What Is A Legacy? It’s Planting Seeds in a Garden You Never Get to See

100 Years Later: How Women Are Being Included in History

With 2020 being the 100th anniversary of the Womens Suffrage Movement and the 19th Amendment, many institutions have taken the year to reflect on their own lack of inclusivity of women and to truly understand the importance of womens contributions to the American narrative, including the stories of Angelica Schuyler and Rosie the Riveter (as I wrote about previously). Here are a list of the top 5 museums and historical institutions (both nationally and locally) that are creating exhibitions surrounding women’s achievements.


  1. Smithsonian Institute

On a national scale, the Smithsonian Institute has created the Because of Her Story campaign. This initiative is a culmination of years of work and research to document, collect, and display a more complete and compelling story of women in America. A few of the 19 Smithsonian Museums have headed the call, including the National Museum of American History, the National Portrait Gallery, and others. The exhibitions themselves started in 2019, with even more being opened throughout 2020.

Because of Her Story


  1. National Museum of Women in the Arts

Though it is not a part of the Smithsonian Institute, the NMWA is also in Washington DC. Not only is it the only museum in the United States, but also the only museum in the world dedicated to dedicated to “championing women through the arts.” Along with their permanent collection (which boats more than 5,000 objects), the NMWA also does 10 rotating exhibitions a year. This year, those exhibitions include the work of Delita Martin, Graciela Iturbide, and Sonya Clark.


  1. New Britain Museum of American Art

The previously mentioned National Museum of Women in the Arts mentions that generally, the artists in most museums are 85% male and 85% white. Locally, the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut has taken the year to truly up the ante on including womens work in the galleries. As Director Min Jung Kim states:

The picture of American art of the 21st century is one of a rich and varied diversity, reflecting America’s evolving national identity. To be truly ‘American’ now means to embrace diversity. Our initiative challenges this underrepresentation by celebrating the innovative work and outsized impact of female-identifying artists throughout American history. And we are doing this in one of the oldest museums of American art in this country.

This institution has created the theme of 2020/20 Women in which the temporary exhibitions for entire year will be dedicated to female artists. These artists range from early colonial Shaker art by Hannah Cohoon to modern museum doodle murals by Shantell Martin.

2020-20 Women Logo


  1. Baltimore Museum of Art

The Baltimore Museum of Art is taking the idea of incorporating women into their collection to a whole new level. Even though they will have male featured artists in their exhibitions, the majority will be women (a total of 23 of their temporary exhibitions will be female based). They are taking it one step further, however. For the rest of 2020, any new purchase or acquisition the museum makes will only be from female and female-identifying artists as a part of it’s 2020 Vision Initiative. Similar to the ideas of NBMAA’s Director Min Jung Kim, BMA’s Chief Curator Asma Naeem believes that this initiative is a way of “re-correcting the canon” in favor of more diverse collections.


  1. North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences

It’s not just art and history museums that are getting on the ‘women 2020’ bandwagon. Science museums are as well. Raleigh, North Carolina is home to the largest natural history museum in the Southeast, with seven floors of gallery space spanning two city blocks. This year, the museum decided to use of those galleries to talk about the importance of many women in the field of science. As their team explains, many people just know of one woman who was a famous scientist…Marie Curie. This exhibit goes beyond her…literally. Titled ‘Beyond Curie,’ the exhibit tells the stories of 40 female scientists and their groundbreaking work. The museum uses multiple mediums, including art, to tell these stories in order to, as one of the collaborating artists states, “show the human side of science.”


  • Honorable Mentions

Feminist Art Coalition – A group of approximately 50 art institutions from across the US will come together to present female based exhibits and events throughout the Fall of 2020 (September to November) in order to show the range and versatility of the Feminist Movement.
Virginia Museum of History & Culture – They will have two major exhibits this year marking the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage. One called ‘Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today’ and the other being ‘We Demand: Women’s Suffrage in Virginia’.
National Women’s History Museum – Though not a ‘brick & mortar’ museum yet (which is why I didn’t include it above), this newest Smithsonian institution has been years in the making and already has a substantial digital footprint.


I Know That Greatness Lies in You

Between the cancelling of the NCAA tournament, the NBA season, and the postponing of the MLB season, it seems as though all of our favorite sports will soon be gone….at least for the time being (OH NO!) Since nobody can watch current games of their favorite sports, let’s take this time to take a look back on the some of the great moments sports have had over the decades. And since it is still Women’s History Month, I’d love to give a shout out to our female GOATs! Let’s break this down sport by sport, shall we?


