Post #6: Final Reflection

Throughout the Industrial Voices course, I learned an enormous amount and definitely grew as a student of history. I went into the course feeling as though building our exhibit was going to be an almost insurmountable task; though the project it did have its trying moments, the skills we learned along the way gave us the necessary tools to tackle this project (and, I hope, do the rich industrial history of North Adams justice.) Learning the technical side of digital archivism and exhibits was somewhat intimidating, but having a strong handle on these concepts as I do now has instilled a new sense of confidence in me. Armed with this knowledge, I feel much more ready to potentially enter the field of history after graduation in 2017. Additionally, the course introduced me to the enormous possibilities which exist in the field of public history. As a result of this taste of public history which Industrial Voices provided has prompted me to take a Museum Studies course in the Arts Management department next semester, and I have become seriously interested in possibly pursuing public history as a career.

Though attending class via video conferencing each week was a bit of a bizarre experience in the beginning, I found that working with professors and peers in entirely different parts of the country provided a uniquely diverse set of perspectives on local history. This facet of the course exposed me to the various researching challenges each group faced depending on their location, and helped me to gain a better understanding of the differing ways industrialism impacted — or did not impact — areas other than the mill towns of the Northeast which I grew up in and around. It was wonderful to gradually get to know my classmate and professors, and to share our mutual excitement for history and the sundry artifacts we found throughout the research process. Although it is unlikely we will meet in person, working with them throughout the course has been a memorable experience. and I am glad to have participated.

In the Industrial Voices course, I found the emphasis on the opportunities technology presents for preservation and restoration in history refreshing. None of the history courses I had taken up to this point had touched upon such concepts, and the progressive and adaptive nature of digital history is something I had rarely considered before. Because historians and archivists deal with the artifacts and circumstances of the past, the relationship between history and new technologies is not necessarily an obvious one. However, discussing how archival technology has progressed and contemporary methods (like building online collections in programs like Omeka) provides an interesting sense of how important metadata can be when techniques and formats change. Especially in an era where technology and data storage methods are seemingly in a constant state of flux and acceleration, maintaining a record of an item’s provenance, its rights information, and so on, endures an ultimate priority for modern archivists.

In terms of the project itself, The Making of Tunnel City, I feel very satisfied with the site Mina and I have constructed. We had the privilege of utilizing the North Adams Historical Society’s vast collection of images and additional resources from the North Adams Public Library and the Freel Library on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus, and the exhibit would certainly be lacking without their assistance. Our particular strengths as individuals — Mina’s being mainly technology-based and mine being generally writing-based — combined well in the context of the project. This helped us to create what I would consider to be well-rounded, visually pleasing, and user-friendly content which informs without being too dry and immerses the viewer in the city at the time of the (second) industrial revolution. The images used in the exhibit are, I believe, an effective way of setting the visual scene for visitors to the site, while the written content creates a narrative centering on themes of industrial growth and development in the railroad and factory labor sectors. Looking at our completed work, I can honestly say that this project has been one of the most fulfilling academic experiences of my academic career to date, and I am truly proud of our digital exhibit and all the work it took to produce it.

Post #5: Metadata Assignment

Title:

  • The title is quite obvious — the postcard has a title in the upper right hand corner, which made the item’s title easy to determine.
  • This item is an image of one of the many factories around North Adams which employed many of the city’s residents and were the reason for its then-successful economy.
  •  I think the titles for most things will be pretty straight forward, but if it’s an individual item, we should make sure the that origin of the item (the larger category it belongs to for the purposes of our exbihit) is noted, so it’s easy to categorize them.
  • I don’t think quotation marks are necessary, but Mina and I can discuss that for the sake of consistency.

Subject:

  • I think we should formulate the subject sections by noting the item/subject of the item, with the name of the city following it.

Description:

  • With the descriptions, I think it’s best to keep it short and sweet to better organize the items. It provides information about the basic content of the piece, but allows the real significance of the piece to be illustrated through its placement in the exhibit and the context provided there.

Date:

  • Thankfully, the postcard was postmarked, and provided the exact date and time it was sent through the mail. While this doesn’t necessarily provide the date of its creation or the creation of the print on the card, it gives a good ballpark.
  • As long as we can get within the right decade or half decade and it’s certain the the piece fits within our time period, I think some generalization is acceptable in case we’re unsure of an item’s exact date.
  • What if you can’t find out the date of an item? What do you do?
  • As far as the date format goes, I think January 1, 2016 (for example) should be fine for our purposes.

Rights:

  • The North Adams Historical Society owns this item.

