Unfortunately, I was not able to create 15 items that related to the project I will be assembling this semester. I am still waiting to receive the audio files, transcripts, and related documents from the school. This set-back required me to go back to my original post and dig up some resources on the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. This was definitely an interesting experience for me because I found the site of the fake Pamunkey chief El Bey Bigbay; and this was definitely quite the site. If you are interested in exploring it yourself, it can be found here; if you only browse, I suggest this page and this page.
Despite my set-back, this test site was a great learning experience for me. It acclimated me to the tools well and allowed me to get used to creating and using metadata! After having down this for fifteen Pamunkey-related items, I am confident that I will be able to insert the information for my project site without any concerns.

However, despite the great experience this was, I do not see my test site as a digital archive; I have to completely agree with Kate Theimer. All I have done with these items is create a collection, which does not automatically equal an archive. My items come from various sources and her argument that collecting them in this way takes them out of their larger context is too important to ignore. While collecting these pieces, I found myself careful how I labeled images on my computer and what I put in the description. My biggest concern of all was with the screen shots I uploaded from pamunkeynation.org. The entire website is a fake; it is listed as such on the official Pamunkey Tribe website (see my first post or this tribal statement for more details). What would happen if my test site was seen by someone outside of this class and thought the images from this website were valid and true? To prevent misunderstandings of items taken out of context, I included in the descriptions and tags that these facts were not true by using the keyword “fake”. On the other hand, the collection of oral history I will be assembling for online use will be a digital archive; even Kate Theimer would agree with me on this one. The collection I am digitizing is coming completely from one collection at the The Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College. The original tapes that Charles Frank recorded are all stored within the archive as are his original transcriptions of these interviews. The most current transcriptions of these interviews, transcribed by Dr. Hochstadt and students of the College, are all incorporated into the analog collection once they are completed. My process of digitizing them brings all the resources together and organized; making it profusely easier for researchers to find exactly what they are looking for and easily listen themselves without any extra steps. Since all of my materials derive out of one source, it is still an archive. It is the Charles Frank Digital Archive from the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College.

Going into this project, I was not quite sure why digital collections (or rather digital thematic research collections to use Kenneth M Price’s term) could not be considered an archive. I also, like the scholars Theimer discusses, saw an archive as pieces that are selected. After all, not every piece can be kept or even accepted into an archive, where would they all go? Her argument and use of accepted definitions on what an archive actually is, in the analog sense, was mind opening. Going back to Price, I found his definition and discussion on the term project fascinating. When we think of an archive, do we think of it as a project? I certainly do not. However, are we not all calling what we are doing now a project? Are we calling it this because that is how it is listed in the syllabus or because we truly believe they are projects? Are we creating projects that have a specific end date or are we creating something that will constantly be evolving? I am finding myself struggling with this. I can see my project as both, honestly. I can let it have an end date of the end of the semester or whenever I have all of the collection uploaded; my site in maintenance mode only. However, I could also create a project that is constantly evolving by asking for more recent oral history input from current residents of Jacksonville, IL, as Amy suggested in the comment. If I do allow it to evolve though, my collection is no longer from one source. Do I then still have a digital archive? Questions, questions.

First, a shout-out to Josh for bringing up his project in class and asking if something like that was okay! It inspired me to go down this path, a project I’ve wanted to help my alma mater achieve since I first started helping Dr. Hochstadt! Thanks!

About the Project

For my project, I am going to create a companion site to The Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives at Illinois College (formerly The Illinois College Archives and Iver F. Yeager Special Collections).
As an undergraduate student at Illinois College, in Jacksonville, IL, I worked with Jenny Barker-Devine and Steven Hochstadt organizing the collections. One of the projects I worked on specifically with Dr. Hochstadt was transcribing oral histories. In the 1970s, a professor at the College by the name of Charles Frank conducted interviews of former residents of Jacksonville, IL. His original tapes were preserved in the archive and Dr. Hochstadt started work on creating CDs and audio files of each interview. During my last two years at Illinois College, I was one of the students who helped Dr. Hochstadt transcribe these interviews, sometimes making extensive corrections to the ones Charles Frank chose to transcribe himself.

