This is the end of our project. Cody and I both worked very hard on the website during the whole semester. Looking back over our contract and comparing it to what we have on our site, I think we exceeded what we expected to do. We completed almost everything on our contract, added some things, and changed some others. We did not do it in the time line we had set.
One of the changes we made was the adding of an acknowledgements page. We were originally going to do a bibliography page, but after looking at all the sources we had used for the website, we decided it would take too much time that could be spent on more important things in the project. Plus, the acknowledgements page was a good way for us to thank all the people who have helped us on our project.
Our interviews had a deadline, but the interview with Mrs. Kristen happened after that deadline. We were prepared for her interview before the deadline, and since we had completed some of the other pages on the website early, we had time to spare. The things that we thought we would need more time on did not take up the amount of time we thought, and we ended up finishing them early. The demographics page I finished before our deadline for it. I edited it as time when on, but it was done. One of the first pages we were supposed to have done was the Home page, but we ended up doing that one last, which I think worked out for the best. It’s hard to make a home page when you’re still altering your ideas and changing things around!
We’re almost done! Our website is mostly done. There are cosmetic fixes we need to make, and a couple of things that need edits and reworking. Of course there will be new things to fix after we go over the Hypothesis feedback. I just finished doing the website I was assigned to read over, and about half the time I was thinking about how others will see our website. I definitely think we have a lot of cosmetic work to do on some of the pages. I think the page that needs the most work is probably our reflection page, since we both completely forgot about it. It is a bit rushed, and there is some stuff missing. We also need to add in the picture that we took at the Holocaust museum. Then we need to go through and make sure all the font is black, since it automatically posts in gray. We also need to make our hyperlinks more obvious, probably by changing the font color to blue and underlining it, so it looks like a typical hyperlink does.
We tried to add buttons to the front page, and then we tried to make photos the buttons, but it didn’t work like we wanted it to. We’ll play around with it in our free time. What we hope will happen is if you click the photo it should bring you to the page we hyperlinked it to, but it didn’t work. I think we have both done this on our personal blogs and it worked fine, but it just doesn’t want to work on our website. If it doesn’t work it is okay, the pictures still look nice at the bottom of the homepage. We also changed the title! But we don’t know if we like how short it is now.
I’m excited to put the finishing touches on our site, and I’m glad we’re getting feedback now. It has been kind of hard trying to figure out what is readable and what isn’t, and what needs edits on our own. I hope that we have enough time between now and the due date for us to finish the edits people suggest and all the cosmetic things we need to do. I know we will get it done, but it can be stressful trying to get the little things done without forgetting something (for example, our reflections page). I have been stealing time in between other homework assignments, work, and packing/unpacking my room to work on the website. Leah Tams suggested we submit our digital project to a competition we have at Mary Washington, but Cody and I felt as if we still had a lot of work to do on it, and it would be another thing to worry about during this busy month. It was very nice of her to suggest that our website was good enough to compete! It was a much needed confidence boost.
After working on the website these past weeks and working with the history, I decided to do a reflection on some of our previous readings. The two articles I looked back on was “Best Practices for Writing History on the Web” by Sean Kheraj and “Why Don’t Archivists Digitize Everything” by Samantha Thompson. I wanted to look back at these two because I remembered thinking ‘oh we should use this’ or ‘that might come in handy.’ Most of the stuff from the Kheraj article was easy reminders that we got through out the semester, things like keeping it understandable for all readers, make it accessible, and use pictures. Looking through our site, we did try to have a photo, or storymap, on each page. Cody did the historical pages of our website, which was good because I read through them to see if I could understand what he wrote since I am not a history person. Everything seemed clear to me, but I think we will need other people who are unfamiliar with our case to read and let us know if we need to cut down. Another feature that Kheraj mentioned in his article was using hyperlinks. I love hyperlinks, I used them last year in my class blog and usually use them when I’m drafting research papers. Our website definitely made a lot of use of them! Especially having the photos link to the original source. We haven’t uploaded any video or audio, but we do have the audio of our interview with Dr. Erbelding. Rereading this article was a nice check-in on our original vision for the website and reminding us why we planned things the way we did.
