Reflection

When I began the COPLAC “Industrial Voices” course, I was finishing up a month-long internship at St. Stephens Episcopal Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The school was for the well-to-do and many of the institutions and teaching strategies weren’t really applicable outside of that setting. One clear example of this is with the tablets the students used. Every student had to have a tablet, and each tablet would have all of the required reading and assignments loaded to it. With funding for public schools in the United States the way it is today, I think the notion that institutions should just switch to a system that demands students spend 80+ dollars on fragile technology isn’t really viable. But even still, I think digital alternatives to textbooks, particularly with history, could be a fundamental aspect of future pedagogy.

So back then, I was interested in the project primarily because it offered me an opportunity to create a learning tool for history students that is superior to textbooks. The task proved more difficult than I had anticipated and I ended up struggling just to have the sources and text agree and not be a disaster on the website. One of the largest problems was my own lack of tech-savvy. To really make a website that engages a viewer, I think someone should be involved in the web-site’s creation that knows a thing or two about programming. The timeline was my favorite aspect of my portion of the webpage, but if there was something that had more of that interactivity which made the timeline interesting, I think it would’ve gone a long way. I think something with the movement similar to that of Prezis would be a great addition. Something that has the viewer move from information to information rather than instantly changing pages. This wouldn’t have to apply to the whole website, but perhaps an exhibit of the website.

Perhaps a programmer really isn’t necessary to capture that type of interactivity. I think the other two groups managed to become more interactive, and more enticing, simply through their own design savvy (and no small amount of hard work). Especially with Mina and Kate’s site, the pictures were placed in such a way that the narrative was told through them, and I think students looking at these would be more curious about that history than they would with a traditional textbook. Along these lines, I wish I added more interesting pictures to my website. I think I committed the same error of the traditional textbook in that my exhibit was entirely text. I had pictures, but they too were of government documents, and thus text. If I were to try and redo the project, looking at the same topic as I had, I would’ve added many more pictures of government structures, or of people referred to in the text. In hindsight I had opportunities for this, but I was too bogged down in trying to make what we had into a narrative of some type.

My error here might also be explained through my undeveloped skills as an historian. I had worked in archives before Leo and I made our trips to Tampa, but I didn’t really have the organizational understanding of documents and narrative to where I could efficiently find documents and realize how to use them in conjunction with others to tell a story. I feel like I spent my time looking for the story for so long that I just had to give up and force what we had into a narrative. I think a viewer can pick up that awkwardness in the exhibit. This issue is no doubt common, and I think it was a necessary road bump to becoming a better historian, and understanding how to deal with information in an orderly manner.

Overall, I wish I had done better on my website, but I enjoyed my time in the archives and in class learning about technology that could improve upon pedagogical strategies and the industrial history of the United States. In the future I will use the lessons learned here to create digital platforms that can convey narratives in an interesting and accessible way. I think these lessons will be applicable in a variety of settings, but I already have some ideas as to how I might use them as a history teacher.

Mini-Assignment: Metadata

Title

The title for document is, “Ordinance # 27- An ordinance for Relation to the Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railway Company.” It is a document acknowledging that a specific railway company has the right to construct a line through the town and affording them tax exemption. This item is important because it shows that the Tampa town council was trying to attract railroad development very early in its history. There will be a number of ordinances in our collection, so the placement of “Ordinance #” will impose a linear order on those legislations. It will be very easily sorted into our exhibits on the development of Tampa government. I use quotation marks for the entire title, although perhaps I should use it for the content following the “ordinance #” instead.

Subject

I wanted to find an approved title from the archival authority, so I used Florida-Railroad-History. I think its a decent enough title, I would like something specifically mentioning Tampa, but I could always edit it later. The history section gives it an archaic feeling, while the railroad title approximate what archaic could relatively mean. Florida is an approximation of its origin, but again I would prefer something more specific.

Description

I already had a transcription listed, so I figure that I should keep it short. There also isn’t really much to say about this document, it is fairly straightforward. I really just needed to explain that it is an acknowledgment of an agreement between the Tampa Town Council and a railway company, very early in its history, and giving tax exemptions and other privileges. The only extra knowledge that would be needed I think is the actual transcripted text, perhaps if someone wanted to view the language itself.

