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The most useful reading this semester

In Writing History with the Digital Image I found the reading ‘creating a web presence’ to be most useful. This article highlighted the necessity of self-promotion and offered ways of doing so. History is a competitive field where a strong digital presence can prove necessary, even with an advanced degree. The article describes a counter argument of this digital presence being petty or degrading, but this reflects the competitiveness of the field and the work that comes with success. As a public historian, one must take a visual public role. People hire whom they know and like, regardless of other merits and qualifications. A web presence is a way to become known and liked. This reading also contained tips in order to gain approval. The best way to accomplish this is to be consistent and genuine while maintaining a constant personal voice and persona. Self-image must be maintained. The article also pointed out a way to cultivate an image by utilizing privacy settings so that other uses of the web do not harm your public persona as a historian. Another useful part of the article, offered suggestions on how to cleanse a negative online persona that can harm you professionally. While unflattering information may circulate around the internet, it is important to create a louder presence so that negative information may be overlooked. One way of doing so is to create a Google profile, so a cursory internet search will first yield a more professional persona. The reading was the most useful in recognizing the influence an online life can have on the success of a public historian, while also offering a means to assist the historian in cleaning up his or her online appearance.

A Draft for my Omeka Exhibit

My overall exhibit is Spies and Espionage in Connecticut during the First World War. In my introduction, I plan to describe the time as one of extreme nationalism amid an aura of suspicion. Accompanying the introduction will be a photograph of a newspaper leaflet warning against potential spies and urging the public to be on the lookout and report suspicious activity.

My exhibit pages will contains individual cases of suspected disloyalty. I will convey in my descriptions the fact that people saw it as their patriotic duty to report the actions of their neighbors and also people of German decent for suspected espionage. I plan to upload photos of letters sent by citizens to the Department of Public Safety, reports by detectives who investigated the reported people or circumstances, and even one case of secret service agents who dealt with a real threat. With this I will show most of these people were innocent but suspicion made them targets, while some suspicions also stopped real threats. I plan to demonstrate suspicion with newspaper articles and propaganda flyers. One example is an article of a Yale professor of German decent being arrested for being under suspicion, despite the fact he was later acquitted. Further distrust of aliens also appears in documents and public posters requiring all aliens to register at the post office and declare their monetary worth in property they own. This will be used as a means to show an active effort to track those of German decent and potential sympathizers, while offering a means to confiscate their property if the suspicion is credible.

The next page will be about the detectives serving in the Navy department for investigating suspicious cases. For my displays, I intend to upload correspondence between Navy department recruiters, as they try to select agents to investigate suspicious cases and assign agents to every town. The letters show a broad array of opinions and demonstrate that people had different views on the morality of spying. There are letters showing those who would gladly serve, as they see it as their patriotic duty, while others who do not believe in spying on their neighbors but will still serve, as it is their duty. Still others exist who simply reject the effort to recruit them, and one case who says he cannot  effectively serve while still being sympathetic, but instead recommends another whom he believes will serve as a detective, as that person’s  loyalty is beyond doubt. This will show that not all people were swept along in extreme nationalism and the belief that their neighbors were a threat, but still had a strong sense of patriotic duty.

The last section will be “Sedition and Censorship”. I will begin this section by explaining that the federal government possessed the power to silence newspapers and outspoken critics of the war. Though this power is at odds with free speech, the Espionage Act was passed as there was a perceived clear and present danger.  Outspoken People and those critical of the war may hurt the war effort. For my display, I will upload photographs of signs proudly stating “Hearst Newspapers Not Sold Here.” I will explain William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers were sympathetic to the German cause and deemed dangerous. This poster will show that people were proud to speak out against Hearst and support censorship. Other photos to be uploaded include letters sent by the Department of Public Safety to librarians around the state asking them to pull books that promoted German ideals from their shelves. Such books include biographies on Otto Vonn Bismarck. There are an abundance of letters from librarians saying they have pulled all the books listed and were happy to do so. Some even recommend other books that should be banned, as they appeared to support Germany. These letters are from towns across the state and show the librarians are willing, if not happy, to comply. One letter from the UCONN library shows academia also supported censorship to help with the war effort.

As a whole, I hope to portray a deep seeded sense of Patriotic duty, which limited free speech and promoted suspicion of one’s neighbors. While there were a few select cases that demonstrated a real threat, most people suspected of spying were innocent. As connecting this project to present day I will draw connections to the phrase that emerged after September Eleventh, “If you see something, say something” and connect the fear of people of German decent during the First World War to the current modern rise of Islamophobia.

My Impression and Experience with the Citizen Archive Project

The Citizen Archivist is certainly an ambitious project with real potential documenting stories and providing previously unknown sources as in personal collections or family records. I have, however, one major concern dealing with the validity of the sources, even though contributors need to create a profile so changes can be traced to a person. While photographs can be faked, I feel this is less of a threat than family stories being accepted as fact. While a family member may have had something to do with the event, associated artifacts or stories can be embellished and facts skewed by the storyteller. While having good intentions, contributors to this project can be circulating false information.

One aspect of this project of which I approve is the easy of editing articles. This can prove to be a good quality control check, since it opens up submissions to peer review.

As to  contributions, I choose to help transcribe documents. One such document that needed transcription was Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al. Complaint in the Civil Action Case files, 1938-1998. On a whole, I found the site’s workings to be rather simple to use, with the ability to tag essential information, such as dates, and information of the civil action that may be of use to a researcher. Transcription consisted of simply typing a word document and submitting. The software is robust, so there was no worries with improper coding harming the transcription.  As to my contribution  to the project, I have slightly more faith in it. The documents for possible transcription are all digitized from archives and legitimate, even if difficult to read at times as they were blurry. The simplicity of contributing to the project renders a huge project of mass archiving feasible by opening it up to volunteers.