The Thompson article I reread because I didn’t get to write about it earlier, and it (with other recent events) reminded me of why record keeping is so important. I can’t imagine all the different ways archivists have had to problem solve to figure out how to digitize items. It is hard too because scanning can take a long time, and as they mentioned it doesn’t fully capture the whole artifact. Plus with hundreds of years worth of papers, documents, photos, and diaries, that process of digitizing would take ages. Especially in historic homes or museums that do not have the access to technology or help to digitize. Digital archives have a lot of faults too! Just a little water is all it takes to ruin everything, or maybe just a computer virus and everything is gone. This concept of digitizing archives is something that most people outside of history/historic preservation do not really think about. It would be tragic if we lost all that information, it would be the Library of Alexandria all over again (I’m bitter). The great thing about having Cody as my partner and friend is that I find out some cool preservation facts. One that he told me is that they lower the amount of oxygen in the room where the Star Spangled Banner is kept to keep it from deteriorating. I’m sure he has told me other things that preservationists use. This article was just a nice reminder that not everything can be digitized, and there are certain roadblocks to digitizing other items.
Cody and I have done a lot the past two weeks. We had our two interviews, both went extremely well. The website is mostly done, the only pages that do not have information are the home page, interviews, bibliography, and the Case tab needs some heavy edits to finish it. The pages don’t have anything, but we have the rough drafts written in our google folder. Cody and I even drove to Culpeper to take pictures of the school where our case took place because there are no good photos online. Demographics, Coplac, Anne’s Story and some of the subtabs are all done. It was nice having finished the bulk of the website early on because now we have time to edit and play around with new ideas. I think we are both happy with how the website is looking so far! We didn’t quite stick to the original timeline for our contract since we finished some of the smaller and easier pages before they were “due” on our contract. But we also finished some of the harder pages earlier than planned as well! So everything worked out. Cody is planning to look in to more widgets for the home page, maybe something with a grid of buttons/photos as a directory for the website. We usually use the few minutes after class on Monday to discuss class and website design, so next week we will have a better idea of what we want. Or it will be implemented already depending on how the week shakes out. We also have photos from our visit to the Holocaust museum that we would like to put in to our website, but we aren’t sure where. Once we have everything typed up, we will have a better idea of where it will best fit. My guess is in National Opposition. The photo is of the room where the sides are filled with shoes that were found off the sides of railroads and concentration camps.
Our next step is to transcribe our second interview and to select quotes we would like to use from it. Mrs. Kristan prefers that we either do not use her name if we post the full transcript, or to only use quotes (and provide context, of course). Since we talked for over two hours, Cody and I will pull quotes from our interview that will buff up our website. Mrs. Kristan was absolutely amazing, and talking with her reminded me of how much I learned in her class and why I enjoyed class that year. The passion and thought behind her words is indescribable! She is down to earth and realistic, but hopes for the best. She told us some information about how the school board, department chair, and teacher worlds work. We wouldn’t have had this perspective in such in eloquent way if we hadn’t talked to her. College had me under prepared to talk to her but I could still understand her and hold a conversation, that is how amazing she is. We had just finished explaining the case to her when she answered questions I didn’t even think about writing! I have the feeling that writing out quotes from the voice recording will be difficult, because I will get lost in listening to Mrs. Kristan speak about our case.
On Friday, Cody and I drove to D.C. to conduct our interview with Dr. Erbelding at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). It was a beautiful day to walk around, and luckily we were early enough to enjoy a the long walk to the museum from where we were parked. We arrived at the USHMM about two hours before our scheduled interview, so we took the opportunity to explore since neither of us had been here before. (Side note, going to a museum with a person pursuing a Historic Preservation Major/Museum Studies Minor is such a fun experience! You see a whole other side of the museum from them!) The USHMM is absolutely stunning, sobering, informative, and just amazing.
Our first stop at the museum was an interactive exhibit where you traveled through the experiences of a young Jewish boy named Daniel as the Holocaust occurred. You start in his house, exploring the kitchen where he baked cookies with his little sister and mom, his bedroom where he wrote about his fathers medal from fighting in World War I, and a window to the “street” where he would play with his friends. As you walked through the exhibit, it slowly changed with his diary entries. He wrote about how Hitler was in power, and his friends didn’t talk to him. Daniel and his family were transported to a Ghetto, which was recreated as part of the exhibit. In the final area was the concentration camp where he and his father were sent. You learn that his mother and younger sister were killed, but he and his father were reunited after their camp was liberated. This was a whole new experience, interactive, immersive, and more heartbreaking. Next we went to the smaller area where the American soldiers and nurses recounted what they saw when they arrived at Germany. Pictures and videos accompanied their descriptions, many of which are not released to the public. There was also an exhibit on Syria, which drew on the similarities between the Holocaust and the events in Syria. The entire museum was designed with such attention to detail. Even the elevator that took us to the library and archive floor was designed as a gas chamber, dried “blood” and all.
