Error edits

Posted in Digital History on April 29th, 2008 by Colin

So, I don’t even know if we’re required to still maintain these blogs. Probably not, but I thought I would briefly mention what I have been cleaning up on the Farmer site at least for the benefit of my group.

I added dates to the summaries of all the videos on the “videos” page and added links to our descriptions on the “about us” page, but I also have been straightening out some spacing issues and correcting typos. Speaking of typos, I have noticed some common themes that we are all missing, so just something to watch out for:

  1. Greensboro not Greensburo
  2. UMW Bullet not UMW Bullet
  3. UMW Today not UMW Today
  4. Free Lance-Star not Free-Lance Star or Free Lance Star

Anyway, that concludes this business day.

Reflections on “Digital History”

Posted in Digital History on April 22nd, 2008 by Colin

As I am sure other people in the James Farmer Group will reiterate, the theme at the beginning of this semester was copyright. I remember sitting down as a group after reading Lay Bare the Heart and talking about where to start gathering information. We wanted to do something incredibly broad and rope in Farmer’s entire life. After all, the James Farmer Project should be a tribute to James Farmer. As we began hammering out our contract, we suddenly realized the predicament that we faced. Those images/videos/speeches we each individually found in places like the Library of Congress, in the UMW Archives, at the Free-Lance Star and on the internet were not yet compiled in one place for a very frustrating reason: different people already owned the rights to all of it.

I know that other groups had some scary moments this semester, but our scariest came at the very beginning. As we started compiling information on the copyrights, I honestly wondered if this project was even possible. All of the material that we hoped to use already had a copyright stamped to it, so for a few days we all hung our heads low and got ready to send out literally dozens of permission letters. Our first contract called for us to scramble to get the permission letters out with help from Dr. McClurken and the Provost of the University, but fortunately, we reassessed and reevaluated our contract. Scope became the central issue tied to our copyright obstacles, so we ultimately revised the contract with a much smaller scope that focused on materials we could easily obtain copyright permission for.

Once we became realistic about our goals, the project took off with only a few minor bumps. The simile timeline grew quickly as we added dates from our individual research. I did some raw coding and we had the James Farmer Timeline. We all collectively had a finished version of the timeline ready days before the deadline on our contract. The quotes page also grew rapidly with help from the entire group, and photos came from the UMW Archives and Laura and Nikole’s own photos. The one thing I was disappointed about was audio, which I feel was out of our control. I discovered several long recordings of James Farmer speaking in the Library of Congress, but discovered a new obstacle: cost. To obtain copies required sound technicians priced at hundreds of dollars. However, our work with Andy Rush and Carolyn Parsons to digitize UMW copies of speeches by Farmer made up for this. It was a great experience and gave us some great videos. We also decided in the middle of the semester not to use Omeka. We simply did not need it because the material that we collected fit in to the WordPress installation flawlessly.

What amazed me was how closely our group worked together. We followed a policy where each person “managed” an aspect of the finished project, so everyone helped work on everyone else’s main focus. Laura, Nikole and Mary helped me add dates to the timeline in our GoogleDoc, while I took over from Nikole after she worked out the exchange of videos between the DTLT and the UMW Archives. Together, we edited them with Mary’s help. Nikole did a great job doing a lot of our background research. Mary was a huge help with the website and kept us going with Tim O’Donnell. I was happy to go along with the group to the James Farmer Multicultural Center and suggest photographs and help compile interesting quotes on the quotes page, which Laura manged. I liked how we always discussed things as a group and came to a decision about our course of action.

Therefore, all in all, I think that we fulfilled the overall goals of our contract. Omeka was not necessary because WordPress worked so well, and we all collaborated very efficiently.

Student Creativity Day

Posted in Digital History on April 19th, 2008 by Colin

I agree with Laura and thought that our presentation yesterday for Student Creativity Day went really well. The best part of this is sharing it with other people, and I noticed while presenting that people seemed to really enjoy the mashup on the first page.

I did a couple things yesterday before the presentation. The biggest thing was that I added times for all of the clips and summaries to the videos page. I also tweaked our search function, which gave us a Google search bar. I just thought it looked better since we couldn’t modify the appearance of our theme’s search bar.