Creator:

  • What if you don’t know who made the item?I don’t think creator is necessarily a crucial part of the metadata for the purposes of our exhibit — if the information is there, then that’s wonderful, but if not, the context is still intact. If multiple people (or a non-person, like a company) created the item and that information is available, I think it’s good practice to include it.

Coverage:

  • It’s likely that the image of Hunter Machine Works was created within a few years (at most) before the postcard was printed, sold, and sent, so it’s solidly within our time range. If we don’t have an idea of when it was created or when it was used, then unless we can somehow discern that the item fits within the time range, it probably shouldn’t be included in the exhibit.

Language:

  • The postcard title and all other writing on it is in English. The format to denote this would be “eng-us”.

 

Post #4: Hays Questions

1.      Briefly describe Hays’ take on the earliest days of Prohibition. Include points on religion, politics, and rural/urban life.

According to Hays, the Prohibition movement was in large part crusaded by rural Protestants who saw alcohol and ‘urban inebriates’ as a threat to their traditional values and morals. The Catholic and Jewish communities, which were often living in more developed areas, were less fond of the idea of Prohibition, and in many cases outwardly opposed it. Some urban politicians were in favor of Prohibition, but Hays suspects that a portion of this apparent interest stemmed from a desire to take a jab at one’s political opponents and redirect public attention away from other social reform issues.

  1. Our era includes these “lesser known” presidents—Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, B. Harrison—please select one and highlight their term and how it fits into the Second Industrial Revolution.

Grover Cleveland’s two, non-consecutive terms as president were impacted by issues and necessities which emerged from the Industrial Revolution. He created the Department of Labor in 1888, and the Department of Agriculture in 1989, in response to the demands of the industrial age and a growing country. He was not particularly socially progressive, especially when it came to immigration and labor rights. In 1888 he renewed the Chinese Exclusion Act, keeping immigrants of Chinese origin out of the country on the grounds that he did not believe Chinese traditions and American culture were compatible, and that the immigrants would not lend themselves well to assimilation. He also made a somewhat drastic move by bringing in federal troops to Chicago in response to the Pullman strike – a decision which caused urban workers to support the Republicans. Hays argues that this alienation of workers won the Republicans a majority in congress and McKinley the presidency in 1896.

  1. This era is noted for its technological innovation, sometimes referred to as a technological revolution in its own right. Based on your readings, briefly describe a technology and its impact on this era.

Hays states that the printing press, while somewhat overlooked in the conversation regarding technology with connections to the Industrial Revolution, was an important part of “coordinating the intricate functions of the new economy.” (Hays 11) The rotary printing press in particular made the production of newspapers and other publications cheaper and less difficult. Its enhanced ability to produce items in print helped to facilitate the boom of commercial advertising and created a more direct line of consumption for the public.

  1. Do you see any similarities in the American life of then and now?

I believe there are numerous connections between life during the Second Industrial Revolution and our modern experience. Where Americans living during the Industrial Revolution saw a wave of innovation in industrial technology, today we’re seeing a similar revolution in digital technology; in both instances, the way in which people communicate, businesses run, and our society functions is changed by these advancements.

Just as the Progressive movement and its reform efforts accompanied the Industrial Revolution, a comparable move towards more liberal thinking and increased concern regarding economic inequality has accompanied the digital revolution. Concern about ‘alliances’ between industrialists or corporations and politicians permeated On the other side of the social movement coin, too, a new sort of sociopolitical conservatism has also begun to affect modern political discourse in the United States, just as the temperance movement and advocates of Prohibition impacted the leanings of the nation on issues of ‘morality’. Additionally, though far less prominent than that of the Populist movement, grumblings about the dangers of a digitized society and resistance to the prominence of computers, smartphones, and even the internet in our daily lives certainly exist in the US today. The way in which young people now assess their futures and their potential as an individual has also broadened in a way similar to the youth of the Industrial Revolution; increased opportunities for education, travel, and greater social mobility characterize the younger generations’ experiences in both eras (though actual, practical access to these opportunities is obviously far greater now than it was at the turn of the 19th century.)

Post #3: Site Reviews

Site Review 1: The Church in the Southern Black Community Collection at DocSouth

The title of the first digital collection I’m assessing is The Church in the Southern Black Community. The digital site which contains the collection is named Documenting the American South (DocSouth), and it was published through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s University Library. The materials were sourced from a variety of locations, including the Southern Historical Collection, the North Carolina Collection, the Rare Book Collection, and the Davis Library.

The main page of the collection contains an overview of the types of materials and information the collection contains, such as autobiographies, church documents, sermons, etc. It also briefly summarizes the collection’s intended purpose and significance, and notes the temporal scope of the collection. The collection’s ultimate purpose is to provide a history of Protestant Christianity’s evolving significance in black Southern communities, from the post-Revolutionary period to the mid to late 19th century.