When people are asked to name female tennis greats, they think of two women (well kind of three). Depending on their knowledge of the game, or the generation they come from, most people will either name Billie Jean King or one of the Williams sisters (most often Serena).

Billie Jean King was the OG GOAT of women’s tennis. In the entirety of her career, King won 39 Grand Slam titles (12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, and 11 mixed doubles). On top of her already impressive accolades, Billie Jean King is most well known for one particular match: The Battle of the Sexes.

Battle of Sexes

This match was between a then 55 year old Bobby Riggs and 29 year old Billie Jean King. Though many saw the match as a publicity stunt, King saw it as more than that. She knew she needed to win in order to push forward the women’s liberation movement, particularly in the world of sports. King stated after the match, “I thought it would set us back 50 years if I didn’t win that match. It would ruin the women’s tour and affect all women’s self-esteem.”

And win she did. In 3 sets King took the match over Riggs, officially solidifying women’s tennis as a real sport. Off the court, this win helped make her an icon in the Women’s Tennis Association as well as the Women’s Sports Foundation (two groups in which she was an initial founder). She also became a role model for every female tennis great that came after her, including this generations icons: The Williams Sisters.



Typically, any woman who wants to hit a ball with a bat plays on a softball team. However, there are some that want to take it a step farther and play baseball. When you think of women in baseball, most non-sports people (or at least non-baseball people) immediately think of the Tom Hanks movie A League of Their Own. Some see it as just a movie, however, it was based on real events. In 1943 when the men left to fight in WWII, many MLB team and field owners were scrambling for a way to keep the doors open and continue making profits. The solution, given by Cub’s owner Philip Wrigley: swap out male players for female. The idea was not well received at first, with two major issues coming up again and again: what type of ball would these women play? (since women typically played softball under different rules and regulations from men’s baseball) and where would they find women willing to play?

Once Wrigley explained that these new teams would use the same rules as the men, he began hiring scouts to pick the best ones of the bunch. What was created was a multi-team association known as the All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBBL for short). Spring training began May 17, 1943 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, and two weeks later, on May 30th, the first official games were played. South Bend played in Rockford and Kenosha played in Racine (you probably heard those cities mentioned in the movie). When the season was over, the Racine Belle’s took home the title of champion, and the owners took home a much needed boost as well. They saw encouraging numbers regarding the numbers of fans in the stands and decided to run another season, and then another season after that. With each season new teams were added and the league seemed to get bigger and bigger. To honor the women’s accomplishments, the name of the league was later changed to the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). They played throughout the rest of the war, and even for a few seasons after the war ended and the men came home. By 1954 however, many of the teams had relocated or disbanded altogether. With only five teams remaining (South Bend, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Fort Wayne, and Racine), the AAGPBL played its last season.


Today, that original girl’s baseball league is honored with a permanent exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown called “Diamond Dreams: Women in Baseball.” Those players are also seen as role models for many of the young girls today skipping the sign-up line for softball and heading to sign up for the boy’s baseball teams.



While women today have their own basketball teams and an entire league, it wasn’t always that way. Before the late 1990s, women’s basketball teams did not exist. However, that didn’t stop women from trying to join the men’s teams. The first women to successfully get onto a all male basketball team was Lusia Harris in 1977, who was the 137th overall pick and went to the New Orleans Jazz. (Another woman, Denise Long, was attempted to be drafted in 1969, but the league voided the Warriors pick).

Though she never actually played for the team (she had just become pregnant during the draft), it was still an accomplishment to be drafted and she went on to play in the inaugural seasons of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL). Before playing in this inaugural season in 1979, she also played for Team USA in a women’s league at the 1976 Summer Games (the first for any Olympics) and won a gold medal.

Lusia Harris

After the initial Women’s Professional Basketball League, the next big league in women’s basketball was the creation of the Women’s National Basketball Association (aka the WNBA). With it’s initial season in 1997, the WNBA started with only 8 teams split between an Eastern Conference and a Western Conference. In the East: the Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, Houston Comets, and the New York Liberty. In the West it was the LA Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs, and Utah Starzz. Within its 23 years of existence, there have been some shifts in teams (both names and locations) and some new ones have been added. By 2010, there were a total of 12 teams (which are still split between the Eastern and Western Conference).

WNBA Teams



Known around the world as football, the game of soccer began as early as the mid-1800s in England when it split from rugby. Originally, just like rugby, soccer/football was seen as a man’s sports. In most cases, women were not allowed to play. So when did soccer become so popular with women, to the point where many people hear the word soccer and the first thing they think of is the US Women’s National Team?

