April 2018 Updates

By admin

It has been almost a year since my previous post, and in that time I have completed both the Digital Public Humanities Certificate (the main reason I created this site and blog) as well as the MA in History program at George Mason University. I am currently revamping this website for a more professional look while creating additional projects. My plan at the moment is to recreate my Gunston Hall exhibit in Omeka S to learn the differences between S and Classic. Eventually I want to create a gallery for all my photography, but that’s for a future date.

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Third Rotation: Research Division | Digital History Fellowship

By Greta

Originally posted on the Digital History Fellowship Blog at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM). Click here to see the original post.

The Research division works to create open-source tools and software to assist historians in researching and presenting their own findings, as well as engaging with the scholarship of others. During our four-week rotation in this division, we learned about and experimented with PressForward, primarily through working with DH Now, and RRCNHM’s newest tool, Tropy.

First, we took a closer look at Digital Humanities Now, a website that acts as a distribution platform for digital humanities based scholarly work in various formats from blog posts to white papers, as well as conference and job announcements from the field. Coming into the Research Division, we were somewhat familiar with DH Now as we had been using it all semester to stay current on what was happening in the DH field. However, I was less clear on the actual underpinning of how DH Now worked. I knew that multiple feeds were brought into the WordPress site and from there, DH Now staff and GRAs curated those feeds, choosing what to publish on the website.

In fact, as we learned, DH Now is powered by PressForward, a WordPress plugin created by the Research Division at RRCHNM that allows one to easily aggregate and share content from the web. DH Now is only one of multiple websites that use the plugin to aggregate and share scholarly web content.

We then were tasked with using our new knowledge of PressForward and DH Now to serve as the Editors-in-Chief for a week, reading through nominated content, choosing what would be the best material to publish, and even selecting the Editor’s Choice piece. Through this hands-on experience, we were able to get a sense of how DH Now worked from the editors’ perspective, instead of from more of a consumer’s view.

Finally, we worked with Laura Crossley, one of the Editors-in-Chief of DH Now, to install and use the PressForward plugin on our own scholarly websites. Laura uses PressForward, much like DH Now, to aggregate DH content on her own blog and share her own comments about what is happening in the field. After considering several options, I decided to use PressForward on my personal website in a less extensive, but still quite useful way. Up until this semester, my personal website has contained blog post updates about my coursework and progress through the Graduate Certificate in Digital Public Humanities. Now I have also begun publishing these posts on the RRCHNM Fellows Blog. It is likely that in the near future, I will also publish blog posts or other scholarly web content in places other than my personal website. Therefore, I am excited to be using PressForward on my own website to bring together a collection of my work in one location. This will allow me to do a better job of keeping track of my own work, while also offering a place for others to examine the various ways I have engaged in the scholarly conversation.

Secondly, we spent time experimenting with and learning about Tropy, the newest research tool built by RRCHNM. Tropy had been released just prior to the beginning of our rotation in the Research Division, so we were some of the first people outside of the Tropy team to really get to see what Tropy can do. Like many of the projects carried out in the Research Division that try to solve a current problem troubling historians, Tropy gives a solution for what to do with the thousands of pictures that scholars take during trips to the archives. We were challenged to experiment with Tropy by reading the documentation, downloading the software, importing some of our own research materials and finally, creating a metadata template for that material.

As a historian of Early America, dealing mostly with handwritten documents, I found that Tropy is extremely useful. It allows you to easily import images and group them into documents, which is helpful if you have a multi-page document and a separate image for each page. Next, there is special split screen view (document on top, space to type underneath), which allows you to transcribe the documents right in Tropy. Before Tropy, I had been keeping my transcriptions (as Word documents) and image files (in a photo editor) separately, but Tropy allows you to save them together, which is really helpful. Tropy also has a search feature, so that you can find every occurrence of a certain person or place’s name in the documents you have transcribed, instead of manually reading through text files to find what you are looking for.

