Digital History: Civil War Fredericksburg

Looking Back at the Semester

April 26th, 2010 by Megan Mc · Comments Off on Looking Back at the Semester

The top three things I liked about the structure of the class.
1. I liked the freedom of creating the design and the content of the site ourselves. The general topic was given to us but once we were given that it was up to the group to decide to make the site, whether it be an archive or interpretation site. This made it different from every other seminar class where you read a book a week and discuss.
2. The amount of technical tools and information at the beginning was overwhelming but it helped a lot. I feel like even that early in the semester we had somewhat an idea what tools would be useful for our projects so we were able to narrow our focus on those specifically.
3. I like the groups being assigned by Dr. M rather than getting to pick who’s in our groups. I would’ve loved to be in the same group as my suitemate but this way we both learned a lot about both our projects.

The top three things I would change about the structure of the class.
1. I liked the idea of keeping the class up to date with weekly presentations, however, I felt like I would prefer a 10-15 minute presentation by a group every other week. There were times when we would present something in our short presentation and then pretty much repeat the same thing in the longer presentation just to make that long enough. So two groups like Mary Wash and Civil War would do a 10 minute presentation 1 week, then the next week the other two would give their 10 minutes presentations.
2.I know a couple groups had problems with the map groups but I liked working with the map group. But, perhaps we should meet with them a little sooner so that their maps don’t arrive last minute. However, I know this has to work with Dr. Hanna’s syllabus as well.
3.Um, nothing?

Possible projects for future classes.
1.Perhaps something on Fielding Lewis and Washington’s sister. Or Hugh Mercer. I think those would be really interesting.
2. This might be a biased because I’m in the Civil War group but another project on something about the Civil War in Fredericksburg.

Advice for future students.
1. One word: Communicate. I don’t care how you do it e-mail, google doc, google wave, texting, calling, skyping, or facebook. But keep in contact with your group.
2. Be willing to compromise you’re in a group project after all.
3. Play around with the tools they show you, and wordpress and omeka. Make sure you want to use omeka before you start working on the project. About halfway through the semester my group and I were getting a little frustrated with how little we could change the look of omeka.

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Final Post

April 22nd, 2010 by Megan Mc · Comments Off on Final Post

When I signed up for Digital History, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I was a little nervous over winter break as to what the class would bring and then the syllabus came out and sent me into a little panic mode. It seemed a bit daunting at first. I had signed up thinking to myself, “Oh I know a little bit of html I can do this.” Then groups were assigned and I did not really know anyone, that also worried me a bit. However, my group turned out to be pretty cool, there was some miscommunication with the first big thing, the contract, but we worked that out pretty quickly and communicated through e-mail and google documents more. As I stated in my post after that particular event I was just glad that it happened earlier on, on a part of the project where we had a revising period, rather than later on where it would affect our grade more.With our contract done our task was then to meet the deadlines.

I feel like we did this very well, we sometimes met the deadlines well in advance, especially when we had class time to work on the project. We really couldn’t do research then so we did some of the technical aspects like work on the timeline spreadsheet. Towards the end it got a little nerve wracking trying to put all the interpretations up. We also decided to have primary documents and we were assigned sections to upload and I had Sanitary Commission. There really weren’t that many word documents from John Hennessy’s files that he gave us so I was told to transcribe some of the googlebooks. I spent a good couple of hours doing that, only to find out one had already been transcribed by Hennessy in another folder in the files. That was a bit discouraging but I did manage to transcribe a few.

Our group we lucky that we got a really good map group to work with, and it helped that Lauren was friends with one of the mapmaking students so it was easy to keep tabs on how their work was going. They met the deadline well in advance, and when we asked them to change some of the things they were very quick at it and figured out exactly what we wanted. The technology department also helped us meet our deadlines. When it came time to put the timeline and maps on our website and we could not figure out how to get it up on the site and a quick e-mail to Patrick and he was willing to help and fast too.

