digital tools.

The final project encouraged me to further push past my digital knowledge. Prior to this course, I had minimal and very basic HTML training (from about seven years ago). I could confidently operate Microsoft Word and Google Chrome, for the most part. My final project required me to become more technologically inclined. I learned how to create and design a website to be appealing to visitors. I also had the opportunity to explore SketchUp, which is still relatively advanced for my skill set. I also learned about accessibility issues in regards to researching. As a museum employee, I have access to all of our documents. As a researcher, however, I have the same access as the general public does which can be reduced at times. Copyright issues also helped to determine which images I used on my site.

Overall, this course has helped me develop useful skills that I can apply outside of this course. I hope to use the knowledge I have gained to benefit future careers in public history. My project has proved to be a continuous work in progress, just as many research projects are. I am hoping to continue to update and improve my website and have it become a part of the Museum’s list of exhibits.

The link to my online exhibit for the House of Industry is: http://torihadfield.wix.com/lifeasweknowit

Thank you.

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Using Digital Humanities to Make a Change: Aly’s Final Project

Aly’s project is a website designed to promote and educate the public about her “Growing a Change” concept. This program is designed to encourage better nutrition on Aboriginal reserves and was developed in a previous class. Since her proposal, little has changed, aside from the addition of information and more formatting. She said it is based on the Right to Play website which features lots of information but is accessible to all visitors.

I think her project is going very well. While it has not changed much since her initial proposal, I think it is well thought out and displayed. I do like the level of user interaction that is encouraged with her site. The design she has chosen also makes it appear very user-friendly while not making it too juvenile. The appearance would be appropriate for both civilians wanting to learn more about the cause as well as researchers or academics looking into the issue. The research she has personally conducted also increases the level of credibility her website will have.

She had mentioned that she was still struggling with how to present the information on the Solutions page. At this point in time, it is just big blocks of text which is rather overwhelming as she has an incredible amount of information. This is very useful for increasing the credibility of the website as well as encouraging her visitors to understand that it is an achievable goal. She had suggested using a “family tree building” app to display this information which I think would be a good idea. This way the user has an interactive method of learning the information in a more organized and linear way. I was just searching the different apps available for Wix but could not find anything that would be more suitable for that situation.

I can also sympathize with Aly and her difficulties with SketchUp. It is a very complex program that I struggled with as well. I have googled the possibility to download pre-made SketchUp files as I know that made my project possible. I have found a few different greenhouse files available for download. There are a few that seem similar to what she was hoping to have hers look like. Here is the link

https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/search.html?q=greenhouse&rsi=sbis&backendClass=entity

She was also having issues with her FaQ area as the app she was using only allows one set of information to be entered. My suggestion would be to have a separate page for these questions with a comments box or “Ask Me” box at the bottom. She could have a link to the page and this would help keep the page she currently has it on short and manageable for the visitor. This would also mean that she could continuously expand on the FaQ’s without the possible constraints of an app.

Overall, I think Aly’s project is very well done. It is very visually appealing and stimulating. She is helping bring an important issue to light.

The Struggles of Research

As I have been conducting my research, I have run into a few issues. Because I am a museum employee, I do have access to some resources that the public is not. However when I go to the archives to research, I am a researcher and not an employee. I have had to recognize the fact that there are some sources that I can not have access to for various reasons. I had been hoping to have a filled-out form of admittance for the House of Industry to have on my website. Due to privacy issues though, the names are blacked out on any forms. I had wanted to provide the visitor with a very personal account of being admitted to the House. After reading transcripts of interviews with people associated with the House, I understand why there are no longer names on forms. All interviewees agreed that being admitted to the “Poor House” had enormous stigma attached to it. It was embarrassing for a family to have to have one of their members sent to the Poor House. Removing their name from records can help reduce the connection between some families that might be sensitive to the issue.

