Going into this semester, I had a basic idea on what digital media was and how a digital project works. When I first learned I was going to do the Civil War Letters project, I was excited to scan letters into the Digital Archiving Lab along with the prospect with meeting new people and learning new tools on the fly. While it was a shame that we were only able to meet Louisa for only one meeting, her knowledge on the project such clarifying on what rank Jerome Peirce actually was during his service helped make things clear. Most importantly, Angie Kemp at the Digital Archiving Lab deserves a lot of credit because she taught us how to properly scan the documents using the EPSCON scanners and turn them into TIFF files. In addition to teaching us how to use the equipment, Angie was able to convert the TIFF files into JPEGs and uploaded the files onto OneDrive when the coronavirus outbreak shut down the university. Last but certainly not least, there was great chemistry with the Civil Wars Letter group (Hunter, Erin, and Anna) and we are worked hard every day to ensure the project was completed on time.
With the outbreak of the coronavirus and the university shutting down for the rest of the semester, we had to make changes to the way we do things and I will defend that we fulfilled the contract. From the very beginning, it was always our intentions to create a website using Omeka because it is made for displaying the letters and we can have interactive elements such as the timeline and StoryMap. When the coronavirus broke out, the only things we stopped doing was stopping scanning new TIFF files and we could not meet each other in person. Regardless of the unusual circumstances, we had our assignments: me and Erin would work on the timeline while Hunter and Aaron worked on the StoryMap. In regards to the scanned letters, we had scanned everything up to Letter 194 and relied on the original scans provided by the National Park Service. Once the scans were uploaded onto the Omeka website, we continued following the contract by selecting a theme for the site and creating the pages for the interactive elements. Although the Civil War letters will not be due until the end of May, we are all hard at work fixing the suggestions by Dr. McClurken who has also been a massive help on the project.
Having completed the Civil Wars Letters project and fulfilling the basic requirements of the contract, what lessons can be learned from this semester. The first lesson of this semester is to be ready to learn new things on the fly such how to create the Omeka website because these new skills were essential to the success of the project. The final lesson I learned from this semester is that you should always have a back-up plan for your back-up plan because you never know what could happen and that is the running them of the semester. Having said all that, thank you all for spending time reading the blog and I hope do a similar project in the future.
It took over two months and we had multiple setbacks and obstacles, but we are pleased as a group to announce that we are officially done uploading the scanned documents onto Omeka. To make things easier for the group, we had to split two sets of documents with each group member and I had to uploaded the last of our scans (Letters 146-194) and upload the original National Park Service scans of the Unknown Letters. At the end of the day, we have finished 274 letters in the Jerome Peirce Collection and the work on the website is under way. Before we turn in the project next Tuesday, we are going to have a ZOOM meeting to make sure everything is in order.
With the scanning almost complete and the deadline to complete the website in under a week, it is time for to put the finishing touches on the website and make it accessible to our audience. The first step in fixing up the website is choosing the right theme because we want to make a great impression on people and the theme we choose was Big Stuff (it has more has the features of Berlin and more flexibility). Once the theme is installed onto the site, we are going to begin working on the additional pages on the site (about, home page, StoryMap, and Timeline). While the Timeline and StoryMap could simply be embedded onto the website, the about and home page have to be created from scratch and edited by one person. Although I wil admit that none of us have any experience in creating a website using Omeka, we all have to learn on the fly before the eleventh hour hits.
While most of the letters in the Jerome Peirce Collection were written between 1862 and 1864, there are “letters” (envelope fragments and poems) that we do not know who wrote it, where it originated, and the date. Due to the lack of metadata and the fact that we were not even close to scanning this section (we stopped at Letter 193 and this section started around Letter 270), it makes it super frustrating that we cannot show off high-quality scans and it would make a poor exhibit. To make matters even more confusing, the lack of metadata forces our group to call each letter “Unknown Letter #_” even if the letter was written by Jerome Peirce. Since we only have two weeks to finish the uploads, the Unknown Letters is one of the most significant sections to fix and we have to use the scans the National Park Service have from earlier in the year.