After arriving on the 5th floor, we met Dr. Erbelding at the library. She was very relaxed, and excited to talk to us about the Holocaust. She even complimented the fact that Cody had a UMW sweatshirt on! We started the interview with the Consent of use form and a quick background on our case. Cody asked a majority of the questions, but I chimed in when she mentioned something interesting. Her responses to our questions where so well thought out and eloquent. She told us about an anthology of many different diaries from the Holocaust, and a good reminder that The Diary of Anne Frank is only an entry point, only skimming the surface of the holocaust. I was definitely reminded of that while we went through the exhibits I mentioned early, and I think I had a greater understanding of what Dr. Erbelding meant during her interview on some of the questions. She talked about how important it was to study the Holocaust, to be able to connect with the people who were persecuted, to understand what happened. Without connecting to these real people, these real events, we cannot truly learn. It gets harder each year, as soon the last generation who actually lived through the Holocaust and World War II will no longer be alive to tell their stories.
I asked Dr. Erbelding if she thinks that censoring the definitive edition of Anne Frank, or not using any of the versions would begin to erase the Holocaust from school curriculum, but she did not think that it would, because its such a vital part and recent part of our history. We also asked about her ideas on the play version versus the actual diary, to which she responded that she preferred the actual diary but was content with the play being taught because you still get to connect with the story. She did mention that they play does not focus too much on the fact that the Franks were a Jewish family. She also gave us a better idea of why the parents were against the definitive edition. Dr. Erbelding suggested that the parents grew up knowing the edited or the first publication of the Diary, and they were surprised at the new side of Anne Frank that was shown in the definitive edition. I meant to go off of that statement, and ask if it also due to the stigmatization of sex and sexual orientation in American culture, but I felt like that might be outside her range of expertise. I also couldn’t formulate the question until I typed it out just now. I think I might ask Mrs. Kristan, our next interviewee, about this topic.
After our interview, Dr. Erbelding was kind enough to let us into the 4th floor exhibit since we were unable to get tickets to it. Having gone through the entire museum, Cody and I agreed we should write a page on the website about our experience working on this case. We can start on finding the case, hitting road blocks, and visiting the museum. I can’t speak for Cody, but this experience has changed my perspective on the case. I think I became detached, just focusing on the research, information, facts, and the project. Dr. Erbelding is right, Anne Frank is just the surface. There were other kids who went through much worse than Anne, and we rarely ever hear about them. There is so much more to learn out there, and we can’t forget that. We can’t forget why we are doing this case, how we couldn’t believe that Anne Frank, a historical diary, was censored. This interview and the experience of going through the museum was a good check in with myself about this project.
I went back to one of the readings we did earlier this semester for this response. This reading was “The Reader Speaks Out: Adolescent Reflections about Controversial Young Adult Literature” by Grace Enriquez. I wanted to reflect on this reading and the conversation we had in class because young readers are so important and it is something I feel passionately about. One of the first things Enriquez says after the story of reading aloud in the classroom is that young adult and adolescent opinion are not often voiced on the topic of censoring YA lit, even though they are the ones reading these books. Often times it seems like adolescents do not find out that a book is banned until it is banned book week at school. I’m not sure if this is because in this day and age it is easy to find whatever book you would like to read and you have probably already read it anyway, or if its just kept so hush hush from the adult world that word never reaches the younger generations.
In the section about challenge and controversy of YA lit, there is a quote stating that there is a hard time distinguishing “coming-of-age” stories. Personally, I love coming-of-age stories. They’re how I learned to deal with my own problems. Sure I may not have a Greek God or Goddess as my parent, but it still taught me a lot about growing up. These stories are so vital in every form, book, story, poems, movies, shows, they all impact people differently. Its easier to grapple with sexuality or cancer when you can watch someone else deal with their own problems in different ways. (Side note: For coming-of-age movies, its a three way tie between Toast, Kings of Summer, and Me, Earl, and the Dying girl which is also a great book) But coming-of-age is different for each person, and there can be multiple ages that are journeyed to. That is the great thing about literature, you can find yourself at any age and place in a novel, and you can always come back to it. You cannot decide what a child needs to read, but you can give them the options so they can figure it out on their own, and maybe give some pointers along the way. Adolescents need to be exposed to things like the mentioned drugs and sexual orientation, and exposed to family problems, issues within ones self, and the human experience. Books like Go Ask Alice, Speak, And Tango Makes Three, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Bridge to Teribethia should be allowed to be available for the students who want to read them, who need to read them. Besides, if they aren’t reading about it in books, they are hearing about it from peers, family, or on the news.