Date

The entire date is available, the town council archived their votes very procedurally. I think that finding a date is worth cross-referencing with other materials either at the origin of the document or through secondary information that refers to it. If you can’t find a specific date, approximating it is appropriate, saying something general like 1880’s would be better than nothing. The formatting I most prefer is YYYY-MM-DD.

Rights

Tampa Municipal Archives owns the rights to this document.

Creator

The County Clerk at the time wrote the document, but it was dictated by the town council as it was in session. I don’t know the specific time in which this council was in session, nor do I know if the town council is supposed to be distinguished in some way from the current one, or if it is the same one that exists today. There was a reorganization of the municipal government in Tampa, but the personnel remained, so I’m not really sure what to put in this section. I left it blank.

Language

The document was handwritten in english, I wrote it as English.

Macro History of the Industrial Revolution

1. Briefly describe Hay’s take on the earliest days of Prohibition. Include points on religion, politics, and rural/urban life.

Hays iterates that the burgeoning support for the prohibition movement came from rural protestants, and was pitched largely as a campaign against the alleged corrupt alliance of politics and shopkeepers in the cities.

2. Our era includes these “lesser known” presidents—Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Cleveland, B. Harrison—please select one and highlight their term and how it fits into the Second Industrial Revolution.

Republican president James A. Garfield was assassinated only months after his election in 1881. Perhaps his only tangible legacy pertains to the Pendlton Act, passed under his vice president, Chester A. Arthur, two years after his death. The Pendleton act provided that appointments to government positions be based on performance in civil service examinations. This was a bill designed to challenge a corrupt bureaucracy which was rife with patronage ties through the purchasing of government offices.

3. This era is noted for its technological innovation, sometimes referred to as a technological revolution in its own right. Based on your readings, briefly describe a technology and its impact on this era.

Railroads had the effect of challenging local markets by enabling larger firms to compete on a national scale. Small merchants would now have to compete with large corporations that could ship practically anything through a railroad system which afforded cheap and efficient shipping, as well as quick and reliable male for orders. This meant that the political position of the small merchant class in towns would also be challenged, making the town less politically isolated as well.

4. Do you see any similarities in the American life of then and now?

Money is still in politics in a huge way, Citizens United has the effect of allowing some politicians to buy an office, just as was the case with the political machines before the Pendleton act of 1883.

Mini-assignment: Review of Digital Sites

The site, Century America: Campus, Community and the Great War, involves contributing undergraduates from several COPLAC institutions throughout the U.S., and two professors, Dr. Jeffery McClurken at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg VA, and Dr. Ellen Holmes Pearson at the University of North Carolina Asheville. The site functions as a portal to sites made by the contributing undergraduates, which means that the bulk of the material associated with the Century America project is found on these separate sites. There is some materials included on the home page however, such as the banner. The Banner is a collage of different photos from 1914-1919, the period which the site focuses on. The different images involved are taken from university archives from across the country, with one from Utah and others from Massachusetts.

The scope of the project is fairly large; documenting the cultural experiences of much of the American East Coast during the first World War. This is represented quite clearly by the map on the homepage showing all of the areas in which projects were done. I am not entirely sure what the reproduction rights are on this site, the bottom of the screen states that “all rights are reserved.”

The information is relayed through a variety of means, one of which is the interactive map. With this feature, one could press on a pin on the map, and read the project done for that area. Another feature is the timeline, where one could see the chronological record of each projects important dates and events. Together, both features organize all of the contributed projects in two distinct ways. The map spatially relays this information, showing the geographic relation of the different areas, while the timeline relays the chronological relevance of each area to one another. One process in one city could occur at the same time as another, and show that there was a larger process at work in the country. The site is powered by bavatasan.com

The site Central Florida Memory: Preserving Yesterday, Today, for Tomorrow, is a massive site relaying digitized sources from 1890’s to 1970’s in Central Florida. These sources include maps, photographs, letters, and other miscellaneous documents. The site was made and is maintained by a number of entities, many of which are universities in the Central Florida area, such as Rollins College and Stetson University. Other institutions involved include Museums, county libraries and hospitals.