A big part of Tropy, and the second part of our task, was to deal with the metadata associated with our documents. Tropy comes preloaded with a basic template and a few more specific ones (ex. for correspondence or photos). The templates differ in the metadata that they ask you to add for each item. For example, the generic one asks for information like title, date, item type, source, holding collection, etc. while the correspondence template asks for the title, author, recipient, date, location, archive it is from, etc. The metadata properties have to come from an established vocabulary (ex. Dublin Core) but users can import other vocabularies available through Linked Open Vocabularies (LOV). Users can also download templates that others have made or upload templates they had made.

For my experiment in creating a Tropy template, I used material from a previous research project about a rape case in Fairfax County, Virginia during the Civil War. While my research had been supplemented by government and prison records held at the Library of Virginia and newspaper records at the Fairfax County Library, the core of my research centered around the case file for the trial, which is held at the Fairfax Circuit Court Historic Records Center, in Fairfax, VA.

Originally, I thought that I might make a template that could be used for all material at the Historic Records Center, as that would be helpful to a larger group of people if uploaded and shared. My thinking was that I could add the Historical Records Center as the Default Value for the Source property, and that way, users would not have to type that in for every item. But as I tried to create a generic template that would encapsulate all the types of sources held at the Historic Records Center (wills, deed books, birth, death and marriage records, road petitions, as well as court documents), my template ended up being no different than the “Tropy Generic” template that comes with the software.

So I decided to take a different approach and focus on making a template just for the Term Papers at the Historic Records Center. This class of documents provides the legal  judgments for each case, and includes any court papers filed during the term of court. As I knew from my research, item properties like “creator” were less important than determining things like the plaintiff, defendant, and case type (murder, debt, trespass, assault, etc.). After a long search through the properties and vocabularies that came with Tropy, I found that I could use the Dublin Core property “Subject” to stand in for the case type, but that there were no good properties already in Tropy to describe the Plaintiff and Defendant. Therefore, I used Linked Open Vocabularies to find a vocabulary through the Library of Congress (MARC Code List for Relators) that included these two properties. Next, I downloaded the vocabulary and imported it into Tropy, where I could add the two properties to my template. Here is a sample of my template:

Swain FXC Term Papers 1

Swain FXC Term Papers 2

Overall, I enjoyed my time in the Research Division. It was really interesting to see how the team in this division had identified two problems common to the historical profession–namely, how to get more publicity/recognition for scholarly grey material and how to organize images of documents from archival research–and how they worked to create usable solutions to these problems. I also appreciated the chance to see how these tools could be incorporated into my own scholarly work and blog.


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Digital History Fellowship | Second Rotation: Public Projects Division

By Greta Swain

Originally posted on the Digital History Fellowship Blog at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM). Click here to see the original post.

The Public Projects Division creates tools, projects and collections that encourage greater interaction with history among a popular audience. Some of the division’s projects are geared directly for public engagement while other tools help public history professionals more easily create collections, exhibits and projects of their own. During our four-week rotation in this division, we worked primarily on two projects, Omeka S and Mapping Early American Elections.

One of the most well-known and in-demand tools that RRCHNM has created, Omeka, comes out of the Public Projects Division. Omeka was released in 2008 as a web content publishing platform that would allow for the assembly, management, and exhibition of digital collections. Omeka S, the Public Project’s newest addition, builds on the popularity of Omeka Classic. Omeka S allows users to create and manage multiple Omeka sites on a single install. It also boasts new modules (plugins) for mapping and importing collections from other systems. Additionally, it allows users to share resources and collections among their multiple sites, and assign distinct privileges to different levels of users.

When we began our work with Omeka S, it was in its final phase of testing, but as of yesterday, Omeka S: 1.0 has officially been released. To start out, we worked with Megan Brett, the Omeka End User Outreach and Testing Coordinator. She taught us how to work with with GitHub and secure shell (SSH) via the command line to install themes and plugins on an Omeka install. Then we worked to simultaneously review the existing Omeka S documentation while testing the instructions on the dev site. We were asked to proofread, not only for spelling and grammar errors, but more importantly, for readability and usability. Did the directions make sense? Were there enough screenshots to help the user follow along with the text? Were the screenshots current? Did they display what a user would really see on his or her screen? Did the dev site respond in the ways that the documentation suggested that it should?