About halfway through the semester my group grew to hate Omeka and wanted to change to wordpress after seeing the Mary Ball Washington group’s site. Omeka did not have the flexibility to make it look like a website that we wanted. However, we realized that since we were building an archive Omeka was the best for this because it allowed us to upload many documents and pictures that we wanted to show. Since this subject, according to John Hennessy, was not well studied we wanted to let others who were interested in the subject find what we had access to to make their own interpretations, along with our own interpretations.

It is amazing that just a couple months ago we were started this project and now we are finally done.

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Week 13

April 14th, 2010 by Megan Mc · 1 Comment

Wow, less than one week left. I can’t believe it. I feel like my group is at a pretty good place right now. We have most if not everything up on the site right now we just have a few detail oriented things to focus on (like make sure links work).  Right now I’m currently overwhelmed by my other classes I have 3 books I need to read, but I’m a fast reader and two of them are about 100-200 pages.

I’m really glad that Research and Creativity Day is over and we got a spiffy little certificate. I feel like it went alright, could’ve been better but was not the worse job. I think my group was a little bit nervous especially when we arrived at our room and the moderator guy told us there was no internet in the room. Thankfully the other meeting room was open and had access to the internet, although it was rather slow.

I’m excited to see everyone’s final site at history symposium!

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Week 12

April 5th, 2010 by Megan Mc · 2 Comments

So I just read two articles from the site. The first one that grabbed my attention was “Strange Facts in the History Classroom: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wiki(pedia)” partly because it was parodying the title of Dr. Strangelove. I thought the overall article was pretty interesting since we’d done a little unit on Wikipedia and the history pages of wikipedia a couple weeks ago. One thing that struck me was when he said only 7 out of his 28 students had heard of wikipedia, I had to go back and see when this was written 2006 and then it made a bit more sense.  However, I feel like even in 2006, teachers were already beginning to warn us about wikipedia so most of my class knew about it. Christopher Miller brought up a good point when he said that Wikipedia was singled out as being “bad” for being an internet source rather than for it being an encyclopedia. He said that encyclopedias were off limits to college students when writing and academic paper. In the conclusion of his article he said that many of the students came to the conclusion that Wikipedia had more-or-less the same accuracy as encyclopedias and could not be used as a single source. The other article I read was “Enhancing Internet USe For History by Categorizing Online Resources” talked about the different ways you could find sources, I suppose. It was rather common sense in my opinion. It divided up the 3 types of resources as Periodical Lit Indexes, Library Catalogs, and Full Text Databases. The category names in themselves tell you what you can find in each section, although you have to pay attention to see if it costs any money to retrieve the items you search for.

Now I must get back to looking up information on Gettysburg for our site. I hope the library workers don’t get annoyed that I’ve pretty much emptied one section of the shelf, haha.

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Week 11

March 31st, 2010 by Megan Mc · 1 Comment

So I had a minor freak out last night when I realized it was the 30th of March and we’re heading into April which means we only have a few weeks left. I do believe I’m going to begin living at the library.

Well, we received the maps from our map group and set about trying to make them interactive. I first tried Phlook which was… interesting but not quite what we needed. You could zoom in but you couldn’t 1. be zoomed in and click something on the map and 2. add pictures into the info boxes pop up when you click on the hospital. Soooo I e-mailed Patrick who referred me to Martha who suggested MapLib the thing that runs through googlemaps and thus has little push pin things on the map. Good news is the push pins don’t have to be the GIANT RED ones like on google maps they have many to choose (how about Darth Vader? or a buffalo?) from AND you can be zoomed in and click a hospital from there. Bad news,  the html codes the site provides do not want to be put into Omeka so I e-mailed Martha about it and she said she and Patrick would look into it.
As for the site I got my first section up about Sanitary Commission and I will start working on the section about Gettysburg. There is one problem with my section, however, it is not consistent with the other pages. I divided it up with headings with underlines but no one else’s looks like that so I’m going to have to edit it so it fits in but it’s all good it needs to be edited anyway. I tinkered with some HTML on the site too. There was some problem with linking to some of our items on the page the code was correct but it was not working until we tossed in a random space in it so now it works. I put the evacuation map on the site using <img src=”pic url”> and fiddled with the size and centering so it looked ok on the page. (for picture sizing you need ” <img src=”image url” width=”400″ height=”300″> and by changing the numbers there you can change the size.

