Final Doing Digital History Reflection

The goal of our peak project was to investigate the distances between courting couples in 1901 and 1921 to determine if they changed over time as well as making a digital representation of this data available to the public. As a class we used Heritage Quest and Family Search to find addresses for all of the names on the marriage licenses. Some students were assigned to work on 1901 and the rest, including myself, worked on 1921. We then split into groups to create our digital presentation. 

Originally, we didn’t have a clear idea of what we wanted to do for our digital project. We knew we wanted to do a map to show our data but were still throwing around ideas of a podcast, a blog, or other forms of narratives. Ultimately we decided on making a StoryMap that we could embed our map application into. Jarret and Dustin were in charge of the maps while Sammy and I had the StoryMap and everyone else was researching. However, As the project evolved and we had to adjust to online class, the duties were redistributed. We decided for our final project to have a short video  in addition to our StoryMap. Josh, Jarret, Hanna, Lexi and I were in charge of it. For my part, I put together an outline for the video and worked with the others to schedule times for practice and filming. I was responsible for recording our video and editing it. Because we were filming through Zoom, there were some audio issues and camera quality wasn’t the best. However, given our resources, I think it went as well as it could. 

Although it was inconvenient to have to switch to online schooling, I think it worked out really well for a Digital History class. It forced our entire project to be online instead of having an in person presentation like we had originally planned.

We faced a lot of struggles along the way. At first, we had some trouble finding all of the names. To help with this, we expanded our search to include other resources like Family Search. After that we made sure to go back and double check any missing names in case we found anything new. Finding all of the names really was a group effort and I think we all worked well together to get it done. It took a bit longer than we had expected but everything worked out fine and we got our project done in good time.

Another problem we had was trying to find stories and specifics on individual couples. We tried looking them up in newspapers and other areas but most couples weren’t significant enough to have writing about them that was easily accessible. We found a few interesting facts but not enough for a podcast so we chose to follow a different path for our project and focus more on the trends of the times as compared to our data. While stories about individuals would have been interesting, I think it’s good that we focused on trends because it allowed us to spotlight our map and focus on the research that we did. It also inspired us to branch out into looking at other trends like age differences and the average age for these couples to get married. In my opinion, this information is much more interesting because people can look at it and compare it to their own lives.

We decided that our video presentation should act as a supplement to our project so that the main focus would be on the story map. In the video we gave a brief summary and overview of what our project was and why we were doing it, as well as some of the issues we ran into. We also gave some of the information we found on the couples just to peak viewers’ interest and hopefully encourage them to take the time to look at our StoryMap. I think this worked out really well because it gave us a platform to be a bit more conversational and be able to connect with our audience while at the same time leaving our StoryMap to be professional and academic. The separate platforms also work to provide different access points for our viewers so that if they don’t want to read through the StoryMap they can still get the gist of our project through the video.

All of our names are on this project and many of us chose to include it on our personal websites. This project will help us develop our digital identities and get our names out in a more professional context.

I think it was a really good opportunity for us to experience and learn about digital history. We had to work with digital tools like the genealogy databases and ArcGis which will help us adapt to other tools in the future. Knowing how to create online presentations will be useful in any future career. In this digital age, everyone needs to know how to use tools like this and how to use the internet and other technologies to their full advantage. The only way to do this is by getting experience and learning through trial and error.

Overall, this project is a great example of doing digital history because not only was our project presented digitally but almost all of the resources we used were digital as well. Even the books we used were found and acquired through an online library database. I definitely learned a lot in this class and will be able to use the skills gained from the project and other parts of our class in the future. I have learned how to efficiently navigate databases and find what I’m looking for quickly. I learned more about video editing and everything that goes into making a podcast. I learned how to secure my digital presence and going forward will try to put my work out online so that others can see it. These are all skills that will help me throughout the rest of my education and hopefully in my career.

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