This process of reading and testing gave me firsthand experience with using Omeka S and provided me a more profound sense of the tool’s capabilities. It has enabled me to confidently describe Omeka S to others and explain how it differs from Omeka Classic. Finally, it has encouraged me to explore how I can use the new features of Omeka S in my own work.

During the second half of our rotation, we worked on the Mapping Early American Elections projects. As an Early Americanist, I was excited to work on a project in my favorite era. Although I normally focus on women, gender and social history in this period, looking at the early elections was really fascinating. At the time we (briefly) joined the project, the project team had already created a data set based on the information collected in A New Nation Votes (NNV). They were in the process of creating maps from that data set to represent each Congress in each state in order to help visualize the votes based on political parties.

In addition, they were adding brief interpretive text to each map to explain how each state’s election system worked and to call attention to any interesting aspects of the elections or trends from the previous election. To get a taste of this work, we were asked to write the interpretive text for all the states during the first three Congressional elections. Writing this text required us to look at each visualization (map), compare it to the chart devised from the data set, compare it to the data tables, footnotes and research notes provided by NNV, and then complete additional research for some of the more complicated elections. After we finished writing our interpretive text, Dr. Lincoln Mullen taught us how to use markdown and GitHub to add some of our text to the dev site for the project.

As a student of history, I really enjoyed the historical inquiry and analysis associated with this assignment, as well as the larger questions that the work forced us to discuss and try to answer. First of all, it reminded me how much I like the investigative and interpretive work of history–trying to sort through many different pieces of evidence in order to form one’s best (informed) guess or interpretation of what happened in the past. The more I found out about each election, the more digging I wanted to do.

Secondly, the work forced me to ask bigger questions like, what does it mean to be elected? In our original instructions, we were asked to mention in the text how many candidates from each political party were elected. While this at first sounded straightforward, we soon found out that it proved more difficult. For example, what about elections where one candidate received the most votes, but then the election was contested, votes were later ruled invalid, and the results were officially modified? What if a candidate received the most votes but died before he could take office or he declined to serve? Is there a difference between who was elected and who served in Congress? These and similar questions were discussed during the project meetings before settling on a more precise definition for the project.

Most of all, this project showed how me how digital history projects can make an argument and contribute to the historiographical conversation. Dr. Rosemarie Zagarri, the Lead Historian on the project, writes in the project’s blog in a post called “What Did Democracy Look Like? Voting in Early America” that “Early American elections subvert conventional notions that portray the development of early American democracy as an orderly or systematic affair.” Doing the research required to write the interpretive text really drove home this argument. Early American elections were, in fact, really messy. After the Constitution was ratified, elections didn’t just automatically happen in an organized and efficient manner that was consistent from state to state. As Zagarri asserts, it was an era of experimentation.

By looking at the voting practices and results for several different states during the same election, it was easy to see how the election systems varied state by state. For example in the First Congress, Delaware’s election law required voters in each of the state’s three counties to submit names of two persons they wished to elect. Of these two persons, one was required to be an inhabitant of the voter’s own county and the other needed to be from a different country. The person who received the most votes overall (at-large) would win the election. In the First Congressional election in New York, on the other hand, the state was divided into six districts and voters in each district elected one candidate to represent their own district.

The experimentation of the era, even within an individual state, was also evident by looking at change over time in a single state during the first three Congresses. A great example of this is Pennsylvania. For the First Congress, Pennsylvania held an at-large election where voters were allowed to vote for eight different candidates who could reside anywhere in the state. For the Second Congress, Pennsylvania created eight districts, and only allowed voters to elect one candidate who had to reside within their own district. For the Third Congress, Pennsylvania’s number of congressional seats increased from eight to thirteen (following the results of the 1790 Census) and consequently, the state discontinued its use of the district system, and instead switched back to an at-large system like they had used for the first congressional election. Examples like these provide strong evidence that supports the project’s historiographical argument.

