Adventures in Digital History

The First Steps…

While we all are excited for Spring Break next week, I have also been excited to really get the ball rolling on our project! After a lot of planning, discussions, consultations, and heartbreak, my group finally has access to a good size chunk of the sites we determined needed improvement.

I’m one of two people in my group actively working towards recovering sites, while the other two are creating the central hub where all of these sites will be linked on with descriptions. Think of it like a database for UMW Digital History sites. This means we are approaching matters with a divide and conquer mindset, which is as equally great as it is frustrating. You see, the first site I’ve fully had access to is the Slaughter Murray Papers. This is an Omeka site that is home to a database containing letters from the Civil War by Montgomery Slaughter (Confederacy) and George Murray (Union). This site was created in 2016 and actually works fairly well. There are over 80 documents to view and the project still works.

The issues that we needed to fix were relatively minor. Images had watermarks on them, there was no alt-text, and there was a timeline that was kind of smushed on one side of the page. I went into the backend of the site and downloaded all of the images, which had previously been hosted on PhotoBucket. Shannon Hauser from the DKC was a big help throughout all of this. She uploaded the images to the site’s files, so there will be no more watermarks. I transcribed some text to apply to the alt-text field, readjusted the embed codes for a video and the timeline… and nothing.

I mean, literally nothing.

The home page kind of disappeared. After some frantic messaging back and forth with Shannon and Dr. McClurken, we discovered there was a setting turned on that disallowed any media to be implemented into the site. This means that it didn’t matter if you were using a link, an embed code, or trying to modify HTML and CSS yourself, Omeka was just rejecting it. After that matter was resolved, I re-did everything and posted it. The site now looks so much better, but I’m happy to say that particular issue is resolved.

Since finishing that site, I’ve been working on Then and Now, which focuses on the history of buildings on the UMW campus. I’ll have to meet more with Shannon on that, but I hope to have more on that by next week!

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