Blog #2- Omeka Reflections

Omeka archive provides a useful list, organized alphabetically, with various listings about historical projects with both common topics and esoteric themes. From an initial glance, it seems Omeka and the other projects provide a facet for a wide range of historical themes, thereby making it accessible to many audiences. I imagine using Omeka as a reference to how digital historians and students using this method make their work visible and interactive. The type of visuals that entertain me the most are maps. Blog software such as WordPress and others seem to work well in a highly collaborative structure. Just as we use a WordPress blog for the class, I see it being useful for groups to make websites in order to post essays, brief thoughts, annotations (and their book covers), and bibliographies while integrating visuals.

As we learned, digital humanities is a very collaborative subfield where it is useful to have this software to allow people to engage in their own unique ways. I see myself using these tools to create my own annotated bibliographies and to share my thoughts on source materials. As I indicated earlier, I am someone who enjoys cartographic visuals. I would like to post maps, how comparisons, or make something interactive to describe historical events. In a research paper that I am working on, there are a few maps that show where voyagers sailed. It would be nice to show the travel path and have links or pop-ups on integrals parts of the voyage and describe what took place in each area. 

There were two projects that drew my attention. I enjoyed looking at the Emancipation Project. As you enter from the first page, you are directed to a simple chart with labels of each section. There are clear indications on the perspectives of each source material, the duration of each section in terms of sources, and the type of source that is shown (textual, numerical, etc). 

For example, when I click on “Augusta County Maps,” I already have some briefing as to what kind of source I am encountering. As someone who enjoys maps, I see how the designer sought to display his information. There is a clear legend, the county line, and the classifications of subjects with modes to switch to other kinds of demographics. It is like making an instantaneous shift of the historical lens from looking at variations in socioeconomic factors to race to literacy levels. This map provides spatial awareness and a historical model of how people lived and were organized. 

Consistent with maps, another project I enjoyed perusing was the Trans-Atlantic Slave Database where the designers provided a page dedicated to Atlantic maps showing the forced migration of slaves to the Americas. It is a compelling way to convey the horrific nature of this time period and to understand the sheer volume of people being moved coercively to become laborers. The feature that is most significant is the way the designers provided maps that show various lenses of historical analysis. For example, Map 1 provides an overview from the 16th to 19th century of the volume of African slaves being sent away to the Americans and where they ended up. Map 3 provides a comparative analysis within the 16th to 19th centuries of the slave trade. Map 4 provides an environmental perspective and allows us to infer when the slave trade was most active, consistent with favorable conditions that facilitated the movement of slaves. 

While a horrific epoch of human history, digital history like this can do the field justice by being blunt and captivating. It pierces through the abstractions of the distant past by taking advantage of contemporary mediums to make history meaningful and relevant to the modern conscience. Remembering the lives and excruciating experiences that African slaves felt in this trade is made possible by digital history. The scholar and the wider audience can both see the same picture and make measurable comparisons about how vile and sorrowful this phenomenon was in the shaping of the Americas. 

One project that I thought needed some improvement was the Emelie Davis Diaries. I took issue mostly with how the designer wanted to organize the information. At the top, one could see how they wanted to display the diary by page number, ordering it numerically as such. 

When you click on a page, you are taken to that section of the diary. While it is simple in nature and understandable to use like any physical book, I think that is where the problem lies. It is exactly like a book. You have to click on each section and you do not know where in the diary are relevant places if you are looking for something specific. The website requires you to click to each section, read and find details relevant to your search. Sure, it is organized by dates, but those are not a specific indicator about where in the diary you might be looking to analyze. It would be better to preface the diary and have a preliminary page that breaks the diary into notable sections, giving a précis on each section to help narrow down the search. However, I do appreciate how the institution digitized and made the original pages visible along with the electronic text so as to make this unique perspective of Civil War history accessible to the Web. 

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