Archive for April, 2012

James Farmer Digital Archives: A Reflection

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

When I signed up for the Spring 2012 Digital History Seminar, I had a choice between four group projects to work on for my last semester at the University of Mary Washington. I am incredibly thankful to have gotten my first project choice: to create James Farmer Digital Archives. Michelle, Kelsey, Caitlin, and I dove headfirst into our project without having a clear sense of what or even where the resources were.  We were not even sure if we had the rights to upload and present James Farmer’s thirteen lectures, filmed by a local news channel WNVT-TV Channel 53 in the early 1980s.  Once we found the lectures in the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies (DTLT) lab and we knew that the University owned the rights to the lectures, we moved them into Monroe’s Digital Media Lab to begin cutting, editing, and transcribing the lectures. Our group contract states that our primary goal is to ultimately present James Farmer in his own words, and I am proud to say my group has truly accomplished that objective.

Although we accomplished our group goal of putting James Farmer into his own words, we had to overcome many obstacles along the way.  First, we had to find the video files that were located somewhere on campus.  Once we found them in the DTLT lab, we discovered that we only had lectures four through thirteen digitized. Once we realized that the first four lectures were missing and in terrible condition, we then ran into our next obstacle: the copyright of the videos.  We emailed around the University staff, and eventually Professor McClurcken discovered that the University had all of the rights for the video recording. Despite these initial hurdles, we were able to complete our goals for hosting our information, creating the transcripts of lectures, as well as creating a trailer (which was only a few days late according to our initial contract.)

I was in charge of designing the website, which is hosted under UMW Blogs WordPress. I had worked with Omeka before, as well as had multiple UMW Blog accounts, but I had never had the opportunity to create a website from the ground up. We chose WordPress as a host not only because DTLT was incredibly knowledgeable about the host’s capabilities, but also because it was user friendly. I was inspired by the University’s website homepage’s slide show feature and my vision went from there. I discovered plugins that would be essential to our site. The What Did They Say?!? Transcript plugin allows for the large blocks of texts to hide and even gives credit to Kelsey under her UMW Blogs username, kmatthews. The Facebook/Twitter buttons are used for promotional purposes. The search engine plugin even allows the user to search within the transcripts themselves to find key words. With a simple website having minimal text, complementary color scheme, and easy dropdown tabs, James Farmer is successfully presented “in his own words.”

Although I put countless hours into trying to create the perfect website archive, I could not have done this without the help of Kelsey, Michelle, and Caitlin. While Kelsey worked hours on transcribing James Farmer’s stories, she also created and embedded a Map tracing James Farmer’s travels. Michelle cut and uploaded video onto the UMW History Vimeo account while still writing and adding summaries to the website. Caitlin cut video, created our trailer, and helped with the aesthetics of the site.  My fellow classmates completed their divisions of labor impeccably, while still helping one another out, allowing our project to be a successful collaboration. Walking away from this project, I understand that I have not only created an excellent resource for students and historians alike, but also that I am capable of creating a project bigger than myself – successfully presenting stories from a pivotal moment in American History.

Our Final Product

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

And the final site is up! James Farmer Digital Archive

The James Farmer group meet together in the lab today to make a few changes to the website for the final draft due tomorrow. Things we changed:

- The layout of the homepage: It’s now just the tags and the quote section on on the bottom of the page.

- Fixed the links to the slide shows (FIXED the short photo on the slide!)

- Changed the search bar to show up on all the pages, with the quotes pluggin underneath.

- Cited all of the photos (gave credit to UMW Digital Archives and Caitlin’s Flickr)

- Kelsey’s updated Map with descriptions

- Sent out our official email invitations for our presentation at the symposium this Friday to anyone who has helped us out along the way

We are going to have one last look through tomorrow morning before class and it’s final!

Group Update

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Our group presentation yesterday at Research and Creativity Day was successful, as we were able to describe the purpose, process, and final outcome of our project. Leading up to our presentation I really wanted to make sure our timeline was complete… Through the help of Dr. McClurken and Jim Groom, I was able to gain access to the Google Spreadsheet used by the previous FredMarkers group. Over the weekend I went through the spreadsheet and fixed all of the FredMarker links, and added our own information into the document (marker names, counties, inscriptions, categories, website links, dates, ect.) Once I completed that, Jim sent me a link with all of our marker information added into the timeline, and Sarah was able to figure out how to properly link it to our website. We still plan on changing the header on the timeline to a more universal title that credits both groups, and that links back to our site.