I also realized that as a researcher, I can’t get digitized versions of things easily. I had wanted to put clips of the interviews up on the website. They aren’t digitized yet, which meant I can’t offer them on my site. The archivist, Karen Wagner, suggested to personally record the interviews which is what I am planning on doing. I also ran into an issue with getting a digitized version of an actual Form of Commitment. While digitization is easier for this form, I was going to have to pay a fee. I did not want to have to pay the fee and so had to make a recreation of it for the website. I used photoshop to create a visual for my visitors that resembles an old piece of paper. I am also have credited the actual artifact, providing all the information about its location and how to look at the original. This way the visitors can have an idea of what it looks like as well as know where to find the original.

The research for this project has been difficult but very enjoyable. I love learning about the House of Industry and this project gives me a good excuse to learn more.

It’s a Process!

I have been working this week on developing my SketchUp animations. They are very tedious but I have started to become more comfortable with the program. I struggled with deciding how I wanted to have the videos displayed on my website. Originally, I had wanted to have an interactive image of the floor in which visitors could click on the section and it would bring them to the video of that room. Due to my limited knowledge of what Wix allows the creator to do, I had to abandon that idea based on my time constrictions. Instead, I chose to create buttons on each room that the user can click on to view the video. I have had to make pages for each video but am happier with this option. I also found that having one video of the entire floor was too big for my computer to productively handle and it was also too much work for me to do. Instead, I have decided to create shorter videos, averaging about twenty seconds, that explore only one room. This is much more manageable for me. It also results in shorter videos, which would be better for the viewer.

At this point in time, I am having to devote more time to the development of these videos than I had originally intended. This has just meant that I have had to re-evaluate what I will be putting on my website. I have realized that I will be developing this website for class first. With the time constraints of this project, I have realized that I have been trying to obtain too much. While I want to have a final product that I could pitch to the museum director at the same point I submit it for this class, I am also realizing that if I can alter or add things after I have submitted it for grading if I need to.

This process has helped me appreciate the process of creating an exhibit more. As I am contemplating a career in the museum field, this project has really helped me to develop these skills more. I have also been able to understand website creation more, which has helped with my personal website.

History can be Fun and Games: Phoebe’s Final Project

Phoebe’s final project is designed to provide an interesting and fun way for the public to understand selected cases from the Old Bailey database. Her plan is to create a flash game similar to the one available on the McCord Museum’s website. The game will be based on user-made choices but despite the historical accuracy of their decisions, the user will still be learning about the case or the historical context surrounding the case. She chose a game because of the popularization of digital methods being used to assist learning, especially among younger audiences. She is also intending on using Wix.com to create a website for the game that will provide the user with further reading options and a map of the locations described in and associated with the trial. She chose Wix because of its nature of being very user-friendly which allows more time for her game development.

I think this project sounds like a fun and interesting way to portray this kind of information. Appealing to an audience with a wide range of ages is often a very difficult task, especially in the area of history. Trials can especially be difficult to communicate to younger audiences because of their subject matter, diction, and format. Often historical trials are only recorded by transcript which requires a significant amount of reading. Developing an interactive game could allow these historic trials to become easier to comprehend for all audiences. The interactive nature of the game would allow the user to feel more personally connected to the information, which helps the individual to retain and understand the information.

Phoebe mentioned the difficulty of obtaining images for the game due to copyright issues. She had also mentioned the possibility of creating drawings for the images in the game. My suggestion (as a non-artistically inclined person) would be to see about finding stock images to use, at least for the courtroom. It would save time that could be contributed to creating the game and it is one less thing to worry about. I have found a few sites that appear to have a decent selection of courtroom images. For convenience, here are links to the search for “courtroom”

http://www.shutterstock.com/s/courtroom/search.html

                http://www.stockfreeimages.com/p1/courtroom.html

                http://www.istockphoto.com/photos/courtroom#1669da1e

This could also allow her to choose multiple images of court rooms if variation was required or if the case took place in multiple rooms. There is also an interesting powerpoint about copyright laws and the public domain from the University of Manitoba here:  http://umanitoba.ca/admin/vp_admin/ofp/copyright/media/Public_domain.pdf Archives also comply with public domain and some will allow you to use images from their online data-bases free of charge as long as you contact them to create a Photo Order form (this is a form providing you with written permission to use the images).