Overall, I enjoyed the mix of technical and more traditional (research and analysis) aspects of working in the Public Projects Division. Even though I am leaving this division, it will be interesting to track both of these projects as they progress; I will be curious to see how users respond to Omeka S in its first few weeks post-launch, and to discover what findings come out of the Mapping Early American Elections project.



#post-1085 #comments

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Final Post

By admin

During the spring 2017 semester, I worked with Dr. Marjorie Hunt, Education Specialist and Folklife Curator at the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Dr. Hunt is currently preparing for the 50th anniversary of the Folklife Center. The primary purpose of this year’s festival (June and July) will be to highlight the individuals and groups who have been awarded the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowship, the “nation’s highest award for excellence in the folk and traditional arts.” Since 1982, more than 400 individuals and groups have been awarded an NEA National Heritage Fellowship for a variety of artistic fields, including story tellers, santeros, horsehair hitchers, and musicians. As part of the celebration, the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage will showcase each of these artists on the American Folk Story Map, an interactive digital educational resource created by Esri that will be featured on the American Folk program’s website this summer. As an intern, my task was to write short biographies (100-130 words) for a handful of these individuals; these biographies, as well as other items such as photographs and songs, will eventually be incorporated into the map. This digital map will be available to the general public.

Since the focus of the internship was to write biographies about the fellows, and not actually create or add to the map, I primarily learned who these amazing people are and what they did to earn the fellowship. I had vaguely heard about this program, but I never really understood who the program was honoring. For the most part, these are individuals whom the general public might not ever know or hear about. For example, one of the individuals I wrote about, Alfredo Campos, was a horsehair hitcher; in other words, he braided horse gear. I used to ride horses quite a bit, and I can honestly say that I never even thought it might be an individual, and not a machine, who created the horse gear. Yet, this individual is well-known in his community for his art. Another example would be Ray Hicks, an Appalachian storyteller whose songs tell the story of his ancestors. He was even invited to a national storytelling event. Sister Mildred Barker was a Shaker who collected and recorded the music of her people. According to her fellow Shakers, Sister Barker learned more than 1,000 songs. She also wrote a book of poems and prayers, published by the Shaker Press. These are just some of the individuals I learned about during this internship. Without the internship, I never would have learned about these people.

It may be obvious, but the best part about the internship was learning about these people. I was also, hopefully, able to brush off my skills in writing short, pithy biographies. It is challenging to tell someone’s story in 100-130 words, so this internship allowed me to practice my writing skills. As for what I enjoyed the least, I will say that I wish I was more involved in updating the actual digital map. For my first project in the certificate program, I created a digital map using CartoDB that highlighted female lighthouse keepers. The American Folk program’s map, created by Esri, a company seemingly like CartoDB, looks to be very similar. However, I did not get the opportunity to really “play” with this program. It would have been nice to practice creating or updating a digital map similar to my CartoDB map. So, while the end product will be digital, my actual work this semester had nothing to do with digital humanities. I would have really liked to have applied what I learned in the digital classes to the internship.

As of right now, I am truly not sure how this experience will be useful as I move forward with my own professional development. One thing that might be helpful to me is that I learned about a new website company that creates digital maps. I was previously only familiar with CartoDB; I did not realize that other companies were doing something very similar. While I did not get to work Esri’s story map this semester, in the future I may consider using this tool to create a digital product.

Since my primary task for the internship was to write biographies, I think the only lesson I took from my classes was how to write for websites. Throughout coursework, I learned that it can be quite challenging to write for a website. The website has to provide a person with information in a way that is both interesting and useful. After all, if a person finds a website difficult to read or use, they will leave the site. So, the language has to grab the person viewing the website. It cannot be too much, or the person will become overwhelmed. So again, the information on a website has to be informative, yet to the point and interesting, but not a sensory overload. So, I was able to practice writing for a website. Given that two of my final projects involved creating a website, I was able to apply what I learned about writing for a website to this internship.

