I had the opportunity to work with Ryan Smith again recently. He’s been putting in serious work on on his website (Richmond Cemeteries) and is now turning a portion of that work into a book (Death and Rebirth in a Southern City: Richmond’s Historic Cemeteries). Ryan came by to talk a bit about pictures for the book which led to a field trip (Hebrew Cemetery and Shockoe Street Cemetery) and I think some useful reflections on how the balance between technology, technical proficiency, and art works together to make something interesting. It’s a bit of rambling tour of a series of issues that are specific to this task (getting high quality images of grave markers for a book) but are also illustrative of larger things. Basic Considerations Light Light matters quite a bit. When we looked through Ryan’s initial photos many of them were taken in very bright light. That’s good in some scenarios but leads to really hard shadows. In any photo, thinking hard about where the light is and how it falls will be key in creating the image you want. Usually you want the light behind you. Usually you want it to be soft. I showed up a little before sunrise but I didn’t have a shot list and I’d never visited the site before. That led […]
Background I like Timeline JS. It’s a nice way to create multimedia timelines. I’d previously done some work that would take WordPress JSON API data and insert it into the Timeline JS view.1 It was nice for creating alternate and standardized views of blogs that might be useful for different reasons. It didn’t serve some other needs and while doing it through a generic URL was handy for many reasons it was odd in other scenarios. As a result I decided to make a new version as a plugin. If you don’t like reading stuff there’s a quick video of how it works below. Plugin Goals First, I wanted this to be a plugin rather than a theme. That adds a bit of complexity because you don’t have control of the whole scenario but it makes it much more portable and more likely to be used as it doesn’t require people to change themes or spin up an additional site. I wanted people to be able to use WordPress rather than a spreadsheet to create the content for Timeline JS. Doing that has a few advantages- the WYSIWYG editor, the ability to upload images directly in WordPress, the ability to use posts you’ve already written, etc. etc. I also wanted people to be able to choose what posts ended up […]
The Judah Will Project (now with new URL!) has continued to grow as Ryan has been putting in serious work on the research and writing side of things. I have no choice but to step up my game and it’s been an interesting learning experience as it’s the first time I’ve tried anything sophisticated with WP providing the writing/data side of things while presenting that information somewhere else entirely. Headless? So here’s a recap of changes since the last update. More Obvious I talked to Jim about the project a few days ago. It became clear to me that it wasn’t obvious that the names in the will transcription were clickable prior to actually clicking on one. I fixed that with a simple dashed underline. This was one of those times where I was trying to keep the visual elements minimal but ended up going too far. I also threw in a modal popup for initial directions to make things more obvious. I just used this simple modal jquery plugin. It immediately drove me crazy by popping up all the time. So I looked around and found a solution to set cookies which I’d never done before. I also used a modal for the ever-growing family tree. When you have 12 kids in a generation, things get pretty wide. Permanent […]
One of the projects that Ryan Smith chose as part of our Digital History course was the collaborative transcription and annotation of a historic Richmond will . . . describing it thusly1 in the syllabus. Collaborative annotation: To further put our emphasis on collaboration into practice, we will annotate [explain, contextualize, add to] together one document, the last will and testament of Isaac Judah, an early Richmond resident. This assignment will require student research, online or in person, to help explain and contextualize this document for a public audience. What software platform should we use to markup the item? How should we handle the will’s transcription? Who are the parties mentioned in the will? Where are the locations? What historical lessons can it teach readers? The quality and quantity of each students’ research/commentary will count as 10% of the final course grade. The will can be found on our course website, in the Google Drive folder. The transcription file is: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ghG-oyFvyza-zRUE4ZJf0_HF4_D5dey4Bv4BmM5JYFQ/edit. Annotations can begin as soon as the course begins and should be finalized by February 23 March 30. If the annotation is fruitful, we may post this result for public consumption. We ended up with quite a bit of work . . . in fact so much work that displaying it via the Google Doc didn’t really work. It […]
In working with students in the Digital History course, we’ve repeatedly bumped up against the idea that it’s harder to make a cohesive argument on the Internet (vs a traditional paper) or that constructing a web-based exhibition abdicates controls you have in physical space. There are frequent examples of archives referenced in the texts (Valley of the Shadow for instance) but for various reasons (age, limited time/space/knowledge) there aren’t many decent examples of constructing a multimedia argument or experiential/immersive examples. So here’s an attempt to show some sites that are far more than a-bunch-of-stuff-on-the-Internet and some elements that help them do that. Kennedy/Oswald It’s a bit heavy on the parallax for my taste but it’s a pretty direct parallel to a museum exhibit. It sets out to parallel the lives of Kennedy and Oswald reinforcing that parallel with visual metaphors (split screen transitions, similar images etc.) to reinforce that concept. There is a main text-based storyline, music to reinforce a certain mood,1 and the ability to see supporting elements by clicking on various items. The movement through the site is very guided. The links are kept within the site and remain contextualized rather than leading to other sites. The ancillary materials are a mixed bag of audio, images, video, and mixed media. Digital primary source materials are used throughout to […]