Though women had probably been playing in backyard games and smaller standardized games as early as the men’s sport formed, there was not an official league game played until 1917-1920. National games became international, with Preston, England competing against Paris in 1920. These games gained huge crowds, sometimes as large as 53,000 spectators.

Early Women's Soccer

Such high numbers began to scare the men’s teams, who believed that their fans would prefer to watch the women. The year after those first international games, in 1921, women’s soccer was stopped by the men’s association when a new rule was created that the women could not compete on the same pitches (aka fields) as their male counterparts. With no fields of their own, women’s soccer was done.

Slowly over the decades, women’s soccer began to rise again across the world (and in England as well). In 1971 the ban was lifted, allowing men and women to play on the same fields. Around this time was also when women’s soccer in the United States began popularizing. This was thanks in part to Title IX, which required equal funding for both men’s and women’s sports in colleges. With this new law, more women could get college scholarships for playing sports. It also happened that around this time girls high school sports (particularly soccer) were flourishing.

Women’s teams had been playing both nationally and internationally for over two decades as a part of Women’s FIFA, however, there was one level of play that every woman wanted to be a part of…the Olympics. Until 1996, Olympic soccer was only a men’s sport. The Atlanta Summer games changed that. It was the first time women’s soccer was played at the games, and every woman on every team (including Team USA’s Forward Mia Hamm) made sure that all Olympians and spectators around them knew they belonged there.

From then on, the Women’s Football Association (as well as Women’s FIFA, the US Women’s National Team, and others) kept their eye on the prize and took every game like it was a ‘do or die’ situation. And in a way it was. Not only were they competing against each other, but they were still competing against the men (not physically, but simply to prove their place in the sport as a whole).

Even today with the rise in popularity of Women’s Soccer (which has more viewership than the men’s tournaments for some games), it’s taken many of its most prominent players including Megan Rapinoe and many others of the US Women’s National Team to fight for in the professional world what Title IX created in the NCAA world: equality between the sexes. A victory should be celebrated as such, no matter your gender!

Brandi World Cup Victory



The 2020 Olympic Summer Games might not have been one of the original sports on the Coronavirus chopping block, but as of today, it is joining the rest of our beloved sports on the list of “see you next year” events.  Even though it only comes around once every four years (or two if you follow both the summer and winter games), it is still a fan favorite among sports followers.

Most people hear of Olympic greats and only think of Apolo Ohno, Michael Phelps, or the original Greek god-like men competing in 1896. However, female athletes have always been a winning part of the Olympic Games as well.

The very first woman to compete in the Summer games was Helene de Pourtales of Switzerland, who was a part of the winning sailing team at the 1900 Paris games (only the second of the official modern games).

Women competed in very low numbers through the first few modern games. However, as the years went on their numbers increased. This was due to the fact that many sports were now creating separate competitions for women to compete against other women. For example, swimming & diving began opening the pool up to women as early as 1912. Other sports that initially became open to more female athletes included archery, tennis, and fencing.

Once women’s gymnastics was added to the Summer games in 1936, many female athletes began to find a home there and use it to etch their victories in history. One female gymnast that certainly is etched in history is Larisa Latynina, who competed for the Soviet Union. Throughout her career which spanned three Olympic Games (1956 Melbourne, 1960 Rome, 1964 Tokyo), Latynina accumulated 18 Olympic medals: 9 Gold, 5 Silver, and 4 Bronze. It was those medals that gave her the coveted title of ‘Most Decorated Olympian.’ She kept hold of this title for over half a century until 2016.

Larisa Latynina

Today, most of the world’s favorite Olympic athletes are women…especially gymnasts. There is the Magnificent Seven of 1984, which led to the Fierce Five of 2012 and the Final Five of 2016. There are also swimmers like Katie Ledecky, Dana Torres, and Missy Franklin. And don’t forget that many of the athletes mentioned above have competed in the Olympics as well: tennis stars Billie Jean King and the Williams Sisters, as well as soccer stars Mia Hamm, Hope Solo, and Megan Rapinoe.


So many amazing female athletes, so little space in this blog (and I didn’t want to overwhelm you too much!) Now that we are all stuck in the house for the foreseeable future and have no sports to watch, feel free to binge the greatest moments of everyone mentioned above, or watch any of the other hundreds of G-GOATs (Greatest Girls of All Time!) If I missed your favorite, give her a shout out in the comments below!!


Compel ‘Em To Include Women In The Sequel…WORK!!

Rosie The Riveter and Her Impact on Modern Working Women

“Include women in the sequel” has become the power lyric from Hamilton: An American Musical that many strong women, both feminist and otherwise, have held onto as a motto and as a call to action.