The timeline received a few updates as well. I placed our Creative Commons license on the timeline and bibliography pages, and updated the links on those actual pages so that the Farmer Project Home link now opens in a new window and not within the frames. I also uploaded an index.html file so that it still takes you to the timeline even if you just type the file path ( and don’t add a file name (

Now there’s not much left to do. I’m thinking that in the next day or two I’m going to do something to our feedback page. I feel like our menu bar is beginning to get a little crowded, so maybe we can think about taking down our feedback page and working those comments into the site somehow. I’m going to think about this awhile and try and come up with some ideas.

Videos Page Updated

Posted in Digital History on April 15th, 2008 by Colin

Now that the internet seems to be back to its usual (slow) self on the UMW campus, Laura and I uploaded the rest of the videos that we worked on a week or two ago.

You can now see them all on the Farmer Project Videos page. I’m kinda proud of them because I had something to do with almost all of them.

I also added to the setup and placed the same links columns on the videos page as the quotes page.

Farmer Videos

Posted in Digital History on April 14th, 2008 by Colin

Today I made some headway with the videos of James Farmer that we digitized from the UMW Archives. Andy Rush uploaded them to on Friday and I have begun downloading them and re-uploading them to YouTube. The bust unveiling and the Senate Resolution are already on the videos page.

The problem is that the UMW internet problems we are having today are stopping me from downloading any more. It’s very annoying because it takes more than an hour to simply download a clip, if it downloads at all, so I’m giving up for today.

For right now, though, you can still enjoy some of what I’ve been doing behind the scenes. A whole lot more is to come. I was thinking about structuring the videos page the same way we have the quotes page. You may notice that I have the links at the top of the page and “back to top” beneath each video.

Perspectives Online Reactions

Posted in Digital History on April 6th, 2008 by Colin

So, in keeping with the assignment for this Tuesday, I visited the Perspectives Online page for May 2007 at the American Historical Association and prepared to react to two or three articles.

I first want to talk about David Voelker’s article called “Blogging for Your Students” because of how imminently important it is in the context of this class. Voelker gives some great reasons why professors should begin to consider starting their own blogs for their students. As Voelker argues, blogs are a powerful way for students and professors to interact in a public setting that forces both parties to offer more intelligent discussion than in the classroom alone precisely because it is public.

This reflects strongly on this class. At times, it seems like different groups have been reminded exactly how public some of this is. Therefore, I think that the most important thing to take away from the idea of blogs is simply how blogs make your work accessible to other people (students/peers/colleagues/whomever). Accessibility is something that Voelker discusses, but in a different way because his motive is to persuade other professors to blog in their classes. That means sometimes people will react harshly to what you say, but if it is worth saying, then other people will benefit from it. Our projects in this class directly benefit Fredericksburg, because it makes Fredericksburg’s history available to a wider audience. We are at least an audience for each other’s projects, which still helps us to refine our thoughts and research which we post publicly.

Elizabeth Fairhead’s article, “Talking Shop with the ‘Gutenberg-es,'” also points to how digital history improves the accessibility of history. It stays with the overall theme of Voelker’s article: digital history is public. The Gutenberg-e Prize allows many (sometimes struggling) researchers the opportunity to publish a monograph on the web. As interviews with former recipients reveal, the Gutenberg-e Prize directly benefits historians looking for stable, tenure-track positions. I think that Daniella Kostroun’s comment about the prize provides a powerful endorsement:

I landed my first job at a small New England four-year college, but I was living hundreds of miles away from my husband, a political scientist, who got a job offer the same year I did at a big urban public university in the Midwest. I was not thrilled about being in a commuter marriage, and I felt that my future book was my only good leverage for getting us a situation together. In other words, I was not just interested on how the e-book would stand for tenure, but also how it would look on the market. Thanks to my e-book, my husband and I were faced with a dilemma that we never could have imagined. We had to make a choice between two joint positions! In the end, we decided to stay in the Midwest, mostly because of family considerations. These days, I still pinch myself in disbelief. After living in a commuter relationship for more than five years, my husband and I now work at the same school. In fact, we are not just teaching at the same school, but on the same hallway! We get to pass a quick word to each other at work or over the occasional lunch, which is a good thing, because with tenure looming for each of us we are both quite busy.

The Gutenberg-e Prize has something to do with our class because we can justifiably look at our own work that we have created as published exhibits that do not require a museum to house them, just like Gutenberg-ees don’t need publishers to publish their books.

James Farmer Project

Posted in Digital History on April 3rd, 2008 by Colin

Ladies and Gentlemen, the James Farmer Project website is now officially public with videos, images, quotes and more of Dr. James L. Farmer.