I also received an email from a writer at The Bullet today, who is writing an article about our project. We are meeting with him tomorrow afternoon for an interview to discuss our website and its significance! I owe my friend who was able to put me in touch with the right people to get this article in motion.

The Twitter account is keeping me occupied on a daily basis, as I’ve been posting at least one historical marker fact per day, along with other tid-bits of information that relate to our work.

Follow us @VAHistoricMarkers

Entering the Home Stretch…

Monday, April 16th, 2012

The James Farmer Lecture Digital Archives site is really coming together so nicely for the last few weeks of seminar. I’ve managed to change the front of the archives page with the help of Jim Groom and Tim Owens of DTLT.  With the new slide show feature, an interested viewer comes to the page with multiple visuals and an immidiate sense of what our site is about.

Caitlin has completed and posted the trailer, “In His Own Words.” Kelsey has been checking over the final drafts of the transcripts and have been working to create flyers, while Michelle has been looking over the transcripts and even created a QR that links to our website! I am cleaning up the site – I made the dimensions of the embedded trailer 600 x 450, so I am going to do the same for the rest of the video we have. The transition for pages to posts was so simple (unfortuately I figured this out after I had already created new posts before my discussion with Tim Owens…) There is a pluggin that literally, from the click of a button, changes the pages of the site to posts. I just need to re-enter my the taggs into the full video lecture posts, which will then be added to the tag cloud located on the home page.

I’m honestly really proud of the work our group has done to present James Farmer’s reflections of one of the most important movements in American history, in an easily accessible and an organized manner.

Nom Nom Bob

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

The assignments was to take a recent dream or nightmare you’ve had and make a visual representation of it for others to see. I went with the Nightmare on NomNom Street by NomNomreeses.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense but Uncle Bob popping in your dream about Reese’s doesn’t make much sense either. But I’m sure Uncle Bob loves him some Reese’s pieces. Mmmmm…..

I love this image of an “uncle Bob”. I have no idea where it came from but when I think “Uncle Bob” I think of a poor ol’  handsome hick . . .ok, not handsome, rather ugly. And now I swear that I’m ol’ Unc here will be popping ina and out of my dreams for weeks.

Physical Facilities in Edu.

Monday, April 9th, 2012

While reading Barbara Weinstein’s article, Doing History in the Digital Age, I was able to relate with her students complaint regarding the lack of physical facilities of her classroom. Last year I took a course, The History of Latin America, taught by an older female professor who lectured everyday, but used PowerPoint to provide pictures and statistics. Although it was painful to listen to the unenthusiastic monotone lectures, her use of PowerPoint made the class twice as bearable. It is refreshing to know “older” professors are accepting this movement toward digital technology in education, rather than sticking to their traditional methods of teaching. Also, I though that Weinstein brought up a good point saying that digital archives is “a godsend for scholars working in countries where there is precious little funding available for libraries or research collections.” I had never considered this aspect of online databases, and it is fascinating to imagine these research and educational opportunities now available to the less fortunate aspiring scholars out there.


Christopher Miller’s article, Strange Facts in the History Classroom: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wiki(pedia), was intriguing, because Miller explained and broke down an assignment for one of his classes at Carol College in Wisconsin. The Midwest is a strange place to me, and I’m glad to know that they use the Internet there ;). I noticed that the article was written in 2008, but was still surprised that only 7 of Miller’s 28 students knew of Wikipedia’s existence. I graduated from high school that year in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and am positive that the majority of my classmates regularly used the website. Once Miller’s students grasped the overall idea of Wikipedia, I wasn’t surprised to hear that they conveyed very positive attitudes about its information. Like Weinstein’s observation about the “physical facilities” of the classroom, Wikipedia provides a similar phenomenon. Pictures, statistics, and lists of references are present on every page, and its not surprising that Miller’s students were immediately accepting of Wikipedia’s information. Though they eventually came to recognize Wikipedia’s downfalls regarding misspellings, Internet graffiti, and misinformation, the year 2008 was vastly different from 2012. Today it is rare to find errors on the website, as it is surely monitored by numerous filters that check for such things.


Regarding the VA State Marker project, I feel like our group has begun to hit the home stretch of our work. We recently created a Twitter page devoted to our website, that provides announcements regarding our progress, and daily tidbits of information from random markers. I think that the Twitter page is a good way to get word out about our project, and to inform and educate the VAST amount of people who LOVE historical markers.


Follow us at @VAStateMarkers. I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend.

