Entry #9: To Omeka and Beyond!

This week we looked into the use of Omeka; an online tool that helps to make databases and archives online, and available to the public. The site is perfect for institutions to put their collections online and allow the public to see what they offer.

I started fiddling with the site in preparation for this post, and in all honesty, I’m not a big fan. The site is complicated and bulky and limits activity on the site with a free account. Yes most sites do that but Omeka seems to be ultra restrictive with limitation on data and themes as well as the number of sites that can be created under an account. Sites like WordPress offer some limitation but I can create and modify simply with no concern of payment unless I wanted to. Omeka seems to be the opposite, if I want to complete something of good quality I have to pay.

But Omeka has its uses. It is an excellent outlet for the small museum or archive that allows the public access to their collections. Omeka is a complicated site but it can do wondrous things. I has looked snooped around the showcase portion of the site and located a few interesting sites: Heroes and Villains: Silver Age Comics at Atkins Library, Documenting the Gilded Age: New York City Exhibitions at the turn of the 20th century, and The Land of Penn and Plenty: Bringing History to the Table. All these sites were examples of what the site is capable of doing for an archive or museum.

The sites I looked at were produced on paid accounts, they were much more in depth than the simple sites allowed through a free account. The Comics archive is an look into a topic that is extremely popular to look at now, comics have begun to show their place in history in the last ten years. This archive plays off of that importance and the public interest to gain viewers which is necessary for an archive to gain an audience.

The Gilded Age archive is an excellent site, it is in-depth and offered a look into one of the most well remembered eras of New York’s History. The archive carries many different pieces, mainly fine art, from different locations together into one narrative. The site is like walking through a museum but it contains more pieces than a museum could carry in a single exhibit. It is an excellent example of how Omeka can be beneficial to an exhibit when not everything can be displayed, the audience still can experience the work.

The final site is The Land of Penn and Plenty, this site is a good start, it is the showcase of a smaller institution using the site for their benefit. It is more of a archive of paper than that of collections like the previous two sites mentioned. It gives information and a couple of images as well as some excerpts from resources that the institution has available giving an overview of the land use in Pennsylvania. The site looks like it needs more though, even with the amount of work they do have posted there is something missing.

All in all, the sites listed and explained above are excellent examples of what Omeka is capable of. I may have to explore the site some more in order to change my opinion of Omeka but the site seems worth it. I will continue to attempt to get the site to function for me in a way I can understand because it holds so much value in the public history field. Institutions can set up accounts and show their archives and collections to other people who might find them interesting or useful. Omeka is a resource that the museums need to recognize, especially the little institutions.

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Entry #8: Podcasting History and History in the Public

I sat in class last week for the first time unsure of what to say. The head of CCSU’s History department Katherine Hermes lead class discussion talking about historians having a public persona. She hosts a podcast dealing with new books in law and is active on social media sites managing material related to native american legal history. Her presence online is noted and has gained followers and with that she has learned what it is to be a Historian in the public.

With today’s technology it is very difficult to hold a private life online, especially when the internet can help to advance a career and get word out. So being a historian in the public sphere can help but also hurt our careers. It is essential to monitor what is posted on sites like Facebook and twitter, and how we interact on those sites with our audience because one miss step and all our handwork can be worthless. If a historian is to have a public persona it is important to maintain that identity in a professional manner that can not hinder their livelihood, but in a way that can also engage the public.

One way that many historians have now turned to is Podcasting. Podcasting is a form of a radio show broadcasted over the internet instead of the airwaves. Personally, I like to refer to a Podcast as an audio blog. Information can be DC_HH_iTunespacked into a single podcast that can highlight a certain topic while also engaging the publics interest. One of the best podcasts dealing with history is Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. Dan Carlin is able to add great emotion to important historical events while narrating an in-depth look into historical events. His most recent podcasts deal World War I, the five part series is long but completely worth listening to. Carlin talks about almost every possible topic dealing with the war giving a concise history of people, battles, and the home fronts. Hardcore History is an excellent podcast but it is also one that stands alone as a lecture series. There are many different types of podcasts with topics in history.

Another excellent example of a historical podcast is Backstory. A podcast released by the American History Boys, these podcasts feel less like a lecture and more like an experience. The open dialogue between the anchors of the show allows for a NEW_logoforItunes_mediumless formal narration that still relays information to the public. It is an extremely engaging podcast that goes off popular interest that are not always as heavy as First World War, for example the episode titled “The Future Then” deals with the ways in which America viewed the future in the past. Backstory uses a format that is comfortable for the public to listen too, its laid back vibe is more welcoming to a wider audience because its typical podcast fits into a span of nearly a single hour. A single hour is just under the same amount of time it takes to commute into New York from New Haven via train, which many people have similar commutes through out the country, and the world, many of which would enjoy listening to a podcast like Backstory, that is relatable and informative.

With podcastspodcasting there is a need to maintain a public persona that coincides with the persona portrayed on the podcast. It is maintaining that persona that can attribute to an individuals ability to produce trusted interpretation or just information. As historians we hope to educate the people around us on topics that pertain to their lives and a great way to do that is through podcasting but only if we maintain an exterior that will allow for that information to be perceived as good than everything we release into the public must be treated as such.

Entry #7: History and Social Media… Two Peas in a Pod!

History is making its way into today’s web 2.0 culture and it is being more readily available to the public because of said transition. That is to say that in today’s standards for historians is to have an online persona.

I will say that I am at fault for my own online persona as a historian. Prior to taking this class and attending the American Historical Associations annual meeting I did not have a presence on the web in relation to my intended career. I have a twitter, a Facebook, a LinkedIn profile, a tumblr, and other various profiles on other social media sites, but I have not used them to benefit my career. I had never thought of the prospect of putting my own work into the product of the web 2.0. It wasn’t until taking Digital History that I created a blog and posted on a weekly schedule.

I see this blog as a gateway to a better career. For one I can post updates to my research for insight and help when I’m stuck but ultimately having a presence on social media as a historian is beneficial in the long run.

Looking at the sites and profiles that I follow I see a blueprint as to how to run and maintain a presence on social media as a historian. I look at Liz Covart’s twitter as the perfect #twitterstorian profile. She posts frequently giving historical facts as well as using the site as a way to promote her own research.

Twitter_logo_blueI look at other people on twitter for examples of how to promote my own research and what I discover is that just using #twitterstorian can promote your work and help establish a following for not just my twitter but also my blog. Undoubtly, historians look at the hashtag to see what work is being done and click on links. That motion of clicking a link to an article or a blog post can link your research to many people because even though we have social media we still rely on word of mouth for our research to be read by others. By also promoting our research on sites like twitter and Facebook we create an open dialogue with the public talking about the subject and informing the public on something they might not have previously thought about.

Social media is an outlet for everyone but it is a great outlet for historians. Its a wonder why so many historians have not posted on sites like twitter, because the benefits far out way the disadvantages. I may be new to the sphere but the benefits that I have had encourage me to continue with my blog after the requisite time for my class.