This internship increased my understanding of digital public humanities by introducing me to a new digital tool (in this case, Esri’s story map) and highlighting another historical and educational organization that has found fun and informative ways to use digital tools to inform the public. One of the most helpful assignments we had during our classes was to view and sometimes to review public websites. This was helpful because we had the opportunity to see how other educational resources are using digital tools and what they are using. The more tools I learn about, the more ideas I develop about my own projects. So again, this internship introduced me to another tool and project, which I always enjoy learning about.

As I stated above, my task for this internship was to write biographies for a digital story map. I was not responsible for adding the biographies to the map. Therefore, this internship was not as digitally focused. As such, the coursework did not really prepare me for this internship. As I previously mentioned, the coursework did allow me to practice writing for a website, which was helpful. In addition, I was familiar with the concept of story maps because of the projects I completed for the coursework. In other words, I understood the goal of the project from the beginning. Lastly, while I mostly pulled information about each person from the NEA National Fellowship website, I also conducted as much research as possible for each person. While I conduct research on a daily basis for my job, it is always good to practice research and identify what is good information and what is bad information.

The primary challenges I faced for this internship had more to do with the actual internship process than with the actual internship. But, one challenge I did face was the final submission of work. Since the internship started a bit late, I thought I would be able to submit my final entries a few weeks after the end of the semester. However, about two weeks ago, Dr. Hunt asked if I could submit my remaining entries by the end of the semester. This threw me a bit, as I am a graduate student and I work full time. Since I had planned to finish my graduate course first, and then finish the internship, I had to re-organize my schedule. This was a bit challenging, as I traveled quite a bit for work this semester. So, readjusting my schedule was difficult.

On the whole, while I sincerely enjoyed learning about the fellows and I enjoyed “meeting” and working with Dr. Hunt, I must admit to being a bit disappointed with the internship. I was not able to really apply what I learned in the classes, which were so wonderful, toward the internship. I would have enjoyed learning a new tool or working with a team in developing a new digital project. But again, I did learn about some extraordinary people, and for that I will always be grateful.

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Final Blog Post, 5/12/2017

By Jeremy Lundquist

My internship at the Smithsonian formally ended on May 5th, 2017. I was able to meet with my supervisor and hand in all work associated with the project I had been working on. I not only completed the tasks expected of me, I created a new network of contacts within the Smithsonian. I was pleased with the entire experience and I am grateful for the lessons learned.

The fundamental lesson learned during this experience was applying digital humanity principles to real world governmental and historical work. As an employee at the National Archives, I utilize the functions of the digital humanities, but the openness of my Smithsonian project allowed for me to experiment with my creativity. Equally important, I used lessons learned from the metadata modules to help my organization skills, whereas I was able to create metadata for disseminating digital information.

The thing I enjoyed most about the internship was the people. My supervisor from the very start was friendly and I felt comfortable going to her with questions and ideas. I also worked with a small team of Smithsonian staff and interns, all of whom were interesting people. Conversely, I did not experience any ‘bad’ parts of the internship. I believe my work load was fair, and I was lucky to have a project I was interested in.

This experience as a whole was helpful for my work at the National Archives. Because of the creativity allowed for by the Smithsonian, I was able to experiment and manipulate ideas for digital archiving while working on the internship. Work such as that at the National Archives is functional, but perhaps not always practical while on the clock. I was happy to take principles that I learned from the Smithsonian and bring them into my everyday work.

The work for the internship itself was done under a mixture of experiences at the National Archives, but also during the module coursework of the Digital Humanities Program. Most importantly, as I stated above, the modules on metadata helped me wrap my mind around how we organize data. Having the “data about data” lesson and the Omeka project were essential for me taking coursework and applying it to real world work. The coursework did not necessarily prepare me for the internship, as my tasks were not comparable to the projects within the modules. However, having done the modules, I was able to think more outside the box when it came to internship project direction. Had I jumped into the internship first, I would not have been as confident as a student to the digital humanities.

My understanding of the digital humanities as a whole has increased since the internship. I do many functions of the digital humanities in my everyday work, but the internship allowed for me to practice these skills and refine them.

