What I learned….

Skill #1: Metadata in Omeka

For the first skill assignment, we were to find five primary sources from digital collections. I found sources from the Digital Public Library of America and the Library of Congress digitized collections. In gathering these sources, I realized the important role women played in the contribution of early social science research. However, I found it difficult to locate sources because their contributions are often left out of the historic narrative. Therefore, this assignment allowed me to explore the topic, find a gap in knowledge, and attempt to fill the knowledge gap through my exhibit in the following assignment.   

Skill #2: Exhibits and Digital Storytelling in Omeka

For the second skill assignment, I created a digital storytelling exhibit in Omeka.  I decided to elaborate on my findings from the primary search, about important women who pioneered social science research during the Progressive Era.  Using my primary and secondary sources to contextualize the information, I learned about the accomplishments of prominent women like Jane Addams, Florence Kelley, Ida B. Wells, Margaret Sanger, Sophonisba Breckinridge, and Edith Abbott, and how they essentially created the foundation of social science research in pursuit of social justice. The Omeka tool provided a great tool to organize information in a way that was visually appealing and told a story. I also learned about Dublin core, and how metadata is used to organize and sort information.  It’s an important tool for digital historians in order to promote the sustainability and accessibility of digital sources.

Skill #3: Database

For the third skill assignment, my group created a database of the strategies and characteristics of women’s suffrage demonstrations across geographic space.  We decided to include geographic, descriptive, and participant characteristics so we could ask a variety of tailored questions, and identify broader patterns and trends across suffrage activism. I used the database to answer the question of how do strategies of public demonstration differ geographically, and found that there are patterns in the types of events and event characteristics that are unique to each region in the US.  For instance, in the Mid-Atlantic region, we saw more picketing and political protests (because of Washington, D.C.), whereas the Mid-West region was characterized by bazaars, fairs, conventions, and campaigning and fundraising efforts.

Overall, I liked the experience of building a database. Databases are a great tool to ask both broad and specific questions from the same dataset. I learned how useful they are for historians to pick up on trends and patterns on a large scale of data.

Skill #4: Mapping

For the mapping assignment, I mapped destinations listed in “The Negro Motorist Green-Book: 1940,” and the destinations featured in Savannah’s Black Heritage travel brochure from 2018. By applying both layers to the same map, I was able to contextualize how Black tourism has changed over time. I also compared destinations to a redlining map from 1930, which illustrated the racialized geography of the city.  I could point out areas of segregation and found predominantly Black neighborhoods to be located on the periphery of the city. This was by far one of my favorite assignments. I learned how mapping is a valuable tool used by digital historians to either display information or communicate an argument, or to discover new knowledge.

Skill #5: Text Mining

In the text mining assignment, I investigated the differences in attitudes and visions toward city reform from men and women’s perspectives. I used Voyant’s text mining software to take a close look at, “The American City” and compared it with “The Woman Citizen” to see differences in word frequency.  Themes that emerged in “The American City” related to city development such as water, street/road, community, municipal, school, cost, and business. These themes represent a need to restructure and/or protect existing enterprises and business affairs of the city, and looked upon city development as an arena for business ventures. Whereas, themes that emerged in “The Woman Citizen” depicted civic themes such as women’s suffrage, government, national, associations, and war. Thus reflecting their vision to solve underlying structural issues in order for society to prosper. Overall, I found the data representations in Voyant to be a useful tool for digital historians.  It was interesting to see many elements from secondary sources visibly take shape.

Skill #6: Visualizations

For the visualization assignment, I used census data to create a series of visualizations that reflect patterns of immigration in 1890 & 1920. I had the most difficulty with this tool, particularly when I attempted to combine grids.  My biggest takeaway from this assignment would be how historians can use visualization to either supplement, strengthen, or even replace text. Looking at raw data is difficult to comprehend, therefore visualizations serve as an excellent tool for processing information.  

Skill #7: Timeline

For the timeline assignment, I chronicled important developments and events in the Progressive Era. I found Knight lab’s Timeline JS to be incredibly rewarding because of the finished product that was visually stimulating.  I will definitely use this tool in the future. It was a great closing assignment as I was able to reflect on everything that I learned about the Progressive Era this semester. I learned how to organize and prioritize small bits of information in order to tell a story on a larger scale.