I took this class because I was talking to a buddy who graduated with a History degree and he said, “you must take a class with Sean Smith.” I didn’t have the most interest in digital humanities and everything that comes with it, but I trusted my buddy and hoped Sean would be a good guy! To my luck, Sean was great and bringing the material to us in a non-forceful and entertaining way. I enjoyed how for the most part, the things we learned about were all applied to very interesting topics, or at least topics I am interested in. That seems to be the most difficult thing about teaching, is making the content applicable to things that are interesting to the masses. The class did that with some skills that didn’t seem interesting to me at first.
Creating a digital archive was something that sounded so beyond boring to me when it was first brought to my attention. It was even more boring when we had to rate and write about the poor digital archives. Particularly the ones that were so visually displeasing that made me want to rethink history. However creating our own digital archive and designing it the way that we want and felt would be pleasing to a certain audience gave it an entire new meaning to me.
The first thing that really caught my attention was map making. The site TimeMapper was simple to use and looked visually pleasing if given the effort. I enjoyed it so much I ultimately chose this to use for my final project. It was definitely time-consuming inputting so much information into a google spreadsheet and when you think you have enough information, you upload to the map and you realize you only have 5 points and the map says nothing. It was at this time working on the final project that I had to make some changes.
I chose to do my final project on Irish Immigration because that is what I was doing for my 301 paper. However, when applying my information and sources to a digital map, the map didn’t say anything and was meaningless. With a few brainstorming sessions and a couple of emails of feedback, I was able to come up with a stronger (not perfect) proposal. Once I got a more well-rounded topic and my map had meaning, it was much easier to get sources and input them. Eventually, I had a map that meant something. The completed map meant a lot to me because it produced a visual of what I learned in a history class that I haven’t felt since doing visual projects in grade school.
This class made me a better historian by having me adjust to this new era of history interpretation. We now have millions of historical pieces of information at our fingertips with phones and computers. It is up to us as historians to create strong sources and archives so people have the best chance of understanding the past. This class has taught my multiple skills and concepts that I will be able to apply to future classes and eventually a teaching position.