Using StoryMapJS and TimelineJS

I decided to have a little bit of fun with these tools by using information from my historic preservation thesis on gender and Virginia’s equine landscape. While I don’t think StoryMapJS and TimelineJS are the best tools for analyzing and sharing my research, I enjoyed experimenting.

I liked several aspects of StoryMapJS, including its ability to show locations in relation to each other and its integration of media with text and maps. However, I found the tool to be limited in arranging information about a concept as abstract as gender. Since it organizes the locations in a chronology, I think it would work better as a timeline. I ultimately ended up organizing my information about the horse farms in a manner that shows the male-run farms before the female-run ones. Conveniently, this method forms a clean loop on the map. Had I tried to arrange the farms chronologically, the map would have been more confusing, especially if I added more farms. I also don’t like how the map appears on my blog.

I found TimelineJS to be a better tool for creating a history of some of the women in my study’s racing accomplishments. However, I would have had to add considerably more information about men in racing, U.S. history, and gender roles to develop a meaningful context for these seemingly isolated events. I like the aesthetics of TimelineJS because they are clean, straightforward, and the colors, backgrounds, and media can be manipulated more than in StoryMapJS. However, I wish the images used in the timeline could be enlarged.

Ultimately, I don’t think my group will likely use these tool for our 3D laser scanning project for the James Monroe Museum. However, we could possibly use StoryMapJS to map out the origins of the objects we scan to provide visuals. We could also use TimelineJS to create a map of when the objects were made or when they were acquired by James Monroe, although this information could be broad and defeat the purpose of making a timeline.

Although I find Feedly a little bit difficult to navigate, I hope that it will make it easier to keep up with new blog posts by my classmates and members of the DH Compendium.

Digital Tools and Digital History Websites

I think that both WordPress and Omeka could be useful for digital history projects. Although we have not yet learned much about WordPress beyond using it as a blog, it could also be used as a website for a digital history project. WordPress makes it easy to create multiple pages and sub-pages that could be used to make navigating and organizing the project straightforward. The search bar could pull up blog posts or pages featuring specific tags. Additionally, pages could be created that link to media like images, videos, or downloadable documents, although the media could also be embedded in a page with text. While I think WordPress might be a better tool for organizing online history projects that involve large amounts of text, I currently think that Omeka works better for archival or collections-based projects. Since Omeka uses Dublin Core, it standardizes and professionalizes the information about each item. Omeka also allows the users to group items into collections and exhibits for online displays, which seems to give it more flexibility than WordPress.

Of the websites I reviewed, I liked The Emancipation Project the least because it was disorganized, only provided snippets of information, did not provide information about the graphic or source on the same page as the source, and did not contextualize the graphics or sources. I found the graphics interesting and they helped me visualize the subject, but they still did not mean much to me without background information. I also found Valley of the Shadow difficult to navigate and not visually appealing. However, I liked that all of the documents have been transcribed and are searchable, which partially mitigates the difficulties of navigating the site.  Exploring the French Revolution was also problematic because it used icons to link to sources instead of a small image of the source. I think this hampers conducting research using the primary documents. I also believe that copies of the sources should be scanned so users can look at an image of the original as well as the transcribed version. However, I thought the essays provided useful information despite being unwieldy because the content is on several pages. I also liked how it is possible to search for a specific term across all of the source types to find documents both containing tags or the specific phrase.

I liked Gilded Age Murder the best because it provided extensive background information about both the subject and historical interpretation, the sources had images helping make it easy to navigate, and it was visually appealing. However, the documents have not been transcribed and they are not searchable. While I also liked the extensive amounts of information, timelines, and bibliographies presented in Imagining the Past, I found it difficult to navigate and sometimes repetitive. I also found the lack of standardization distracting. One example was the website’s use of “works cited,” “bibliography,” “further reading,” and “resources” as page names for the bibliography. I also enjoyed Avery’s Architectural Ephemera Collections because the navigation was straightforward and the content was not overwhelming. The website listed each of the categories of ephemera. The category provided a description of the items in the collection,  images of a sampling of items, and a link or description of where all the items in the collection could be searched.

Reviewing these digital history websites has made me realize how difficult it is to create one. I like how Omeka can organize items into a collection and provide the information associated with the object because it is easier to navigate. I also think that it is important to consider font legibility and visual appeal.

Why Digital History?

I am taking this class because I would like to increase my proficiency with digital tools and learn about the methodology behind digital history projects. I believe that digital history is an important tool for making history more accessible and engaging for a variety of audiences. Additionally, digital history projects can further the preservation and increase the accessibility of historic resources ranging from documents and objects to entire buildings and landscapes. One of my interests is using Autodesk products combined with technologies like 3D laser scanning and infrared photography to document and monitor the deterioration of historic structures, as well as to create interactive catalogs to record the history and treatments for each architectural component.