Readings: Impact of Digital History on Historians

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Blogging for Your Students – David Voelker

American Historical Association – History and Technology Column – May 2007

Voelker discusses the advantages of teachers/professors using blogs for their courses.  One of the advantages that Voelker emphasizes is the interactive feature of blogging.  It emables comments and allows peers to interact in a way that they would not normally do during lecture. Because blogs are generally public, there is more critical thinking that goes into the comments on the posts, which allows better discussion online and during class.

Voelker also discusses other advantages for professors using blogs for courses.  It is easier to track grades and progress.  It is also easier for students to filter through the site based on category lists, tags, and hyperlinks that would not be available simply on a paper outline/syllabus of the class.  Not only can a student search for categories, but the professors is able to organize the site uniformly in such a way that syllabus, assignments, outside sources, different classes, etc. can all be separated into different tabs.

Inspired by the founder of Edublogs, James Farmer (coincidence?!?!), Voelker suggests that professors should start letting students blog on their own because, “blogging is a form of self-publishing.” Considering I have blog posts from multiple classes and regularly update this one for Digital History, it is evident that from 2007 students have increasingly begun to use blogging as a tool for participation in courses across several disciplines.

Wikipedia and Women’s History:  A Classroom Experience – Martha Saxton

Spring 2012 – Writing History in the Digital Age

Martha Saxton (currently working on a bio of Mary Ball Washington… another coincidence?!) oversaw a Wikipedia class project with undergraduate students as well as colleagues, starting in 2007.  She had two goals for the project:  to increase the representation of women in the global source information as well as using Wikipedia as a tool to show students methods for evaluating and writing responsible history.

Throughout Saxton’s research, she noticed common trends of women’s history on Wikipedia. First that there is hardly any representation of women in history at all on the digital encyclopedia.  This has partly to do with how women’s history has not become mainstream in online culture and that women are only 13% of wikipedia’s contributors.

Because her students use Wikipedia for contributions and editions, it is a different style of teaching.  It is a “less predictable’ style that uses the opinion of others in high regard. It increases debates of facts between historians.  Saxton’s particular students focused on women’s history of broad, popular history articles such as the American Revolution and the Vietnam War. In the end, she discovered that much of her students content, with very credible and extensive research, were removed or moved from the article.

In conclusion, women’s history is still not highlighted enough today, which comes as a surprise as evident of lack of information on the supposedly free and open Wikipedia. Although we have this great resource meant for open access, the censorship on gender studies is still evident.


Dark Knight Rises Silent Redux

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Here’s my Silent Film assignment for ds106.

I wasn’t sure initially which trailer to use but Dark Knight came to mind. After watching it I thought that a silent film version could work well. So I downloaded the video from Youtube and uploaded it into Windows Movie Maker. I changed used the black and white filter that Movie Maker had but I wanted to add a 16mm film grain effect. I used one from youtube and used a program called tracAxPC. Its a movie editor that’s pretty straight forward but I’m sure if I played around with it there’s probably a lot of depth. There is a 30-day free trial that comes with the download. The program allows you to adjust the opacity of layers so I turned down the opacity on the 16mm layer and got the proper effect.

As far as the soundtrack I really wanted to use The Dark Night score. I didn’t think a classical piece would work as well as the film score.

The screen cards I goggled and edited in Gimp 2. It was simple use of the text tool and layering. I then inserted them where I wanted. Silent films usually don’t overload the film with captions so i thought a minimal amount was best, especially for a trailer.

Here’s my video:

Here’s the original:

VA Markers Official Press Release

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Press Release April 5th, 2012



Bad Lip Reading

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

So hopefully, for my final project I can make a mash up of a politician in the style of the great BLR (Bad Lipreading) videos.

Basically it seems as though its just voice overs – - kill the audio for the video and replace with a voice over, making the poor victim say WHATEVER you want. The most difficult part is actually lip reading and replacing the words that looks like they make sense. And there’s definitely an extreme direction  I can go to, maybe BLR does that. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do but I like the idea of a voice over mash up.

Here’s an example of what it can possibly turn out as. This video is from BLR on

The only problem is finding a point to do the video for the ds106 final project. So I will attempt to tell a story of some sort or actually have a hook or goal to the video. My intention is for it to be a little funny and kind of absurd, so I’ll have to be careful not to go over the top. An idea might to take a politician and change his stance completely, which could be funny. I can just imagine a video of Santorum advocating abortion of gay marriage. Though I might be getting a call from his election committee. I’ll know more (hopefully exactly) in the next couple of weeks.