My Digital Persona in Comparison to Public Historians

A major difference between me and bloggers and twitterstorians is that I am not a public historian. My online presence is limited to what I find humorous or to interacting on Facebook, along with associating with people regularly on Instagram. Rather than scrounging for a job with LinkedIn, professional success is achieved by whom you know. A firm handshake and a reputation at being able to finish every task presented to you is far more influential than talking on an online platform.

Since my field is not public history, my online interaction is mainly between colleagues and professionals in a specific field searching for aid, along with and keeping up with current research. For example, the history 501 class requires a research paper. I choose to investigate the early manufacturing process, set in the Berlin, Ct factory, by the first official pistol maker of the United States, Simeon North. There are not many primary resources describing his factory or the manufacturing process. Therefore, to begin my research, I had to contact experts in the field for information on North’s colleagues, archeologists for hard evidence from the site, and collectors familiar with his work. By investigating similarities of the known processes set up by his colleagues, archeological evidence providing solid proof of the type of manufacturing being done, and collectors who know the exact specifications on the yearly models shed light on the machinery used to create them. While these professionals may have a small online presence showing their current works, they promotion is through scholarly journals located online. I did not need to create a large online presence to further my research, but rather a simple email explaining that I am a student researching this particular aspect and politely asking if they knew of any resources or collections beneficial to my research. Every professional I contacted was more than willing to talk about his work and offer suggestions to other sources for my research. Rather than using skills with the goal of creating a notable online presence to engage a larger audience and have people find me, success in my field and research is met using social skills. Twitter’s Connecticut History does advertise workshops, lectures, and conferences that can connect me to other professionals in my field. My twitter feed however, is filled with photographs and articles linking the present to a past historical date. Rather than maintaining a professional online presence promoting research, it seems to be that some twitterstorians are like me, on Facebook sharing stories they find interesting.

Hypercities: The usefulness of GIS in historical scholarship

A key focus of history is the study of change over time. GIS projects can prove to be a valuable tool in documenting this change. The GIS project Hypercities show both the strengths and the flaws in this system. This site contains a plethora of topics, which appeared to me to be more of a benefit to the curious, but burdensome to those with directed research. Topics range from mapping Twitter to the Berlin Palace and its Reconstructions 1450-2020.  The site does not seem to have a unified theme or organizational method, making it difficult to find relevant information on a desire topic. Despite inefficiency in searching for information in Hypercities, the digital age has certainly helped with presenting information. If considering the Berlin Palace as an example, various sections are highlighted and correspond to dates of constructions or when restorations occurred. In respect to change over time, highlighted displays, prove to be effective. Rather than reading pages of description with the possibility of misinterpreting the extent of the renovation, a highlighted diagram saves both time and makes misinterpretation less likely.

GIS proves it has potential to convey information of visuals effectively. Narratives however, are a very different media. When considering the topic Holocaust Survivor Stories, I felt the display was almost interactive, engaging, and well organized. Related accounts and information were clearly organized. Instead of highlighted maps, I found that the set up as an interactive archive to be effective in conveying information of narrative based topics in GIS.

Podcasting as a Media for Public History

Though many academic sources are limited to written articles, podcasting is a means to convey information through recorded dialogues. Though unconventional, podcasting can still transmit the same information. The effectiveness of the medium requires podcasts to meet its own set of criteria. Rather than making writing appealing, podcasters need to adopt an online persona, similar to a radio personality. Success in the media’s eyes comes from being able to attract and maintain public attention. A monotone voice is not appealing and can bore an audience, while the attention of a digital age listener is harder to keep.  Podcasting can reach a large audience but the question remaining is, is the information depicted factual and accurate, as anyone can create a podcast. Since ability to reach a large audience has to do with the notoriety of the podcaster, it is easy to monopolize information on a topic if podcasts are the only medium used.

The link to the podcast, footnoting in history, had a podcast on the history specifically designed for Halloween. I found this maintained my interest as they choose an interesting topic and presented it in a storytelling manner for the first section. My interest waned in the section on Oliver Cromwell’s head, as it seemed to been read from a script rather than flowing naturally. This reinforced my belief in the differences that exists between podcasting and the simple written word. Podcasting has more of a social aspect to it. To me this proved the manner of presentation determine a successful podcast rather than the material presented.

If podcasting is going to extend history to a public audience, those podcasting should be knowledgeable in the subject area to convey true information yet be entertaining as personality helps determine the success in this area.

An Analysis of Three Wikipedia Articles

Wikipedia articles: Espionage Act, Black Tom explosion, and Schenck v. United States.

The Espionage Act page does provide seemingly correct information whose motive is to strengthen the United States’ place in the war by preventing support of enemies of the United States. The page does provide links to other acts, such as the Sedition Act. One qualm I had about the “talk section” though is it limits information on the First World War. The page does provide an extended history of well-known events and its relation to the Espionage Act, from 1917 to present day.

In the article of Schenck v. United States, there is a decent description of the events leading up to the case and an explanation of why the court ruled in favor of the Espionage Act and upheld the act as constitutional. There is, however, a lack of cited sources. Although this is a famous court case and much of the information may fall under general knowledge to law or history students, for those who do not know much about the event, acknowledged sources can help ensure the information is reliable.

The Black Tom explosion did cite many of its sources, but the article did not mention its relationship to the threat of espionage in the “talk” section. While German saboteurs were successful in destroying a munition store in 1916, and damaged the Statue of Liberty prior to the United States’ formal entry into the war, the article was descriptive of the event without tying it to a larger narrative of the fears of espionage and an act to combat it in the following year. Although this is a well know act of sabotage, it is interesting to note there was no link on the Espionage Act page, although there is a direct link because the attack was aimed to weaken the United States’ War effort.