Well, I got to go back to deleting all the e-mails that are spamming up my inbox from the survey thing and writing a Civil War Journal. Night!

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Week 10

March 22nd, 2010 by Megan Mc · 4 Comments

I’m doing my blog a little early this week. This weekend I was busy with rugby I drove up to Philly Friday night. I had little access to my computer but I did manage to check my e-mail and see what was going on. Taylor had been messing around with Omeka trying to make it look better and Katelyn had been working on the timeline. I was happy to see that Patrick (?) helped us with our timeline so everything is not stacked up on top of each other and the timespans actually have lines. Answering the e-mails was all I really could do because then we had our game (We lost :() but then got authentic Philly Cheesesteak, yum. I did not get back to Fredericksburg until 2:30am Saturday night/Sunday morning. Sunday I had work at the Nest until 9pm then I went to the library for a couple of hours. I have been assigned to write the background info on the Sanitary Commission and got several books from the library to help out, it needs to be done before the end of the week, I’m aiming for being done by Thursday, class time.

A little side note that relates to the Mary Washington group the ref for our rugby game came over and introduced herself and asked, “Are you guys University of Martha Washington?” When we corrected her she replied with, “Who is Mary Washington?”


We haven’t had reading in awhile and I almost forgot about to add it to my blog, ha. I have to say the most interesting reading of the week was the Googling Victorians, partly because when the author mentioned Lytton Strachey I had an a-ha! moment thanks to the Great Lives class. He was a biographer in Victorian England who changed the whole style of biographies from huge thick volumes of information to more succinct, compelling, and interesting biographies. I sort of disagreed with the author about googling. I use it for getting started on research to locate books on a subject and from those books I find others but I don’t think I would rely on google all that much, I suppose my high school teachers made me scared to use google for too much.

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Week 9

March 16th, 2010 by Megan Mc · 4 Comments

Today we met in class and worked on our project. I was helping Katelyn put in the information into the timeline spreadsheet to make it go faster and we managed to get all the general dates of the Civil War (Gettysburg, the start, the end etc) in pretty quickly and without much trouble. Then I set out trying to figure out how to put images into the timeline so when you clicked the event a picture would appear in the box. We knew it had been done in the past because the James Farmer group from last year had pictures in their timeline. After fiddling around with it I discovered that in order for the picture to show in the box that pops up on the timeline you had to paste the html in the “description” portion not the imgURL section. By putting <img src=”the image’s url”> in the description column of the spread sheet it got the picture to appear, so yay 🙂

I found in the Letters of Alfred J. Bloor mention of a mansion just down the street from the unfinished monument of Mary Washington. I was pretty certain this was Kenmore, the house of George Washington’s sister. I was thinking of heading down there one of these nice days or e-mailing them if they have any information.  Before doing either of these things I decided to check out their website and in the history of Kenmore area of the site there is a blurb about Kenmore being used as a hospital in 1864 including an excerpt from some Union medical steward who talks about being sent to Kenmore to work. Unfortunately, they did not provide a name for the medical steward. Maybe they will be able to answer that through e-mail or when I go down there later this week since I will be gone most of the weekend for Quarter-finals for rugby. Hope everyone is not running into any problems with their projects!

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Week… 8?

March 10th, 2010 by Megan Mc · Comments Off on Week… 8?

Sunday I was glad to be back at school because I missed my suitemates and friends but now I’ve hit the point where I want to go back on Spring Break. Ah well, only a couple more weeks of the semester. I spent my spring break reading, reading, and more reading. Some for this class and some for my pirates class. I managed to get through all the primary documents in my section and will be putting the information on my group’s googledoc in a bit. I also spoke with Jack Bales before the break on Friday and he suggested some sources. I found a book in the library of the Virginia Historical Society Guide to Manuscripts and found one that was designated “Fredericksburg Hospitals” or something like that. I was REALLY excited and was ready to go visit the VA Historical Society in Richmond (since I was going there for break anyway) however, once I came back to my room and looked through the sources Hennessy gave us I found it was already transcribed.

