Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Digital Histories and Journal Articles

Here are the digital histories. Sorry if the sites' aesthetics haven't changed since the 90's, but they have some really interesting stuff.
This site contains many wax cylinder recordings made on phonographs from the 1890s to the early 1910s, featuring a "new" recording each month. The site also includes photographs, brief histories of the phonograph and the cylinders on which the audio was recorded, an interesting description of the recording sessions, and excerpts from publications from the time about the phonographs. There are a great variety of recordings, from popular marching band tunes, to a reading from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with orchestral backing, to a speech by Taft from the 1908 Presidential Election. I found this site interesting because when studying the history of the period in which these recordings were made, I usually only read about it or see photographs from it. I rarely hear the sounds of the period. Listening to the performances of music, the short humor stories, and just hearing the people's manner of speaking adds a whole new dimension to the way one sees the period.
This site contains a number of essays and primary sources covering a wide variety of subjects from Victorian-era England, including politics, social conditions, art, philosophy, and literature. The primary sources include various Victorian poems, illustrations, and articles from publications like the Illustrated London News and the Dickens-run Household Words. The essays give both a general overview of the history of the period and comment on more specific topics and show how it fits in with the larger context of Victorian history, and sometimes includes discussion questions. This site would be a useful tool for teaching the Victorian Era in the classroom.
This site contains hundreds of authentic color photos taken during the First World War. These are not just photos that were originally black and white, but rather were taken using an early color photography process called "Autochrome Lumiere", patented by the Lumiere brothers in 1903. Like listening to wax cylinders from the 1890s and early 1900s, seeing color photographs from World War I adds a new dimension to the way one envisions the period.
And the articles, which can both be found on JSTOR:
"National History Day: Developing Digital Native Historians" by Scott Scheuerell
In this one the author evaluates the entries in the documentary contest for high school students at National History Day at University of Maryland in 2005. Describes work of ten students in the contest, who were among the cream of the crop since they had gotten all the way to the national contest. The article shows just how good videos made by high school students passionate about history can be, as they were very well researched, creatively presented, and effectively argued a thesis. Also of note is the author's point that students today are "digital natives", since they are immersed every day in digital media. Students go about tasks like research differently than their many of their teachers, who did not grow up with digital media and are "digital immigrants". He gives suggestions for history teachers on reaching students through digital media and developing "digital native historians".
"The Promise of Digital History in the Teaching of Local History" by W. Guy Clarke and John K. Lee
This article describes the teaching of local history in Cherokee County, Georgia, and how digital history was used in teaching local history. Like the other article it shows how students can get involved in making digital histories, as students in the local history class focused on developing a digital version of a survey of local historic properties.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Three themes for Digital Histories

1) Campus Life, life off campus: What sort of activities did the university have for students on campus? What was dorm life like? What sort of activities did students do in Houston off campus? College life is not just about classes of course. Finding out what sort of activities students did on and off campus would give a fuller sense of what life was like for students throughout the university's history. It would show how campus life, and activities pursued off campus, have changed for students throughout the university's history.
2) Alumni involvement: How have alumni remained connected and continued to support the university? We will find alumni who have maintained varying degrees of involvement with the university since they graduated, from casual members of the alumni association, to alumni who regularly attend events around campus, to active leaders of the alumni association, to alumni who came back to teach at U of H or work here in some other way. This will give a sense of what the university means to the alumni, and show how alumni of all degrees of involvement show their appreciation for the university.
3) Financial Background: Throughout the university's history, students from many different economic backgrounds have attended. There have been students from poor families who were the first in their family to attend college and worked multiple jobs while going to school to pay for their education, students from more privileged families whose parents paid for their education, and students in between those categories. One may see how the economic backgrounds of students changed throughout the university's history. Questions about economic background would give a sense of the diversity of students, how the economic background of students may have changed through the years, and show how education at the university helped those from poorer backgrounds. One may also see how financial aid the university offered changed as the university grew, and as government support of education changed.