 

The Design/Layout

My website will display a brief history of Charles Frank and his project on the front page. This will be the first thing I want visitors to see because this is not a site that will easily explain itself the way a project on the Civil War or the Cherokee could. I want to give enough information to the visitor so that they know who Charles Frank was, but not so much that I influence the way they will interpret the project (I have opinions of my own on this man based on the way he conducted his interviews and what he chose to leave out of his own transcriptions).
I will have a separate page for the actual project, but I would like to work on a navigation system below the information on Charles Frank. I am currently thinking that I would like to give the visitor options on the kind of interviews they would like to see. Are they interested in interviewees who had an affiliation with Illinois College? Are they looking for information on another school in town such as MacMurray College or Illinois School for the Deaf? Or would they like to see interviews with a specific gender?

Once in each page, I would like to provide a clickable photo for each interview (if a photo cannot be obtained, I will create an icon based on the bulk content of the interview). Each photo will have basic information aligned next to it including: name, reason for interview (were they a trustee, resident of the town, student?), date interview was done (if available), audio time, and transcription status (Charles and/or current transcription).

Each interview will have their own page as well and the photo will be shown again with related tags (women, schools, Illinois College, town square, etc). This will allow viewers to not only get a brief idea of the content, but to quickly find related interviews based on their specific interests (based on the tips we read, I will likely use Omeka for this). Beside the photo, to the right, there will be a brief bio of the person. I am looking to include DOB and DOD (when applicable), relation to the town and for how long, and what they were doing when the interview was conducted. I am currently debating with myself on whether or not I should include how much time had passed from their involvement with Jacksonville to when the interview was done. Thoughts on this?
Below this information I want to have almost an image that will list what is contained again; audio, Charles Frank transcription, Illinois College Archives transcription (trying to find a good way to phrase this category so I would appreciate ideas on this as well).
I want to embed a media player for the audio, but this can take up a lot of space if I’m remembering correctly from our first week’s readings. Below the player there will be small thumbnails linking to transcriptions, allowing the visitor to read while they listen or only use the text.

At the very bottom of each interview page there will be a small bibliography for photos, information about the individual, and creator of the transcription.
I also want to have a separate page that acknowledges the hard work done by the students and staff of Illinois College to organize and transcribe this collection. At the top will be information about the College as well as a link to the websites for the school and archives. With the permission of the students and staff, I will list names of all who have contributed to this project.

 

Audience

This is a very specific project that will not have a large audience. The people I see interested in this are past and current residents of Jacksonville, students and professors of Illinois College, family of those interviewed, or researchers on town dynamics or specifically Jacksonville. Even though my audience pool is small, I still think this is an important project to make digital. There is a lot of good information in these interviews and putting it all online would not only allow people to access is easier, it allows them to know it exists in the first place.
Dr. Hochstadt has expressed interest in including my project on the main site, furthering the likelihood that my target audience will find it.

 

Tools

  • Media Player: Based on the readings from the first week, I have some research I need to do on what my best option here is. I want to make sure this does not cost me anything and that it will not require long buffering times for the visitor (not crashing is nice too).
  • Textflo: This tool would be useful for initially organizing the transcriptions for me. So long as I am understanding the use of the tool correctly, I will use it to pinpoint key works that I intend to use for tagging.
  • Cirlio, DSpace, or Omeka: I will use one of these to organize and store my project resources all in one place (images, audio files, text files, resource lists)
  • Audacity: I will use this audio editing service if I find I need to slow down audio in any interview for people who talk quickly. However, I am worried altering the audio in even this way takes away from it. Thoughts?
  • OHMS (Oral History Metadata Synchronizer): Definitely looking into this one! The main goal of this tool is to help enhance the user experience for oral histories and working with transcriptions! What doesn’t the internet have?
  • inqscribe: I’ll be looking for a tool like this one that is opensource (this is $99, ouch!). The tool assists in transcribing video and audio!

Going into this program, I started to think about what kind of ways I would be able to create some digital history of my own in the foreseeable future. This is in part due to the incorporation of digital history into the PhD program, but primarily due to my involvement as a Digital History Fellow at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM). I realize that this blog itself constitutes a form of digital history as I discuss the readings and any tools or materials possibly relevant to myself or my classmates. However, after reading this week’s articles, I find even that fact, which I would have said a week ago without doubt, even up for debate. My reflections on these readings do nothing to further research or the field in any way. I am not proposing anything new that can be used or interpreted. Regardless, I am a historian engaged on the web and that is an important start.

