What’s the difference between a zippo and a hippo? One is heavy while the other is a little lighter: Introduction to Omeka: Creating Digital Collections and Exhibits

This week I’m looking at two difference showcased sites on Omeka, The Latina History Project and The Lomax Kentucky Recordings. I chose both of these sites because they are regionally based, The Latina History Project in Texas and The Lomax Kentucky Recordings in Kentucky, and I wanted to look at how these two projects handled a regional project.

The Latina History Project is done by Southwestern University in Texas. The goal of the project is to provide resources to the Latino/a and Chicano/a in central Texas. It started as a digitization of an exhibit called Rostros y Almas (Faces and Souls).

The Lomax Kentucky Recordings is done by the Association for Cultural Equity, Berea College, Library of Congress and The University of Kentucky. This project contains a documentary of sound recordings of rural Kentucky music and lore, pulled from the Library of Congress’ Archive of American Folk Songs from 1933-1942.  It presents a spectrum of traditional expressive culture.

Both projects aim to share the culture of the area that they are in however they go about it in different ways. The Latina History Project relies on oral histories of past and present members of the Southwestern community as well as activists and key figures in Chicano/a community. However, The Lomax Kentucky Recordings is made up of mostly music using the folk recordings that were in the Library of Congress.

In regard to the sites themselves, I am more partial to the set-up done by the Lomax Kentucky Recordings. It feels cleaner and easier to navigate. Each tab is clearly labeled: About, Listen to the Songs, Discover Artists, Explore the Counties, etc. Within each tab is then a list and search bar for whatever is supposed to be there: songs, artists, counties, etc. It is very easy to find what you are looking for.

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The Latina History Project is just set up differently, and in a way that does not make as much sense to me personally. Much like the other site, it offers different tabs: About, Browse Items, Browse Collections, Browse Exhibits, etc. Then within each tab there is just an option to click on different projects. It feels more like exploring so if you were going in looking for something specific it would be harder to find, but it is a different type of project.

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The Lomax Kentucky Recordings site is so specific to what information it presents, which is why it has a different feel. The Latina History Project has many different exhibits it is presenting, covering different topics, so both sites are organized and easy to navigate, they are just presenting it in different ways.

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What kind of music did the Pilgrims like? Plymouth Rock: Digital Collections, Copyright, and Intellectual Property

I have never given much thought to copyright and the laws that surround it. That’s not to say that I am unaware it exists, it just has never been something that I actively thought about. In doing some readings, I’ve learned that:

  1. The first copyright laws came from Connecticut in 1783
  2. Copyright automatically applies to almost anything people create, starting in 1976 with the creation of the Copyright Act.
  3. Starting in 1989, it is no longer necessary to place a copyright notice on your work.
  4. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) bans tampering with copyright protection and basically limits how we use digital products even after we purchase them.

However the main thing I learned is that copyright can get very complicated. It was compared to history at one point, making the case that it is subject to confliction interpretations. Copyright law faces contention between those who protect the rights of the owners of intellectual property versus those seeking to enlarge the public domain.

Which brings us to a question raised by Roy Rosenzweig: Should scholarship be free? In his article, “Should Historical Scholarship Be Free,” he mentions how scientific journals are able to make their peer-reviewed journals free to everyone but history has not been able to do that yet. Unless someone is a college student, they are limited in their access to historical materials; Rosenzweig writes “Professional historians routinely complain that their students and neighbors pick up “junk” on the Internet but they don’t adequately consider that the best online scholarship is often only available to paying subscribers.” He also provides six possible approaches that could help make this happen: Self-archiving, author charges, delayed access, partial access, electronic-only journals, and cooperation with libraries.

If you were to ask me, I don’t have a good answer for you yet. I mean, ideally, and in a perfect world, of course I want scholarship to be free. I think everybody has a right to an education and should have access to materials to research what they want. But we don’t live in a perfect world. There is so much that goes into writing and publishing scholarship that options must be weighed and there needs to be a plan. I haven’t been presented with a solution that makes me think that this is entirely possible with where we are at but I think that with problem solving and time, future generations will have more access to scholarly works than we do currently.

