Project reflection & semester review

This semester has been a very tech-oriented one for me and I was happy to be able to put those skills into practice along with my team for our project. The mission statement definition of our project in a broad sense, was to digitize the Civil War letters of Montgomery Slaughter and George Murray. In our contract we outlined several milestones and assigned each other roles to help keep us organized. In the end although we missed a few milestones, I feel that we created a fully rounded space to house these documents. The only area in which I feel we are presently lacking is in advertising. Our group worked steadily from the finalization of our contract, to fixing edits until our symposium presentation to create a worthy website, but I think all this energy may have exhausted us and taken away some time to advertise before the event. Looking back at our contract I think most of my team would agree that we were a little ambitious with our goals, but I think that worked in our favor because even though we sometimes found ourselves in a time-crunch to make up for passed deadlines, in the end the website turned out to be more than just an online archive but also a digital museum in my opinion.

In the group planning stages we envisioned this website as a good primary resource for those interested in Fredericksburg Civil war history, and I think we accomplished that goal very well. I have to mention that I was/ am very proud of the teamwork within my group. I’m not sure if it was due to the survey we initially completed before the start of the semester (I think that was a great idea!) but we ended up having a good balance of skills, Breck and Kathleen as History majors, were already familiar working with primary documents and citations, which really benefited us the entire semester. In addition, Matthew and I brought varying levels of technical skill and experience working with coding and website design which we consistently used as well throughout the semester.

I think the most challenging part for my team was the actual digitization of the letters themselves because it was the most time consuming. I was responsible primarily for the scanning of the Murray letters, and his biographical page on our site. Kathleen and I spent the first weeks of the semester scanning letters, and then the whole team was responsible for uploading and including the correct metadata for a selection of letters. My own contributions leaned more to the technical and creative side of the project. Within the website I worked on configuring our theme on Omeka and the individual page designs for our website. I also created some original art for our homepage including a banner and the decorative image of Murray and Slaughter. One of the biggest challenges I had was figuring out exactly what kind of beast Omeka was. I’m not used to working with websites that are more restrictive, but the experience helped my test myself in working around a problem to find unconventional solutions. One example of this is the image galleries I created to display separate images in both the Slaughter and Murray bios; I would have liked something a little fancier, but it serves its purpose.  In the final weeks I also collaborated with Kathleen to make an introductory video for our website. It was an experience, that I won’t forget soon, after 11 hours in the video editing lab I think both of us walked away with new skills. Ultimately though I feel it’s a nice and necessary addition because it summarizes everything that our website represents in a concise way.

In closing, I’m very pleased with the final product and the experiences I’ve had in this class. I hope our website and the depth of information it holds become a good resource and add to the historical Civil War community in Fredericksburg.

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