Something that was mentioned once or twice in the article, and something I brought up in class, is that teachers exist. They have the job of teaching children, of guiding them through things like readings. We need to trust our teachers that they can guide students through the novels and process the how and why and what that the stories tell them. Teach them how to dig deep into the reading, and how to step back and see the bigger picture. Trust the teachers to pick age appropriate or reading level appropriate stories for the students to read. Reading should not be a hassle or dreadful, it should be fun and interesting and a unique experience. Teachers are teachers for a reason, and hopefully their passion for knowledge can pass to the students, if they are given the opportunity and the tools to do so. There also comes a time where the student knows what they can handle and what they can’t, or what they have already been exposed to and what has not been. There needs to be a higher level of trust to allow teachers and students to reach their potential. There should be a wide variety of literature available. Students should get a say in whether a book is suitable or not for young audiences.
We have two interviews lined up for this project. Next Friday, March 22, Cody and I will be going to D.C. to the Holocaust Museum to interview Rebecca Erbelding. She is a UMW aluma, and we can’t wait to meet and interview her! We have about four questions right now and are planning one more for if we have extra time. The questions we made are centered around Anne Frank and her impact on history, the implications of her being the symbol of the Holocaust, and a few more about the actual censoring of her diary. One topic that we do not have a concrete question one is about the different versions of the diaries, the impacts of the different versions in both classrooms and in general history, and her opinions on it. Here are our interview questions for Dr. Erbelding:
Anne Frank been frequently identified as a single representative of the millions of people who suffered and died, why do you think that is?
How has Anne Frank’s diary helped tell the story of the Holocaust in schools and to new generations who did not live through the historic events?
What effects would the censorship of Frank’s diary have on the legacy of Anne Frank and history of the Holocaust as a whole?
Why do you think Frank’s diary is still being challenged today despite having widespread support and historical acclaim?
Our second interview is with Mrs. Cadang-Kristan, the English Department Chairof our old high school. Cody and I had her for different English classes, she is one of the teachers that helped rekindle the ability to look deeper in to texts for a better understanding of the text, not just for school work. She also helped prep us for discussion based classes with our “fishbowl” discussions. We have not made her specific questions yet, but they will revolve more around our case, and the impacts of censorship in the classroom. Knowing her, we will probably start with structured questions and eventually lead us to an unstructured conversation.
Leah Tams, who pointed us in the direction of Rebecca Erbelding, has suggested we contact a professor here at UMW. Cody and I have not discussed it, but we will probably be able to squeeze the interview in. The other things we need to do to prepare for the interviews are to make sure our recording devices are charged and have good recording abilities and to make sure we have back up copies of the interview questions. After that, I will transcribe the interviews so we can put it up on the website as well as pull quotes.
This past week has been a week of planning. Culpeper County no longer has any of the employees who were employed during the time of our case, meaning we need to look elsewhere for our interviews. Our old high school English teacher has been teaching for 22 years, so we are going to reach out to her to see if she would be willing to be interviewed on how censoring affects how students learn. She might also have some interesting ideas for us as well since she is an amazing teacher! Another interview Cody and I have thought about is talking to some of the history professors here at Mary Washington. I know we have a First Semester class dedicated to the Holocaust, so we might be able to get some good information and maybe some further contacts. This means our next step is curating interview questions for both interviews. There will probably be some of the same questions, but I have a feeling with our old teacher it will be more of an structured conversation. The next blog post should contain all the processes for getting ready for these interviews.
As for the website, I am pretty proud of how it looks so far. The only problem we have run into is creating a ‘Home’ tab. I know that if you click on the header photo, it brings you back to the home page, but I would also like a tab at the top with the rest of the links to return home. I know there is a way to do this, but if you have an easier way I would love to know! Something I realized is that we never added an interview tab since we did not think that we would have any. Since we now have some good ideas for interviews, we can now add that tab! Yay! Meanwhile, our googledoc is getting fleshed out with information. Hopefully we can add some chunks of information to the ‘Case’ tab and the ‘COPLAC’ tab to get the bases of the website cemented. I am planning on talking to my geography professor to see if she has any tools to display or collect demographic information that we can implement on our website. Cody and I also need to rework and finalize the contract. I feel more confident now that we have concrete things that can happen, and things that we need to work on, instead of abstract “try to maybe do this” or “set this up for other things later”. It is nice to be able to list out the things we need to do as concrete points. One of the things that I will be doing is revisiting some of our readings, specifically the article about writing history in websites. I recall this article having some tips about displaying audio and video, or embedding maps, so it would be a good reading to freshen up on, even if its just for aesthetic ideas.