So what is in the Unknown Letters section? Throughout the section, there are a couple of letters (e.g., Unknown Letter #1 and Unknown Letter #5) that are simply envelope fragments or a stamp. When there are letters from Jerome to his wife Allie (Unknown Letter #7 and Unknown Letter #8), we do not know the exact date or where the letter was written at. The last couple of letters in the collection are interesting in that they are poems written by Jerome’s brother Joseph. In total, there are 17 unknown letters within the collection and they are all interesting in their own regard.
With the idea of having two digital identities (personal and professional), I decided to do a professional digital portfolio that would show potential employers what my potential was. Before I even started creating the WordPress site, I updated my resume through Indeed with my current jobs and downloaded it as a PDF. Once I had the information I wanted, I began to research portfolio themes and selected the Elegant theme. When I created the portfolio website, I had four main pages/posts: the about me section (who I am), the resume page (the jobs I have done and skills that might help me in the future), skills page (the skills I have), and the education history (from high school to UMW). Despite having enough information for my digital portfolio, my lack of experience with WordPress leaves a lot to be desired and my digital portfolio is a work in progress.
To tell you the truth, I am new to WordPress despite having used in the past year and there are many features I have yet to learn. Going back to my first WordPress website I created for History Colloquium, I could not tell the difference between a page and a post and the same thing applies today when I have to keep switching between formats. To make matters more difficult, the widgets and sidebars can be annoying at times and can be distracting. While the Digital Knowledge Center is closed for the rest of the semester, it goes to show that sometimes you have to learn new tricks on the fly and your future might depend on it.
With over 1000 scans of the Jerome Peirce Letters Collection, it is time to finally upload them onto the site and add the respective metadata. Due to the original scans being TIFF files and being too large (gigabytes to be exact), the letters scans were converted to JPEGs by Angie Kemp in the Digital Archiving Center and uploaded to a secure OneDrive file. When the folder was uploaded with all the scans, my group began crafting guidelines on the appropriate metadata that should be used and the rights/ownership of the letters (more on that later). Using a shared Omeka site, we have began the process of uploading the files by spliting up the letters in four groups (there are four of us and it eases the work load). When I began the process of uploading the letters, I noticed there was were missing scans (they were scanned according to the spreadsheet we made and there is no misidentification which is proved by the transcripts) and it proves to double check your work.
When it comes to metadata, we have to adhere to the guidelines and rules suggested by the National Park Service and they are given credit because they have the entire Jerome Peirce Letters Collection. Once the rights and ownership issues is issued, we input metadata and tags onto the Omeka such the date (formatted YY-MM-DD), the authors (Jerome Peirce is not the only person who wrote letters), the place where the letter was written. In regards to the metadata, it is the same as the subjects (e.g., Jerome Pierce and the location where the letter was written) and there is always room to add more tags when necessary. The goal is to upload all the letters by next week and began checking each others work for mistakes.
Since we are living in a digital world where it seems that everyone has a social media account, it is important for people to realize that they have a “digital identity” online and it can affect your daily life. While some “digital you” (a term coined Tim Chambers who is the President of the Dewey Square Group) users could consist of a social security number and nothing, numerous people under the age post stuff about their personal life and interests and it leads to the first lesson: there is a “real-you” and a “digital-you”. In other words, the digital doppelganger that a person has online that affect them in the real world (e.g. job applications). Another lesson about digital identity comes from the “Controlling Your Public Appearance” article which is that you should expect unexpected audiences because the audience viewing your profile is not who you expected. In a lesson that relates to the class, you should treat video and audio just like text because they can be searchable on the web and can be accessed (it relates to the class because there was debate in my group on whether we should use videos).
Going into a different direction, the “Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics” explores the six-key digital “selves” that people use on public networks. A couple examples of digital “selves” include the quantified self (e.g. the act of choosing to follow or “friend” another person always already a public,
performative statement) and the participatory self (able to engage and contribute at a click to the self-presentation of others). The lesson here is to choose the persona that fits with your public and social network. After taking in the past four lessons, the final lesson on digital identity is that once a digital identity has been selected, a person should build off appropriately and distant itself from their real life (there can be exceptions to the rule). With more people joining social media and making their lives more public to the entire world, it is important for everyone to learn about having a digital presence online and how their protect themselves.