Where did Montezuma go to college? Az Tech: Researching and Writing in the Digital Age

The web has made doing historical research easier and more accessible, especially as a student. I have a tendency to do my work at odd hours, specifically late at night, because that is when I focus the best. So with the ability to access sources like journal articles and books through databases, I am able to get work done without any closing-time restrictions like I would at the library. It also allows for me to gain access to sources quicker and get some sources that are not available at my university or local library as well as giving me the ability to find out which places have what I am looking for. In regards to primary sources, I have access to countless newspaper articles and photographs that, without the web, it would be nearly impossible for me to gain access to.

Depending on where the information is coming from online changes the way I think about sources. When I pick up a book, I am generally trusting of its accuracy. However, I do look into the author and the publisher and that is almost second-nature to me at this point. When I look at a source online, sometimes it is hard to find who the author is or where they come from, which tends to make me warier of what I find. With access to many online peer-reviewed journals, I look at those the same way I look at a book from a credited author. I feel more apt to trust a source that I know has undergone rigorous editing and has been looked at by other professionals in the field.

As I stated in last weeks post, I do not believe that there is necessarily a qualitative difference between digital archives and more traditional sources. In terms of ease of access, there is no question, with digital sources, there are countless sources available. However, there are just as many analog sources as well, a historian might just need to work a little harder to obtain them.

Why did the pioneers cross the country in covered wagons? Because they didn’t want to wait 40 years for a train: Defining Digital History

What does the title have to do with defining digital history? Not much. But much like how the invention of the train changed how people travelled, the world wide web has changed the practice of doing history.

The 1990s saw the emergence of webpages, which meant that all sorts of information started becoming more accessible to people. With the rapid advancement that we’ve seen in the past couple of decades, many disciplines were changed, including history. The digitization of materials allows for more exploration, access, and preservation- ranging from newer sources to older, more fragile ones. However, like Toni Weller brings up in her book History in the Digital Age, it also raises a whole new set of challenges and questions surrounding preservation. The web is fast-paced and always changing, so in order for a historian to get the full effect of a webpage, there has to be a way to save the original page before it changes or is deleted. But there is such a large number of sites available, so how does a historian know what to save? And while a person can scan a set of letters to be accessed online, that can take away the other sensory experiences. Weller gives an example of a medical historian in Portugal doing research on a cholera outbreak. He was in the archives and rather than reading the letters, he was smelling them because the letters were disinfected with vinegar to prevent further spread of the disease and he could use the smell to chart the outbreak. While digitizing these letters allows for the content to be shared, the tangible experience is lost.

Digital history seems qualitatively different from history, but in reality, I do not believe it is. The internet allows for the mass sharing and receiving of information, so it seems like there is a lot more information. There are historical artifacts all over and in archives across the world, that one may never have access to. As historians, we take in and sift through a lot of information determining what is and is not useful. The internet can make it easier to fake documents and photographs, for example, but just as historians learned to recognize it in older sources, they have to do that with the advancing technology. Digital history makes information easier to obtain, but one still has to be critical of the information they are receiving.

What is a snakes favorite subject in school? Hissssstory … And so is mine!

I think that I have always been interested in history, but it wasn’t until high school that I started to recognize it. At some point I consciously realized that most of my electives were in history and I started seriously thinking about pursuing history as a career. I discovered public history when I was at freshman orientation- they explained to me what it was and suddenly I now had not only a word, but a subject of study that defined what I was interested in. While I ended up not completing the emphasis for various reasons during my undergrad, that did not stop me. I completed my undergrad at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse with a BA in History and a minor in photography and then decided to pack up and move half-way across the country to pursue and MA in Public History at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU).

I have as much passion for photography as I do for history, and in my photography, I like to mix mediums. I like to include painting, drawing, and/or 3D aspects in my art. I mention this because I think that having that mindset can and should be carried over into public history because it is an interdisciplinary field. My hope is that digital history will introduce me to another way to study and present history, as well as allow me to channel my creativity. I am always looking for ways to connect my interests and put them to good use.

I have a lot of experience with social media. I am active on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter and, although not really considered social media, I am well versed in Snapchat and WhatsApp messaging services. I also am somewhat active in the Reddit community and because of my background in photography, I have a working knowledge of both Lightroom and Photoshop. In the past, I have thought about and tried blogging, but eventually gave up after just a few posts. While I am on these sites for personal use, I am hoping that this class will help me develop the skills to utilize them professionally as well.

[Blog header photo was taken by Amirah Neely: Bugøynes, Norway, November 28, 2015]