I do not have any other suggestions for the project. I think it will be a very interesting and useful method to provide the public with history. It is very much past my ability range, which makes it that much more impressive. I can’t wait to see the final product!

Life As We Know It – My Final Project

I am attempting to generate an online exhibit to display and discuss the experiences of individuals affiliated with the House of Industry and Refuge in Aboyne, Ontario. This building was created in 1877 through government funding to provide relief to those unable with nowhere else to go. Every county was required to have a House of Industry and Refuge to improve the quality of life for specific individuals. The House in Aboyne, commonly known as the Poor House, was designed as a self-sufficient farm. This meant the individuals living there, if able bodied, were required to work the farm. This covered the cost of their accommodations to ensure the House was a beneficial institution to the rest of society. Individuals were admitted based on certain criteria, but overall because of the inability to function within society. According to records, people could be admitted because of:

–          Old age –          Sickness –          Idiotic
–          Single/unwed mothers –          Vagrants –          Destitution
–          Abandonment –          Lack of support

People were only able to enter the House with the suggestion of the Town Reeve. Once an individual was admitted, extensive efforts were required to get out. Some younger and able men were hired out as farm labour during the summer and then returned in the off-season. Other than that, individuals were required to provide proof that they were able to take care of themselves outside of the House. Some did manage to prove this, but often ended up back in the House later on in life.

 

Goals and Project Context

The main goal of my project is educational. I have already discussed with the museum director, Janice Hindley, the potential to feature this project as an online exhibit associated with the museum. The Poor House building, now home to the Wellington County Museum and Archives, is very important for local history. Despite this, many people in the surrounding area do not know what happened at “the scary building at the top of the hill.” Many of the locals I have talked to also do not have the time or desire to come into the museum. With an online exhibit, I am hoping to draw a larger audience and allow more people to learn about the building. It helps to remove the issue of transportation and timing and can also permit more information to be shared.

This project is a historical project. This means I will be completing research with both primary and secondary sources. I have already spent lots of time researching in the archives and on the online database and will continue to gather more information from them. Because it is designed to educate the public on a historical topic, I will be following a similar work pattern as the curators would for a physical exhibit. I do also want to ensure that my sources and information are academically equivalent to those used in a history research paper.

I have also looked at other online exhibits to help develop mine. I looked at the Museum of History’s exhibit about the Morning Star art displayed on the ceiling of their museum (http://www.historymuseum.ca/morningstar/). This exhibit features a semi-interactive version of their piece of art. On a specific page, it allows the visitor to click on buttons to learn more about specific aspects of the work. This further information is offered in the forms of video, images, or text areas. I also explored the Royal Ontario Museum’s exhibit about the Burgess Shale (http://www.burgess-shale.rom.on.ca/en/index.php). This exhibit seemed to have a setup similar to those seen on the Omeka website. It had multiple pages, some with videos giving the visitor a glimpse at what the shale would have looked like in the prehistoric times. Both of these exhibits provided me with helpful ideas for displaying my information and creating an interactive experience for the user.

Data Acquisition

My project is designed to be a continuation of the existing exhibit at the Wellington County Museum. The exhibit is called “If These Walls Could Speak” (http://www.wellington.ca/en/discover/ifthesewallscouldspeakthehouseofindustryandrefuge.asp#Follow%20link%20to%20If%20These%20Walls%20Could%20Speak%20page) and was created by Susan Dunlop, the museum’s curator. It gives the visitors to the museum the history of the building and a slight glimpse into life at the House. Due to physical restrictions, the exhibit is unable to provide a sense of what it was like to actually live there. I will be using some information from the exhibit and the three dimensional model created by the Museum Technician, Phil Dietrich. The resources are also quite limited for this specific building as it is small town history, so I will be using many of the same sources as they did to create the original exhibit, including images.

Tool Application

I have had some difficulty determining which digital tools I want to use to create this project. At the moment, I have decided to use wix.com to create a website for the exhibit.  I may change my method after an Omeka workshop if I think it will be better suited for my idea. Currently however, the website does appear to be sufficient. I am also becoming more comfortable with web design, making a website a reasonable choice.