University of Mary Washington has many resources available to students. The Hurley Convergence Center (HCC), where Cody and I have a room rented out for our class time, is the center of technology for our campus. We have the Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) where students can get help with their digital woes, and even get walkthroughs on certain programs. The DKC is also responsible for “Domain of One’s Own”, a program where each Mary Washington student can activate their own WordPress website that they can use for classes, as a portfolio or resume, or just for personal use. I had one for my English class last year, which is why I am familiar with WordPress. Since the DKC helps students set up their WordPress site, they also do some tutorials and provides assistance with anything we could need.
As we have been working on the website, we have not found the need for any additional plugins other than the ones provided, but this may change as we continue to play around with our website. If we have extra time, we might want to look into a feature of sliding photos for the header. We have changed the theme around and have published the pages so we could see how the website was looking. We are still missing a few pages and sublinks, but we have included what we have in our current contract draft. As we are still thinking about what material to include and where to include it, the contract is slowly being drafted along with the website. The contract draft itself has been drafted verbally, and is in the process of being put into a google doc for us to edit together, and to make sure we have answered all the points needed.
There is also the Speaking and Writing Center, where students can get feedback and pointers on their presentations or essays. I believe that there may be an option to go through an interview process as practice at the Speaking Center as well. In the HCC we have a recording room and editing room, a computer lab with program-filled computers, rooms that we can reserve, and a bridge that leads us to the library. Photoshop is available on the computers in the HCC, which might come in handy when we want to edit how information is displayed on the website, or when creating header images for the pages. In order to use the editing or filming rooms we would have to go through a training with one of the HCC staff members, which is good because we would receive tips and tricks to help us with our project. The front desk of the HCC rents out a bunch of things, from laptops to phone chargers to video cameras. They also have voice recorders, which would be useful if we manage to get a voice to voice interview. There are copy machines that students can use to scan materials and send to our emails. For primary or historical documents, we would need to go to our Special Collections Librarian for assistance.
Now that Cody and I have a decent amount of information, we have been compiling and sorting our information so we can easily integrate it into the website. In order to do this we created a google folder to share all the documents, pictures, slides, and what not that we might need. Cody has been emailing the current Director of Instruction, I made an outline of all the important information. The plan is to add our information to this outline to keep everything organized. I attempted to organize them in a way that is similar to the pages of our website so as we work on the page, we can look off the outline to make sure we have all the basic information there. Below is a snippet of the outline .
As we talked about in class, there was no formal complaint made, and policy was not followed. I do not believe they talked about this in any sort of meeting, so minutes may not be available. The complaint was made orally, and the timing of the decision to pull the book was made very close to the complaint. We might try to email the English Department Chair or the Librarian at the school in order to get an interview for more information. The Director of Instruction during this time has since retired, but he was interviewed for an article from the Washington Post, so we do have his response to the matter.
I also played around with the formatting of the website. The header is a picture of Anne Franks Diary, with her photograph on the left page. I choose this picture because well, its a wonderful photograph of the diary itself and not a republication of it. Plus, the photo of Anne Frank and her handwriting in German helps solidify the fact that she was a real girl who experienced real thoughts, something that should not be forgotten in this case. Cody was on the other end of the website, making sure that what I was doing with the header looked okay and everything was readable. Using the mindmap we made last class, I created several pages and saved them as drafts so we have an idea of how the website would look like and how many pages we need to have. They are all saved as drafts because I know that Cody and I will change things around as we get more information and get further into the formatting and organization of our website. We are currently content with how the website appears, but there are little things that I wish we could change but WordPress does not give us that capability. Things like changing the font of the website, the placement of the header and subheader, the color of the font… We may be able to do this if we play around with the editor and plugins, so Cody and I may return to this at a later date.
As for technology available to us, the Hurley Convergence Center (HCC) offers everything from video cameras to PlayStations to phone chargers, so I believe we will have everything covered. We plan to go and check to see if they have everything we will need, but if not we can always use our phones for voice recording. I will go more in depth with this in the next post.
COPLACDigital is a Mellon Foundation-funded initiative to develop distance mentoring digital liberal arts courses across the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges consortium. Based on the highly successful Century America seminar, COPLACDigital brings together faculty, students, archivists, and instructional technologists to collaborate in the public creation of knowledge.