Digitization & Preservation

The transformation from analog to digital is inevitable. Earlier in one of my posts, I went over the advantages and disadvantages of digitization and in the same vein, it is important to take these elements into consideration when taking first steps to building a site. From Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig’s Digital History: A Guide To Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting The Past On The Web, I learned that some of the elements I consider to be attractive and functional for creating a website are the addition of hyperlinks and content materials and design that in a way that “attracts contributions with other contributions and offering information or materials that will bring attention to the website – essentially its distinctiveness is key to an effective outreach” (Cohen & Rosenzweig). Through these types of content materials, for example, hyperlinks allow direct access to other sites that intrigues us to keep researching for more information.

It’s essential to consider that “becoming digital” has as much costs than benefits. Some of these costs revolve around the monetary cost it takes for both creating and preserving a website. However, I think the benefit of open flexibility and manipulability should be taken advantage of while the process in itself is already difficult. Another benefit is the endless opportunities the net offers researchers and scholars, because of the internet’s fluidity, information is constantly changing and offering new research outlets. As Cohen and Rosenzweig claim, “the internet shuttles information between and among people.” Though Cohen and Rosenzweig mentioned how difficult it was to digitize history, it’s clear the digital future will be permanent. I do want to emphasize that I personally think that digitizing history does not necessarily mean preservation of history. Online resources are not always reliable. More times than not, I’ve lost academic research essays and journal entries due to forgetting to save my document. In other occasions, I’ve made sure I saved my academic work but my computer would freeze and all of a sudden my work is gone. Even in the transition of switching phones, I’ve lost pictures, music and files because of the lack of storage capacity. Digitizing information, I believe, is essential to publicizing history and the preservation of this history is imperative to continue historical legacy passed down to our generations. I agree with Cohen and Rosenzweig in their offer of preserving digital history, “the archive of specific historical sites should be stored in a larger archive of the web.” I think that this way it’s as if second-saving information, as a back up almost. It would be interesting to look into this further.

As for model websites, I have to mention the Wadsworth Atheneum’s official website Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art because of its easily accessible contents, openness and inviting presentation. It has eight pull down tabs with extra links to access related information. In addition to his it has six extra tabs at the very top highlighted in black against white text as quick links to essential information about the museum. The very middle has moving images to advertise the upcoming events along with a calendar to showcase all the important dates the museum will be holding events, lectures or films!

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 3.48.37 PM

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 3.50.52 PM

Another model website is the Smithsonian’s History Explorer (Smithsonian’s History Explorer). I really appreciate how informative and organized its contents are and the amount of hyperlinks leading to more online resources! Like the Wadsworth Atheneum website, the moving images promote events, discussions and websites that provide further relevant information. The moving images, color, alignment, proximity within these both model websites make all the difference as part of the attractive elements in engaging audiences. I often use this website to find information on museum artifacts. It doesn’t only locate artifacts but it provides fast access to where those artifacts are exhibited whether it’s digitized online or located in an actual museum. I love looking through the online exhibits, however, it really can’t compare to the unique experience of walking within museum walls and admiring the art in all its glory!

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 4.25.20 PM




The Collaborative Web: Rome!

Three related Wikipedia pages I chose to analyze were three of Roman’s most iconic monuments (being such an art history lover!): Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon. Starting with the Colosseum, the first link that comes up when searching ‘Colosseum’ on Google is Wikipedia. There is an extensive history discussing its history, its architectural features, restoration, its popularity in Rome and its ultimate significance within the heart of Italy. I was very surprised when looking into the “talk” section and noticing more than fifteen sections where changes by various users were enforced! One of them being the discussion of the type of columns used. Apparently, there was an error in the original Wikipedia page in stating that the columns that made up the arcades were “Tuscan, Ionic and Corinthian” where in reality instead of Tuscan it is “Doric” columns. The user that suggested this change gave the name of a book by Sebastiano Serlio and also a link to the Britannica page. I really appreciate how Wikipedia is determined in finding and posting reliable sources for the general public. This column change is one of many suggested changes. Another example is the difference between sand and concrete and furthermore edited to be changed to “travertine, tuff and brick-faced concrete” in specific backed up by a scholarly article.


I remember more than one time for one of my introductory art history courses, I searched up this monument to study for my exam on the section about its significance in relation to Rome and I found it very helpful and easy to understand. At this time I was not aware of the “talk” sections, but now I know Wikipedia is fixed on being up to date providing reliable information that in reality I had nothing to worry about!

Moving on to the Trevi Fountain: (this is definitely one of the monuments I am most excited to visit for its iconic global recognition) to my surprise the Wikipedia page on the Trevi Fountain provides a rather short history and only about four topics (“iconography, restoration, coin throwing, and design & commission”). I was really expecting a lengthy historical overview and added sections such as significance, architectural interior and exterior analysis, etc. I say this because in my introductory art history course (ancient to contemporary) whenever we came across a Roman or Greek monument, we would analyze its architectural features in relationship to its significance within its location. Moreover, discussion on its architecture and iconography would give way to topics such as religion and politics which proved to be highly interesting! Reading the talk section on the Trevi Fountain, I found about ten sections that Wikipedia has not approved or disapproved and these suggested changes range from the years 2004-2013 and there is no response listed by Wikipedia which is quite odd. I have noticed that many of the users have not provided any type of source, I think one of them has a link to the New York Times, could this be why? I will definitely have to keep my eye on this to check future updates!


Last but not least, we have the Pantheon:) As assumed, the Wikipedia page on the Pantheon has a comprehensive list of 12 topics under the Contents list (including notes, footnotes, links, and references). The talk section is somewhat sparse and considerable. Again, the debate discussions range from 2004-2017 and there is no approval by Wikipedia acknowledging the information. Similarly, users have no added any type of source to support their argument. What I really like about these “talk” sections are the different types of perspectives offered that hasn’t been thought before. It triggers further research and I think that’s what makes Wikipedia so remarkable. As previously mentioned, as an undergrad at UConn, some of my professors were skeptical on using Wikipedia as a viable source, although they did suggest it was helpful for a quick overview of a topic I still couldn’t use it as a source for research papers because of its supposed “inauthenticity” on its sources. Now, learning about Wikipedia in depth, I have to disagree because I think Wikipedia is a reliable source – the key is to trace sources to its grassroots and verify that they are indeed credible (now that I’m taking a Historiography course, I’m learning that this is one the most essential tasks historians must do to accurately check and make use of sources). I think educational and corporate institutions should definitely  give Wikipedia a chance because there’s so much valuable and intriguing information waiting to be discovered!


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


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.


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.