Rights on the site are very elaborately detailed. Each item lists its contributor, and permission must be asked of the specific contributor before any material on the site may be used. Some items have different criteria but the rule previously stated rule seems to be generally applicable.

The site is organized with tabs, with much of the actual metadata organized under the “collections” tab. The other tabs direct viewers towards other details of the website, mainly towards authorship and copyright laws relating to the collection itself. The collection is organized with tabs on the side opening up to different lists of search categories. This enables the viewer to tackle a massive collection through a number of means, including a date search, a material search or a topic search. Results corresponding with the search appear on the center and right side of the page, as a list with an image and a title underneath. The key point here seems to be an ease of access as opposed to an arrangement of the materials in any meaningful way, as had been the case with the previous site. I cannot actually discern any CMS on this site, I find a list of contributors, but none which suggest that any particular CMS is being used.

Archival Research Report

Leo and I had set aside a weekend about two weeks ago to head to Tampa and figure out what we have to work with. Very soon thereafter it dawned on us that many of the public buildings were closed on weekends, meaning the archives we had in mind would be closed. So we decided to get a feel for Ybor, check out some museums, and maybe learn some local history from some locals and get some keywords in the process.

We started off by going to the Tampa History Center, which conveniently had a cigar industry exhibit. It was a great general overview of the lucrative cigar industry of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We were introduced to many of the large names in early Tampa history, including Henry B. Plant and Vincente Martinez Ybor. We also found a number of old cigar boxes, many of which we took some low-quality pictures of, which we might cross-reference later with archival material.

We then went to Ybor city itself, where we figured we’d find more details about the cigar industry which established the area. We found at an information center associated with the Tampa chamber of commerce, a few leads on some information in the city, from museums to cigar shops run by old families in the area. We split our remaining time exploring the two options. First we went to the Ybor state museum, where there were preserved factory houses on display. The houses were representative of pre-fabs which housed the contracted labor for the first cigar factories in 1886. The tour guide was informative and we learned much about how these houses were organized and how labor was contracted. The Museum was in the public domain and allowed us to use whatever images we wanted to so many of the items there could be photographed and used later, with very little extra legwork involved.

After this, we went to see Carlos Fuente, the great-grandson of Arturo Fuente, the founder of the Fuente brand in 1912, which is still in operation today. Carlos was busy, but we got to talk to Dave (never got his last name), the guy who was in charge of staffing the particular shop we went to, and a lifelong friend of Carlos. We spoke with Dave at length about the history of the Fuentes in Ybor as well as the history of his own family. What we gained through this, I believe, is a fantastic oral history that bridges the gap in between the period we’re studying and the present, providing an essential link i our project between labor relations of the late nineteenth century and the reality of the Ybor community today.

Out of all of this, I’d say the most valuable things we gained were contacts, one of which includes a PHD and local historian, Wallace Reyes. Reyes has written in depth about the local history of Ybor, and we plan on reading those books and maybe buying a tour or two from his so we can really get into the secondary source and figure out where he obtained his primary sources. We know how to speak with some of the oldest families in Ybor and can produce some more oral histories, and perhaps even find and catalogue some artifacts they might’ve kept around.

Response to “Digital Scholarship at a Distance,” by Bill Spellman

Dr. Spellman’s description of the “Century America,” project envisions a tool which could be very useful for teachers teaching K-12 in the United States. It may be presumptuous to state this, but history as taught in the K-12 setting is often compromised by series of standardized testing which prioritizes historical understanding at a macro level than a micro level. The problem with this particular focus on scale is that its boring for kids, it seems irrelevant to their actual lives, the places they know about and might feel attached to. Small, local histories, could provide examples of large historical processes affecting specific places, in such a way that the process is made easier for student to relate to, as well as understand specific nuances of the process that might otherwise never be learned.

I would like to take this course because creating tools, like those provided in the “Century America” course, is something I’m interested in. Having seen the effectiveness of using more detailed stories when talking about historical processes, I am convinced that doing so should be implemented in lesson plans across the country. From taking this class I hope to learn how to make these tools for teachers in specific locals, to help them with their classes, whether they be history of something else.