Archive for October 2006

Thoughts for a final project…

October 31, 2006

I currently work for the National Park Service at Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial.  The site is getting ready to close its doors for an indeterminate amount of time in order to install a climate control system and a new fire suppression system, and to also restore the slave quarter buildings.  I thought an annotated virtual tour of the site the way it looks now – a before shot – would be helpful to any visitors who show up within that indeterminate amount of time.  Otherwise they will only see the outside of the house, or even the inside with no furniture, and have to listen to rangers talk themselves silly without any visuals.  The site could put the virtual tour up on its website, or set up an orientation area to show visitors on some sort of projector screen.

Does this seem way too simple? or do you think it could work?

Why Digitize?

October 31, 2006

Digitization is a wonderful thing for researchers.  It can put primary sources right at your fingertips without you ever having to leave your house.  All of us enjoy doing research in our fuzzy slippers.  For a lot of us, however, we have no idea what goes into making these sources available.  There is a lot of time, effort, and cost involved in the smallest of digitization projects.  I hope some of us come away with more of an appreciation for those institutions who delve into the ever-changing digital world.

For most of us, these problems are not biggies.  I only have certain files that I would like to preserve – mostly text – that are reformatted everytime Microsoft comes out with a new version of Word.  Not really a big deal.  But, I do have certain things that I saved one Zip disks – anyone remember those??? – that I can only get to because I kept the external Zip drive that I paid an arm and a leg for.  I don’t even know if you can get a computer with an internal Zip anymore.  Now, my files are not all that important, but I can only imagine what the people at the Domesday Project went through!

All this means is that we need to be very careful and do our homework before we invest our life savings into a digitization project that might be completely obsolete in 2 years.  Oh, and always keep the originals!!!

The Internet in the Classroom

October 24, 2006

The more the better.  The way this class is set up is excellent!  All the resources we need are in one place or just a click away.  They are much easier to find and to reference than having to go back and remember where you put that article or this paper.  It also allows for more visual learning, which helps me personally.  It also feels more hands on, like I have more agency in this class than in others.

No Computer Left Behind

October 24, 2006

Without getting into my feelings about the No Child Left Behind Act (that could be a novel in itself) this article hits the nail on the head of multiple choice tests.  As a former teacher, I do admit that Scantron is wonderful for saving time.  But you end up teaching the students things that college professors say are not all that important because you can just look them up somewhere.  Even the more thoughtful questions become regurgitation once the kids figure out how to take the test.  More essays in the primary and secondary classroom would kill two birds with one stone.  Not only do these students not know how to think about history, they don’t know how to structure and argument on paper either.  Some of my students (seniors in high school) could not put together a grammatically correct sentence.  Let them write!

Maps, maps, and more maps!!

October 17, 2006

Maps are wonderful! I love maps!  I also love the idea of being able to click on a map and find information about the spot that I clicked on.  We use this technology to find apartments and make hotel reservations, why not to search digital libraries or find the references we historians need to write our many multitudes of papers? 

I can certainly sympathize with Schwartz’s frustration at flipping through a book and not finding any visual representation of the location being described.  As a Civil War historian, there is nothing more annoying than reading pages upon pages about a certain battle and not finding any visuals of the terrain or troop movements, or the surrounding population.

Geo-spatial information is fundamental to history and should be used whenever possible.  It is exciting to see that someone is trying to put all this information together and make it easier for those of us who are not technologically savvy to find what we are looking for.  Even if the article may have gone a little over my head. 

I also find it easier to search visually than textually, but that’s just me!

Keep ’em coming!

October 2, 2006

API’s? Love them! Anything that helps me research the Internet and other databases more quickly and efficiently is OK with me!  I do agree with – I think it was – Bill, that this is what historians do.  We gather information from disparate sources and put them together for ourselves and others.  This is just a new, faster, more efficient way of doing what historians have been doing for ages.  It only makes sense that the humanities world should be moving into this not-so-new technology in order to make our work easier.  It is a shame that it is taking so long.

Databases should be as accessable as possible.  I’m not saying that historians and scholars should put all their research out there, they have to make a living somehow, but the sources they used for their research should be available to anyone who wants to view it.  This stuff needs to be out there, and it needs to be easy to find and sift through.  And, yes, those who are fortunate enough to know how to manipulate databases and create API’s and other programs that allow researchers to put their information together as easily as possible, should share the wealth and help those of us who are less fortunate.