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.