Altogether, I found the internship fun and practical. It was more enriching than the module work because it was real-world based, but the modules were needed for a complete understanding of digital humanities. While many of the module tasks felt repetitive and mundane, the internship offered a more interesting angle into the work of digital humanists. I understood the point of having module coursework, but the internship definitely acted as the piece that tied the program together. Coupled by the fact that my supervisor was fun and supportive, my entire experience was a positive one.

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Final Reflection on Virtual Internship

By admin The idea of being a virtual intern at the Smithsonian was something I found fascinating and looked forward to with much excitement. I love contributing to crowdsource projects such as Wikipedia because it makes me feel that I am part of something bigger than me. Whatever I can do to help advance knowledge, sign me … Continue reading Final Reflection on Virtual Internship

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Digital Humanities Internship #5: Final Reflections

By Greta

Disclaimer: The views and opinion shared in this post reflect the author’s personal thoughts and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of the Smithsonian Institution Archives.

As my internship at the Smithsonian Institution Archives comes to a close, it is time to reflect back on what I have learned, how this experience has been helpful, and what it has taught me about Digital Humanities. 

During the course of my internship, I learned several new technical skills that will be beneficial to my digital humanities work going forward. First of all, I learned how to use a new content management interface, Drupal. While we had been introduced to several interfaces during the Certificate coursework such as Omeka and WordPress, Drupal was new to me. At first, it was a bit intimidating and frustrating as I tried to figure out how the system worked. Slowly, but surely–through lots of trial and error–I finally got the hang of it. Then after I had mastered creating basic pages, there were new types of pages like “Story Letters” and “Image Galleries,” each with their own intricacies, to figure out.

During this process, I was mostly left to figure it out on my own, although the staff at SIA, especially on the days I was working in their office downtown, were more than happy to answer any questions I had. My supervisor also eased the learning process by assigning me projects which required me to create very basic pages first, while reserving the more complicated projecting until I had more experience with Drupal. 

Secondly, as I completed more projects in Drupal, it became necessary for me to understand and be able to write HTML code–something I had not done before the internship. During the Certificate coursework, I had always used the “WYSIWYG” view (which looks a bit like a word processor) to create my work. In general, WYSIWYG is an editor which supposedly shows a user what the end result will look like while they are creating a page or document. Unfortunately, Drupal’s WYSIWYG mode was not that straightforward. For example, when creating a page in WYSIWYG, I would add a hyperlink to one word in the main body text. In the WYSIWYG view, it looked fine. But when I went to save/publish the page, the word and the whole paragraph surrounding it was one big hyperlink, and the paragraph had been switched to a different font size. It was quite frustrating! But as I learned, the only way to fix problems like these was to switch to HTML and move the hyperlink tags so that it only surrounded the single word, and delete the tags which told the text to change font sizes.

I also had to use code to add images to the pages I was creating. While some of my work required me to download images from older online exhibits and re-upload them to Drupal, some of the images I needed were already online on the SIA’s existing website. For these images, I had to use a small piece of code (modified with each picture’s identification number) in order to add them to my page. 

In addition to the technical skills I learned while interning at SIA, I also learned a lot about myself and gained valuable insight into my academic and professional future paths. As mentioned in my previous post, I learned that I do not like commuting into Washington, D.C. during normal business hours. Because of this experience, I would now be more hesitant to take a job that required that commute each day. 

This internship also helped to confirm some things about myself that I already suspected. First of all, I like to do work where I can put my own particular skills, abilities, and creativity to work. While I could see that the work I was doing at SIA was important and that someone had to do it, it is not something that I could imagine myself doing full-time. Instead of cutting, pasting, uploading, and arranging other people’s work, I would be much happier in a career where I am doing my own research and writing, and then creating my own exhibit. Secondly, I am an extravert. Sitting in a cubicle by myself, working on my projects by myself, is hard for me. I do much better in a team environment, where I can bounce ideas off other people, ask them questions about how something has worked in the past, or simply brainstorm new ideas. 

