Introduction to Omeka: Creating Digital Collections and Exhibits

The two websites from the Omeka showcase I chose were the “Humboldt Redwoods Project” and “The Latina Project.” Both websites show characteristics of developing engagement with a larger community and the organized display of exhibit information which is what Omeka aims for. Similarly, both projects offer clear background information on the front page that helped me get a feel for what I was about to view. As a viewer, I find that providing an overview in the front page is essential because it allows the viewer to get a feel for what important message the author/s and/or organizations want to convey. The presentation of this “abstract” was differently demonstrated.

The “Humboldt Redwoods Project” briefly explained the history, purpose and goal of the project accompanied by a slide of images. As a viewer, I find this refreshing, simple and quick to read. On the other hand, The “Latina History Project” showcased their front page through an interplay between sharing a brief purpose statement, URL links and a spotlight space to show “featured exhibits.” In this light, I have to say I like “The Latina History Project’s” front page presentation better because of their offer in multiple outlets of information. It allows me to freely navigate topics/ relevant information that relate to the overall topic. Alike, what I really liked about “Humboldt Redwoods” is one of their tabs called “Browse Items Map” presents the viewer with an interactive feature: a map tool navigator. It is sort of like a personal research within the project that allows viewers further exploration on additional topics. There are captions with pictures embedded within each link in the map that shows relevant details within a particular area that to me really stood out as an integral portion of the entire project.

Overall, I find the “Humboldt Redwoods Project” to be compact, simple and informative to navigate with the added interactive component. Whereas “The Latina History Project” has a much more descriptive and informative side with a plethora of links available for the researcher to devour and interact with. Just browsing and reading through the links and its data, I became intrigued by activist Dolores Huerta and all her accomplishments to bring voice to local narratives. What I like the most is the tab “explore more” which offers an additional platform for further scholarship exploration. Public history projects such as these provide rich cultural and social historical knowledge that an excellent tool like Omeka offers a platform for. Screen Shot 2018-02-13 at 10.42.58 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-13 at 10.43.05 PM

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Digital Collections, Copyright, and Intellectual Property

Historical scholarship (digital or analog) has been central to both history fanatics and the study of history as a subject in the humanities. Digital historical scholarship, however, has so many implications in comparison to analog scholarship. Rosenzweig’s “Should Historical Scholarship Be Free?” explains the advantages and disadvantages of having “open access” historical scholarship and ultimately provides six foundational ways in which it could be made possible. As a history student, I have open access to many web based articles and even some scholarly journals but very few to say the least. For the most part, a large portion of scholarly publications have limited readers from viewing the full text unless you’re subscribed by paying a fee. The dilemma has to do with the economic crisis publishing scholarly societies would undergo if scholarship were to become free and open to everyone. In my opinion, providing accessible knowledge for the public good should not come at a price. This is where Rosenzweig’s six potential solutions  come into play: “self-archiving”, “author charges”, “delayed access”, “partial access”, “electronic only journals” and “cooperation with libraries.” Some of these categories have greater advantage over the other such as cooperation with libraries versus self-archiving. Even though self-archiving allows the author to freely post his or her research through personal sites; technically the original article is still sealed to readers. It defeats the purpose of having an “open access” environment. Whereas compromising with libraries favors both scholarly publishers and the “broad/ democratic access” by supporting the publishing societies in exchange for a “reduced and controlled subscription fee.” This way both gain “readership, reputation and recognition” without losing business. The rest have its advantages to a certain extent but is still limited to its external implications.

Personally I believe scholarship should be made free and accessible to the public because by limiting it we’re also excluding populations who don’t have the means to gain admittance to valuable historical scholarship. In this respect, analog scholarship is much more inclusive. Knowledge is a powerful tool everyone should have the right to access. It is very ironic because you would think the digital world (being the overpowering and growing technology tool it is presently) would be much more open to everyone due to its vast capacity and “manipulability” but it is much more limiting when it comes to scholarly knowledge. In a sense, it is understandable that there are expenses associated with the process of publishing a scholarly journal, however, Rosenzweig encourages us to explore options that doesn’t necessarily have to leave one or the other out but rather embrace both for the sake of “inquiry and knowledge.” I think as public historians it should be our mission to spread and establish intellectual resources to not only grow as individual scholars but also continue to discover interdisciplinary ways of writing history and learn from each other as a community. I do agree with Rosenzweig that the digital world creates a “secondary digital divide” between who has access and why they can have it.

Moving over to copyright, this is a vital topic to digital historians because it has important associations (especially legal ones) in regards to their digitized work. Copyright is strikingly different for digital scholarship versus a traditional print monograph. Just as the digital web offers a vast open and endless creative canvas, the legal implications involved become much more complex precisely for its “flexibility, global accessibility and manipulability.” The “legal responsibility” is greater when there’s more than five hundred “moving pictures, endless texts and sounds” and we’re our own publishers! Rosenzweig makes an excellent point by stating, “placing work on web gives better sense of establishment than on paper” and I completely agree because through the digitizing of information historians are able to use the web as a platform to reach and connect with audiences from all over the world. One fascinating thing I learned through one of the articles (“What You Don’t Know About Copyright, but Should” by Jennifer Howard) is how easily one can hold copyright ownership, especially on the web. I actually own a copyright on all my posts on my WordPress website – this concept is very eye-opening!