Of course, having grown up in the digital age, I have been engaged on the web for well over a decade. I have experience, as most my age do, with social media of different types, email, search engines, and research through online journals. My online presence without a doubt exists. What kind of presence is it though? Is it one of a scholar looking to advance research and answer interesting arguments? Not yet. My online presence seems infantile to me now. Is Facebook and LinkedIn all I want people to see of me? Certainly not. The idea of cataloguing my research online excites me. With enough outreach to the community, I will hopefully be able to take advantage of the web the way Tim Hitchcock did. He was able to receive feedback from the scholarly community to improve his article. Ideally, myself and my peers will be able to do the same but with our scholarly research. Perhaps we can use it for others to point us towards tools or sources we did not know exist. An even better use, in my opinion, is engaging the community in a discussion about our work and requesting feedback.

Despite the various sources saying that digital history needs to be more than a reiteration of something that can be said in print, I believe that is a good place to start for where we all stand as students. Examples in “Exploring the History Web” prove that is not a bad beginning. Although on a different scholarly level, Edward Ayers’ Valley of the Shadow website started out as a means to catalogue resources for his book. With any luck, and if done correctly, we all could create a website that can be useful to other scholars looking to do research in the same field.

 

Exploring the Pamunkey

For the activity section, I chose to focus broadly on the Pamunkey Tribe of Virginia. I am coming into the Phd program with only my bachelor’s degree and a general interest in Native American history. Last week, while getting to know the staff at the RRCHNM, Megan Brett was telling me about how the Pamunkey Tribe had just recently received federal recognition. I thought it was interesting that this was just now happening, so I’ve decided to take a deeper look, perhaps exploring dissertation interests.
Since my search was broad, my results were as well. I started out with a simple Google search of Pamunkey and was immediately surprised and delighted with my findings. One of the first results is the official Pamunkey Tribe website (www.pamunkey.net). The site is currently under construction, but it still offers two tribal statements. The first statement defines qualifications for membership and the second denies claims of a man by the name of Crown Prince Emperor El Bey Bigbay (or William McRae) being a member of the tribe. They also include a list of websites not associated with them. I am currently thinking about pursuing research on fraudulent claims to tribal membership and the effect that has on the tribes and their image. This idea also links back to my Decolonizing Museums class with Joe Genetin-Pilawa where he briefly mentioned a woman who had advocated for Native American rights for years as a Cherokee woman, only to recently be uncovered as a fraud.

I also found some possible sources through accessgenealogy.org, also found through a basic Google search. Their section on the Pamunkey (http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/pamunkey-indians-of-virginia.htm) provides a good place to start for someone like me who is not going into this with vast prior knowledge of their tribe or their history. From a brief look at the site, I believe the quick access to their works cited will prove most useful.
Through my searches, I saw the Pamunkey Indian Museum and Cultural Center mentioned multiple times. Hoping this too would have a separate website, I went out in search of it. When I first discovered they did not have their own website, but rather a Facebook page, I was disappointed. However, links on their page led me to two articles discussing the federal recognition.

Next, I explored what h-net.org had to offer after reading about it in this week’s readings. With a general search of Pamunkey, there are not any results from the past decade. Looking at a few of the entries, though, I already discovered useful information. Books by Helen Rountree are mentioned twice as a must-read for Pamunkey research and one of the scholars suggests a trip to the Library of Virginia to look through the “Van Schreeven Index,” which references official documents in the British Public Records Office. Based on seeing the useful responses others have received on the site, I definitely see myself using this source no matter what subject I end of pursuing for my dissertation.

On the Nation Museum of the American Indian’s (NMAI) website, they have an article of an interview with Kevin Brown, current chief of the Pamunkey Tribe. It is thanks to sources like this I will be able to gain a brief inside look without visiting the reservation. Of course, this subject cannot fully be researched without trips to the reservation over the next few years.

Through the Journal of American History Website Reviews, I found at least two website that will prove useful. The first is Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties and the second is Papers of the War Department. Both are valuable sources for federal documents all organized conveniently in one place. The first I am not sure I would have found without this website, or at least not so easily. The second, I have only heard of before from staff at the RRCHNM, as this was one of the Center’s projects. Either way, I am grateful to the website for organizing all these digital sources and reviews of them in one place.

Lastly, I found a link to the announcement of recognition of the Pamunkey by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This document was found through an advanced Google search of the Pamunkey that led me to an article on the npr website which discussed, as many websites and articles have been I noticed, the federal recognition. Inside the article, the document is linked. I love the internet.