Finally, I am more excited about the work I am doing when I can see the connection between my work and the end user. For example, during my Certificate coursework, I created an educational portion of a website, geared toward teaching 4th graders historical thinking skills. My mother, who is a fourth grade teacher, assured me as I was creating the site that she would use it with her students when I was finished. This pushed me to be more creative and to put more work into the project, because I knew that it was going to be used and I knew who the users were. While I will admit that it is quite cool to take my friends and family to the SIA website and show them the pages I have created, I have no idea who or how many people have seen or used those pages. Therefore, the educational project I created is more rewarding for me, as I got to hear about how students used the website and educational resources I had created as part of their history education. 

The Certificate coursework did prepare me for my internship in some aspects, but not in others. I think it was most helpful in giving me a basic foundation in Digital Humanities. Instead of going into the internship blind, I knew where the field had come from, what types of work it encompassed, and had gained experience in creating my own projects. My experiences in coursework also hindered me though, in some ways, from enjoying the internship. For example, if I had completed the internship more toward the beginning of the certificate, I would have been quite pleased with what I have accomplished. But after being emboldened (through three class projects) in creating my own digital scholarship, it almost seemed like a step backwards to be cutting and pasting work that someone else had already done. I would have loved to apply what I learned during the coursework about audience and educational methods, but this is hard to do when you are not selecting the images or writing the text. 

Also, while the certificate coursework will be significantly helpful in my career going forward, it did not address the specific technical skills and interface that I was asked to work with for my internship. Since everyone in the Certificate cohort was placed in different Smithsonian internships, it is quite possible that most of the other students had previous experience during the coursework doing what they were asked to do during the internship. (For example, I know that another student was asked to work with social media for their internship–something we practiced during the coursework). But for me, the main two technical skills I utilized in my internship–HTML and Drupal–were new to me.

While doing the Certificate coursework, I initially appreciated that none of the projects required us to know HTML, since I didn’t know how to create it and I thought it would be complicated to learn. But as I completed my internship, I wished that writing HTML code was already part of my skill set. I feel like a basic understanding of HTML code and how it works would have been a useful part of the Certificate curriculum. It also would have been helpful to be exposed to even more interfaces during the coursework. While I understand that coursework can never cover all of the available options, it would have been nice to try a few interfaces that did a similar task. Instead of just working with WordPress, why not be introduced to Drupal too? Instead of just working with CartoDB for mapping, why not let us work with ARC-GIS? Even if these other interfaces were more complicated, harder to use, or didn’t offer the features we needed, it would have been helpful to learn about what the different options were, how they differed from one another, and why one might choose one interface over another. 

Nevertheless, the internship gave me greater insight into a small snippet of the larger Digital Humanities field. While the Certificate courses gave me an overview of what the field encompassed as a whole, the internship let me see how current employees use digital humanities on a daily basis to do their work. I was also able to have conversations with my supervisor about difficulties I had run into (see my third internship blog, “Estimating Work and Time”) and hear about how people working in the field encounter and deal with the same problems. 

My internship experience helped me to see that while the exact work you are doing (creating a website, doing text, analysis, etc.) or the environment you are in (academic vs. government) might change, some baseline elements do not. DH projects are always time consuming. They take longer than you expect them to, because you always run into unexpected hiccups along the way. They require dedication and attention to detail. They can change as you go along, until your end product is a far cry from your original idea. But in the end, doing DH work is rewarding. It is intriguing. It helps you see things in a new light or think about things differently than you did before. And it allows you to share these new ideas with others, and encourage their own curiosity.

Therefore, I am excited to continue expanding my practical knowledge in this field and have some new and different DH experiences as I work as a Digital History Fellow at George Mason University during the 2017-2018 school year. 

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Smithsonian Digital Internship, Final Reflection

By Rebeca Coleman

As this internship winds down, I’m reflecting back on what I’ve learned and accomplished throughout the past eight months. I’ve gotten to experience interning for the Smithsonian Institution, which was a wonderful experience. I’ve learned more about publishing a piece in the Smithsonian Magazine than I ever thought I would’ve when I started college. The amount of editing that goes into just the writing portion of my pieces has been incredible to watch and participate in. I’ve spent countless hours researching, editing, and creating digital pieces that I’m really very proud to call my own. I’ve gotten much more comfortable working with different DH softwares, like TimelineJS and Carto. I’m starting to feel more comfortable working with HTML, and I wouldn’t mind taking some time this summer to work more with it.