Google SketchUp was also used to design the original three dimensional model. Because of this, I have been using it to further edit the model. I have also found that SketchUp has an animate option which I have been figuring out. I am planning on using this option to give the visitor the experience of actually being in the House. I am hoping this will help the visitors to feel more connected to the house as there have been many request for an exhibit displaying what the rooms would have looked like. The Museum of History in Ottawa used a tool called krpano Panorama Viewer (http://krpano.com/) to create a video document that is user controlled. I have also been looking into using this program, though it seems to be more difficult to download onto my laptop. Once it is loaded, I will also have to see if it would work with digitally created files instead of photographs. It is designed to specifically work with an image which is why I am unsure of the practicality of it for this project.

New Skill Development

This project has helped me to develop many different technical skills. As a history student, researching has been a skill I have been developing since my first year of university. Because this topic has very few public sources about it, I have been required to further my research skills, especially online. This topic is requiring me to search other places than the standard search engine. I have been exploring the internet databases of specific archives, including the Wellington County Archives. The House was also known by many different names and because of that, I have had to change my search terms to try to optimize the results.

I have also been learning how to use specific programs on the computer. My program knowledge has been pretty limited up until this point. This project has encouraged me to explore other programs available for free download. With SketchUp, I have been developing my three dimensional modelling skills which were previously non-existent. Prior to this project, I had never attempted to create a three dimensional model on the computer. Phil from the museum taught me about the different capabilities possible with SketchUp. It has been a slow process to learn the program as it was very overwhelming at first, but it is getting easier. I have also consulted YouTube to find tutorial videos about the program and these have helped me discover many different possibilities for the program.

I have also started to develop my web design skills. Before this course, I had very little experience with website design. Wix has been very useful in helping to further these skills. It is user-friendly and self-explanatory for the most part. It has been making this project much easier, which is allowing me more time to do research and work on other sections of the project. Wix is allowing me to create a professional looking website without needing to know the extensive and difficult HTML coding.

Academic Rationale

While this project is a public history project, it has many different academic aspects. From an academic point of view, this project provides a collective source for the topic. This website will portray my interpretation of the sources, but will also provide links to the actual documents or to the databases in which the documents are found. This would allow an individual researching the House to be able to find sources pertaining to the experiences in the building without being required to do extensive searching.

From a museum perspective, I also recognize the need for online exhibits. With the shift to digital, museums are now able to provide more information in an online exhibit then they are in a physical one. When teaching the public, complying to their methods of learning maximizes the amount of information and enjoyment they get out of the exhibit.

Online exhibits also expand the audiences of an exhibit. The internet is globally accessible; meaning anyone around the globe could see this project. This not only helps the museum but it also helps the spread of knowledge. Because the archives are not searchable through a search engine, researchers have to know about the website to use it. With an online exhibit linking to the archives, it could be found through an internet search engine. This would mean anyone searching for the topic on the internet could have access to the archives.

Technology is an amazing thing

I met with the Museum Technician last week to look into the possibility of creating a SketchUp document for the House of Industry. He had informed me during our meeting that he had already created a file and that I’d be welcome to use it, provided he is given the appropriate credit. After spending some time exploring SketchUp I am very happy that he has offered to let me use his premade file. He was able to show me around the file and give me a basic explanation of the program and how to use it. Once I understood how to use it, it did seem to be relatively simple (though I wouldn’t want to be doing any big projects in it just yet!).

Now that I have seen the 3D file and understand SketchUp, I am contemplating which medium to create my exhibit with. I am leaning more toward a website as I am more comfortable with HTML. I do also have unlimited access to help as my dad is in the website design business. I think I will be able to make my decision final after the Omeka crash course, if we are having one. I do not yet have a very complete understanding of Omeka and would therefore appreciate being able to have a short seminar about it.

I have also decided that I would like to center my exhibit based on the experiences of the individuals living there. Based on my research and background knowledge, there were a few important individuals who resided at the House and I would like to be able to explore their stories further.

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