The copyright/usage page states that images and materials from the collection can be used without permission, as long as the materials are cited properly. This is only the case for private or educational use – commercial use is prohibited unless permission is given by UNC at Chapel Hill University Library. In the body of the text they also provide a link to the site’s citation guide to aid proper citation in the instance of private use, which I think is a thoughtful and useful feature.

The information and materials on the site can be searched manually, and browsed by image subject or by alphabetical order. The alphabetical order is somewhat less preferable in my opinion, because it’s difficult to explore the content unless you have an idea of what you are specifically looking for before you begin browsing. The metadata is a little bit buried, but accessible if you go to an image’s “Document Menu” page. I cannot seem to discern which content management system DocSouth is using for their exhibits, though that may be the result of a flaw in my research and not the site itself.

 

Site Review Analysis 2: Wichita Falls at War from COPLAC’s Century America Project

The title of the second site I chose to analyze is Wichita Falls At War: The Great War on the Homefront. The materials and information used in the exhibit were sourced from the Wichita County Archive, Wichita Falls Public Library, Midwestern State University, and the Burkburnett Public Library. These are located in or around Wichita County in North Texas.

The scope of the site’s content is clearly stated in its title, and further information is given within the “About Our Project & Us” section on the site’s homepage. The site was part of a larger project throughout 5 participating COPLAC schools throughout the country (and Canada), and the purpose of this and the other 4 projects was to document and present the experience of the colleges’ respective towns during the First World War. The site is split into topical sections, including information about the Call Field Airbase, the local oil boom, the Spanish Flu’s effect on Wichita Falls, and the role women had to play in healthcare and education during this time

There don’t seem to be any particular policies for reproduction of their work or use of their materials, but the authors do provide thorough credits/acknowledgements to archivists and other sources in their bibliography section, which suggests that one would have to go to the original source to utilize materials on the site. The site itself is searchable, however it seems that the material would be best viewed within the preexisting topic pages the authors set up. Searching keywords brings up the pages themselves, not images used, which is a little bit clunky if you want to just view the materials as stand-alones (though that’s not quite the purpose or format of the site, so it’s not so much a flaw as it is creator’s preference.) I believe WordPress was the CMS used to create the site, though I’m not exactly sure, as it is never explicitly stated.

Post #2: Archival Research Progress

At this somewhat early stage in our archival research (that of my partner Mina Beeler and myself), we’ve made solid progress in establishing what resources are available to us in various locations — mainly the North Adams Historical Society, the North Adams Public Library, and MCLA’s Freel Library — and have been cultivating some ideas for our exhibit based upon what we’ve found thus far.

The Historical Society has a very large collection of artifacts, including a number of relevant photos, and they have provided to us some packets compiled by Historical Society volunteers on the history of the prominent mills throughout the era. These photographs have the potential to be wonderful pieces for the exhibit, though we may be limited by our ability to accurately date some of the photos (many of them are ambiguous). The Society’s Treasurer, Gene Carlson, showed us some of the maps of North Adams currently on display from our target era, and Mina and I discussed the idea of pinpointing locations of importance on the map/s in our digital exhibit if the digitization process permitted. We viewed 2 volumes of North Adams Sandborn maps from 1914 in the upstairs archives (there are more and earlier maps on microfiche at the Freel Library). While there, we were also shown a device called a stereoscope, and beautifully detailed photographs meant to be viewed using it. These photographs included many images of the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel, an event of great importance to the area during industrialization. One issue we have already encountered is the lack of an inventory of items at the Society — it is likely we will need to spend some time sorting through the uncatalogued materials.

We currently have leads on more Hoosac Tunnel images which have already been uploaded for public access by the North Adams Public Library’s archivist, and there will at least be Sandborn maps at the college’s library, if not more relevant materials. Our advising professor has provided us with recommendations of books to check out for background information, and some local authors and past faculty members who may have some information or guidance to aid us in our research.

Post #1: Implications of Distance Digital Liberal Arts

The increasing momentum of distance digital liberal arts courses has strong implications for not only the advancement of inter-campus collaboration on the undergraduate level, but also for the level to which the professional historical community may cooperate and share materials as the digital age advances. I was interested in taking the course chiefly because of its emphasis on providing participants with the tools to expand communication between historians, archivists, and their peers across the US and to expose the public to historical information in a still fairly new way. Through my experience in the course, I expect to learn a lot about the practical elements of building digital exhibits, linking digital and traditional research resources, and the movement towards digital public history.