Researching & Writing in the Digital Age

The Web has taken over us since the early 1990s. Today, historians are using digital tools to communicate their findings. The shift from analog to digital has affected many realms within the history world, one of them being historical research. The Web offers advantages as well as disadvantages when it comes to historical research. These advantages are described by Cohen and Rosenzweig as, “capacity, accessibility, flexibility, diversity, manipulability, interactivity and hypertextuality.” These multifaceted advantages explain that through the use of conducting research digitally historians are able to reach to broader audiences worldwide, implement new ways of showcasing narratives, preserving and creatively exposing the data, as well as sharing the digital platform with other historians in hopes of continuing to extend the “digital future by creating digital history in the present” (Cohen & Rosenzweig). Some of the disadvantages of digital writing involve the “quality and authenticity and the inaccessibility to certain disadvantaged and populations” (Cohen & Rosenzweig).

As a historian, selecting sources is vital to the process of “synthesizing, arranging, contextualizing and communicating” narratives. Unfortunately, digital sources are prone to lack authenticity versus analog sources (for the most part) therefore historians have questions to consider in order to analyze and properly select trustworthy sources. The problem with digital sources is the fact that anyone who doesn’t necessarily have a history background can post information on the Web with no basis of factual validity. The most popular example is Wikipedia. During my undergrad years at UCONN, I was limited from using Wikipedia as a source for my research papers. Although I must admit it has been useful to browse through information for a quick overview and at points I’ve had professors admit that it does come in handy when you want to quickly find background information on almost any topic. Moreover, historians must be very selective and analytical when choosing digital sources to present their data (“scholarly primitives”).

In a sense, I do believe that there are qualitative differences between the use of digital archives and traditional analog sources because using digital tools allow historians to present their “interpretative narratives” in new forms and connect with a larger network to ultimately contribute to the expansion of “historiographical conversations.” In Rosenzweig’s scholarly article, “Digital History & Argument”, he makes the case that digital historians make arguments just as historians do by “structuring and describing materials in ways that highlight specific features and relationships and in addition, digital historians can incorporate sources themselves as central elements and this allows further analysis and engagement.” That’s why I said “in a sense” because though there is a difference in the platform, process and presentation of the narratives, the goal is the same. The advantage analog sources have on digital sources is the preservation portion. In conclusion, digital historians are currently engaging within a medium that transforms public history in “meaningful ways using digital forms.” Digital historians must balance out the advantages and disadvantages in order to maximize the latter. Nevertheless, both digital and analog sources have its assets and losses, both assist historians in creating and exposing narratives.

Reference:

Arguing with Digital History working group, “Digital History and Argument,” white paper, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (November 13, 2017): https://rrchnm.org/argument-white-paper/.

Defining Digital History

The medium of the World Wide Web drastically changes the practice of doing history because there are innumerable resources available literally at your fingertips. These resources are vast and moldable to fit whatever your need may be. History back in the day was lived through academic literature where as Turkel puts it, “scarcity was the issue, the travel to archives were expensive”. New information is constantly available, in other words, history is being made every day all the time! This new information can be duplicated, posted, reposted and created with no expenses involved. More information can be accessed, searched and found multiple times at any point in time. As Turkel mentions in his article, “the web has no structure, metaphorically, it is like a spider web hyperlinking at the speed of light creating social networks.” There is no timeline. You can start with one link and end up with forty other websites and forty other links that link you to other forty different websites and links. It can be quite overwhelming but I think we’re all used to it now. Sometimes I wonder how I end up having twenty tabs open on my computer and I eventually end up closing them so my laptop stops freezing on me. Using our digital tools, history is being made as interdisciplinary as possible.

Digital tools such as major search engines (Google being one of the most popular ones, Firefox, Yahoo search, etc) allow us to experience history in a very fast paced way where information is constantly being both given and received. With that being said, I believe Digital History is qualitatively different from History because history through a digital lens is (can be – depending on the sources) sensationalized and information is overly accessible to general population consumption. As Cohen and Rosenzweig best puts its, “plenty of inaccurate history can be found on the web.” A literature public history book, for example, can be more specific to the topic whereas digitally you may find thousands if not millions of options to choose from and harder to specifically narrow down to what you’re actually looking for. The quality of historical information changes when the medium is different. In this case, since digital tools are “immersive in various styles” (Cohen) there are advantages as well as disadvantages which have to be considered in order to accurately practice history.

Myself & I

My name is Juliana Mendoza and I am currently a graduate student in the Public History program at Central Connecticut State University. I recently graduated with a B.A in Art History from the University of Connecticut. I currently work at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art within Visitor Services at the Information Desk and I have to say it is the most rewarding position I’ve ever been in. Every day I meet people from all over the world and getting to know their art history interests and being able to be a resource for visitors has been an invaluable experience!

Though my love for history has always been focused on art, I cherish and appreciate history for what it is and means today in our fast-paced world. I have always been fascinated with how the history of so many things came to be and how they unravelled (whether it be monuments, houses, towns, objects or our own environment). One particular monument I will never forget that I learned in my introductory art history course is the “Parthenon”. It is a Greek monument built to attest to the city’s greatest moment in time as well as commemorate Greek goddess, Athena. To this day, I still wonder how builders were able to create such a meticulous and intricate masterpiece. I believe history and our own personal histories continue to inspire us today. Currently, I have Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Snapchat accounts. I use all of them daily but I rarely post updates, I mainly like to scroll through my feed and pass time. It can get excessive sometimes but I try to distract myself through other things like going for a car ride or a walk – basically anything that doesn’t involve my phone or computer which has been hard actually!

What I hope to learn from this class is learning the process and all of the ways we use our digital tools today to analyze history and how much of that digitized history gets transformed from what it originally was. I believe this class will be an eye opening experience for me, seeing as how we have all entered the digital era.