I enjoyed the work I’ve done the most this year. Seeing all my hard work put into fruition, published, instead of just sitting on a hard drive for me to look back on in a few years. I enjoyed watching my work go from unpolished to publishable over the course of each project. The part of the internship that I disliked the least was probably one I have a love/hate relationship with – the digital part. I loved the digital aspect because it allowed me to work full time and still have this internship. I could juggle both without much problem. The digital part I disliked involved difficulties in communication and sometimes feeling “seen” or “heard.” It’s easy to forget about someone when they’re not in front of you on a daily basis, like they would be in a traditional internship. So while I liked the freedom the digital aspect allowed me, sometimes it got frustrating when communication became difficult.

This internship will absolutely be helpful as I move forward in my own professional development. I hope to continue to build my DH skills, and potentially branch out of the world of academia and into the museum world with DH. I now understand so much more about the DH world, even though I know it’s constantly evolving and that I know only a small percentage of what the DH world entails. I’m a lot more comfortable with my abilities in DH, and I hope that they will help me in my future professional endeavors. DH isn’t so much a specific job, instead it’s incorporating the digital world into the museum and academic worlds. DH demonstrates what we’ve been doing in the analog world for so long but in a digital format. DH is only going to continue to grow as the internet and digitization continues to accelerate. Speaking for education, I know that the production of digital products by teachers and students is a huge push at the moment. I’m sure it’s happening in the museum world as well. But it all boils down to how can we incorporate the digital tools to the analog world of public humanities. And how can we help spread the humanities through the digital world? I hope to be able to build upon that digital humanities push in my own life and career.

The coursework in the Digital Public Humanities Graduate Certificate program helped prepare me for my internship by giving me a bit of hands-on time with certain products used in the DH world. I was able to call upon those experiences in my internship and use those for my initial projects. As I continued in my projects, I was able to research and find tools that were better suited for my needs at the time. Sometimes I wished for more knowledge of code, but overall, I felt prepared from my courses to handle a variety of digital tools.

I’m really glad I participated in this program, and I’m really glad I was able to complete this internship with the Smithsonian. Being able to work hands-on with the digital tools I was learning about really cemented my joy in spreading the digital public humanities work. The most joy I got out of this internship was, admittedly, selfish, because I most enjoyed seeing my projects published. But otherwise, I just simply enjoyed using the digital tools. I’m glad I selfishly got to try new things and use the digital tools, but I’m also glad I was able to teach people new things, whether it was about Freedom Riders, the former Presidents in retirement, or local podcasts that present history and culture with flair.

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Final Reflection

By Michael Roth

Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I can see how my work with the Archives’ has helped. When I’m looking for something for class, or even on my own, I don’t limit myself to one type of document. Knowing that there may be a photo or artwork associated with a particular thing has allowed my research to be more dynamic. This stems from delving into the online database and seeing the wide range of items that comes from a simple one or two word search.

The thing I enjoyed the most was this search, and seeing the depth the Archives has in their collection. It was an exploration into things that  I had little exposure to in the past. By contrast, some of the searches became tedious as I ran into roadblocks with my keywords. Having a large collection can be daunting if there is no specific thing I’m looking for. This will help me in the future, as I have more of an idea of how to navigate large collections.

Creating the content calendar reinforced the idea that there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes with any Digital Humanities work. My previous experience taught me that there is a great deal of work that needs to be done before anyone in the outside world sees anything. This proved to me that this applies in most aspects of DH work.

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Smithsonian Digital Internship, Mini Update

By Rebeca Coleman

After two months of researching, editing, and creating, my piece on podcasts in every state was published! In it, I highlighted one-two podcasts on each state, focusing on local culture and history. I’m very proud of this project! I learned way more than I ever thought I would about podcasts and local history and culture throughout the United States. I built the map using Carto, which has become quite comfortable for me to use over the past several months. I hope people enjoy it as much as I enjoy it!

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