I went driving looking for things of interest to photograph. I saw a small cemetery on the side of the road and stopped to take a look. I thought it might be a local family cemetery and it was . . . only the family was from much farther back than I thought. View Snead Cemetery at Edgewood in a larger map That he was born within 9 miles of Hanover court House on the 23 day of May 1762, that, he has seen a record of his age in the family Bible, and that he believes it is now in possession of Benjamin Thomas, of the said county; that when he went into service, he lived at the place of his nativity, that since the Revolutionary war, he has lived in the same county near Ground Squirrel Meeting house1 and still lives in the same place; that he served many tours; the first he substituted himself for his brother John Snead, in the company of Joseph Cross, that he marched as a private in that company in the fall or winter of 1778, as he thinks to Williamsburg; that he served at that place and at a place called Rich Neck [in Richmond County] until discharged after two months; that during this tour Gen’l [Thomas] Nelson2 commanded; that there […]
I’m pretty excited about a new project we’ll be working on this year. We’re going to look at a local historically significant, but still active, cemetery through a variety of disciplinary lenses. Hollywood Cemetery is the permanent home of two presidents of the USA (James Monroe and John Tyler) and one president of the CSA as well as a variety of other interesting local people. Dr. Ryan Smith from VCU’s history department has already had students doing quite a bit of work with local cemeteries. Back Story also recently republished a podcast (Grave Matters) which mentions Hollywood cemetery quite a bit and is all kinds of good. Even the Girl Scouts have some great information on Hollywood Cemetery1. So that brings up the question- What can we do that hasn’t been done and how can we make this something really valuable to the community- both locally and at large? The Players and Their Lenses Looking through the lens of sociology, Dr. Susan Bodnar-Deren will be helping us think through work around mortality, social status etc. by analyzing the data from gravestones.2 Dr. Bernard Means will be bringing an archaeological3 and 3D imaging background4 that he has honed in VCU’s Virtual Curation Lab. Dr. Ryan Smith will round out our professorial group with his focus on history. I will be playing […]
The mission is “Truth” through omission. Can you get at the underlying truth of a historical document through blackout poetry? Blackout poetry has been fairly popular for a while1 but I haven’t seen any done on historical documents with the intent to get at a deeper, if fairly melodramatic, “truth”. I decided to use The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. It makes for a pretty interesting way to interact with a dry document and requires a pretty close, and repeated, reading. I like the idea of redaction being a way to expose, rather than hide, things the government would rather not have said. The text from above . . . The United States of America in violation of the principles of the of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, have deliberately and repeatedly attacked the Communist regime in North Vietnam the United States has territorial, military, political ambitions in that area desires the Congress approves the United States regards the Constitution its obligations reasonable assured except that it may be terminated earlier by concurring resolution of the Congress. 1 It appears Austin Kleon invented the idea in 2010 which seems crazy.
I saw this interesting photo on the Smithsonian Libraries Tumblr which led me to this online archive of Forest & Stream from the 1890s. Where I found the letter included below (because of the interesting photograph beside it). Bonus points for the ability to download specific pages with or without the OCR data. The letter makes for an interesting read in a variety of ways. Just another example of how much amazing content is out there. A Rejoinder About Crackers While I do not wish nor intend to enter into controversy with “A Georgia Cracker” over the manner in which I described my first meeting with a “Florida Cracker,” still if you will kindly allow me a little of your valuable space in which to defend myself, I promise not to transgress again. Now, in the first place, if “A Georgia Cracker” will kindly look on page 507 of Forest and Stream, in the first column near tbe top, he will find these words: “There may be a better class of this part of the human race than we met. I hope there is.” I did not say that there was not a better class of these people. That I hoped there was. My assertion that we did not meet this better class, however, I still stand by. While I […]
These were all focused on historical “selfies” right before disasters but you could do the opposite. I was inspired by the horrible and fascinating Selfies at Funerals Tumblr. You might also be appalled/inspired by Rich Kids of Instagram. I really don’t know quite enough about the selfie/hashtag culture to do this really well. The details with hashtags are what make it interesting and you need to do some research to make it work properly. There is work in humor. Get the Photoshop template here.