Tonight I just watched/listened to the Podcast that John Hennessy created for the visitFred site and it was really interesting. Some of the stuff he spoke about was about 1862 (after the first Battle of Fredericksburg) which we are not focusing on but there was some very useful information about 1864.

Right now my next task is to figure out what I’m going to say tomorrow for our 10-15 minute update talk, and then in the near future I need to figure out what some of the buildings are that the people mention in my sources. Well that is all, it is late. Good night 🙂

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Week 7

February 25th, 2010 by Megan Mc · 3 Comments

This is a bit late but I’ve been extremely busy with various midterm stuff going on. For this week I haven’t had much time to go through the sources since I’ve been working on my Civil War midterm which is due later tonight. Once spring break comes along I hope to sit down and finish a huge chunk of reading for this class that I have pushed back a bit. I did present with Lauren today about our topic and I feel like it’s going pretty well. We’re ahead of schedule with our set up of omeka despite the fatal errors that kept cropping up. Patrick assured us though that he knew how to fix one of the ones that kept happening when we clicked on the pictures in the item section so that’s good news. I need to get back to working on my midterm but here’s a fun little article from CNN about gmail and what “graduated” from beta and what was discarded.

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Week 6: Wikipedia

February 15th, 2010 by Megan Mc · 1 Comment

Wikipedia is one of the sites I go to if I have to find a basic overview of a subject. I know, at times, it’s not a very scholarly source of information but it can be helpful in finding out basic information on a subject. I was also unaware that the discussion  and history tabs existed, they turned out to be incredibly interesting when looking at how an article evolved.

I decided to look the wikipedia entry for Piracy in the Caribbean which I was looking at for my Pirates of the World class. It has changed immensely from it’s first appearance. It began as a huge block of writing on the 21st of Nov 2002. Definitely not very easy to look at and read. As time goes on it increases in length but is still in huge paragraphs. I would’ve thought by the end of 2003 it would have been altered greatly, coinciding with the release of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie but it just lengthened. Finally in January 2005 a significant change in the appearance. Lines dividing the sections appear. Then on the 30th of January a table of contents suddenly popped up but it was rather hard to find as it was under a massive “intro” paragraph which was basically the entire article. Soon enough someone moved it to the top of the page, making it easier to see. In May 2005 a mention of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies was added.

One thing that bothers me is even as late as May 20th, 2005 there is only one source cited, I feel like there definitely would have been more sources based on how much is in the wiki article. On Feb 24, 2006 the page gets a bit… odd looking it seems like someone attempted to edit the page without knowing what they were doing there is alot of gibberish. On April 18th, 2008 the wikipedia page was vandalized, which is quite a common occurrence since it is a community edited encyclopedia, of sorts, anyone can edit it and it’s up to other editors to fix things.

The vandalism was quite… interesting not like the one that appeared in the Heavy Metal Wiki page video where they just repeated the same thing over and over,  this person changed the article to say, “The man cause of Piracy is of course George Bush. Piracy in the Caribbean resulted from the lucrative but illegitimate opportunities for common seamen, such as George Bush, to attack European merchant ships (especially Chuck Norris’s fleets sailing from the Caribbean to Europe)…” Someone noted it in the discussions page and the error was soon fixed.

The discussions tab proved to be incredibly intriguing. Especially the the part on NPOV (neutral point of view). Someone was concerned about the fact that the article seemed to come from a very Anglo-centric point of view. The poster discusses the fact that it leaves out many French and Spanish pirates which were present in the Caribbean during the “classic era” of piracy. In fact, most if not all the pirates we have learned about were Spanish, Dutch, or French. The only two I can think of off the top of my head are Henry Morgan and Sir Francis Drake. I feel like NPOV is a difficult thing for people to accomplish and could be brought up for many articles on Wikipedia as well as many history books.

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