Though Hamilton’s Angelica Schuyler has become a popular icon for female empowerment in the new decade, there was an equally strong woman holding down the job for almost 70 years before her. In 1942, during WWII artist Howard Miller created a propaganda incentive poster for women to join the workforce to support the war effort while their husbands were off overseas. Little did he know that the woman on the poster, nicknamed “Rosie the Riveter,” would become a cultural emblem for decades to come.
Rosie The Riveter

The woman on the Rosie the Riveter poster was modeled after multiple women who were real life factory workers during WWII. Rosalind P. Walter, who worked driving rivets into metal bodies of fighter planes at a factory in Connecticut (CT Pride…WHOO!), and Naomi Parker Fraley, who worked in a machine shop in California.

Because of this poster, women joined the workforce in droves. During the entirety of WWII, approximately 19 million women were working outside of the home in some capacity, whether in the factories building ships and planes (real life Rosie Riveters), or as firetruck and train drivers, and of course nurses. This was necessary not only to support the war effort, but also for women to support their families at home. Without their husband’s standard weekly paycheck coming in, women needed to work in order to afford basic necessities. Many had an weekly/monthly allotment of their husband’s military earnings, but it typically wasn’t enough to support the household, as it was much less than what their husband’s usual earnings were.

Once the war was over and the men returned home, many women still stayed on at the jobs they had newly acquired. The men wanted things to go back to the way they were, however, so every woman who wanted to stay in the workforce had to put up a fight just to continue working. They not only had to fight to keep their jobs, but also fight for the money they were making. Many companies were concerned that having more women in the workforce would effect their male employees’ wages (and also their bottom line). As women were fighting for ‘equal pay for equal work’ (a battle we are still waging to this day), many employers circumvented the rulings whenever they could, forcing their women employees into newly created pink collar jobs such as waitresses and secretaries, or proving that the woman needed supervision to do her job and therefor was not of equal ability of her male counterpart. This allowed companies to continue to pay women approximately fifty cents on the dollar less than their male coworkers. Throughout all of the struggles, Rosie the Riveter became a beacon of hope for those women…a symbol of what they had done and what they were capable of.

Though women today have expanded past the pink collar jobs and are in almost all employment sectors, these women still have to continue the fight every day for inclusivity and equality. In some fields even though they are just as qualified as their male counterparts, women are being avoided for hiring altogether in what are still known as boys clubs. New laws and regulations have forced companies to employ more women, however those numbers are still dangerously low as employers are only looking to reach the bare minimum for their ‘diversity hires.’ 

In the decades since the creation of Rosie The Riveter, there have been very few women in positions of power in any capacity. Of all of the Fortune 500 companies, only 33 have female CEOs. Only within the last decade have women been allowed to apply for Special Forces positions in the Army (and it took until the end of the decade in 2018 for the Army to select its first female Special Forces Officer). And it took 50 years of space exploration for NASA to have its first all female space-walk.

In recent years, women are finally holding many positions in Congress and other top government agencies. Thirty years after the birth of Rosie, and 50 years after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote, a female governor was elected on her own merit, meaning she didn’t get the job because of her relation to any other political figures or past governors (another home-state woman…go CT!) Today, Congress has its largest class of women with 126 delegates (approx. 24% of all delegates). In the 2016 election, as well as the 2020 election, there have been female candidates vying for the presidency (though sadly so far none have won it, but as Lin-Manuel Miranda says…’Just You Wait’).

None of these modern day triumphs would be possible without Rosie the Riveter and the real life Rosie’s going out into the workforce while their husbands were overseas, and then being strong enough in their convictions to know that working outside of the home was just as much a part of the women’s sphere as it was the men’s sphere. Though Rosie was created by a man, the ideal she represents and her “We Can Do It!” attitude has become a call to action for many women from all walks of life and every generation. From age 9 to 99, wear those red bandanas with pride. And to the OG Rosies…rest in peace ladies.

My Digital History Adventure

Over the course of this semester, I have been introduced to the many wonders of using the digital world to tell the stories of our distant (and not so distant) past. Thanks to people like Roy Rosenzweig, the digital humanities have become a field all their own. From blogs, to digital exhibits, to social media networking, historians have found ways to make digital platforms work for them. They can now do research more easily than ever before thanks to digitized archives, and can also share that research with a greater audience thanks to online publishing. While there is still something to be said for doing history the analog way, the digital realm should not be discredited simply because it is new. As I stated during a presentation at CCSU’s University Creative Achievement Day, “Contemporary students need contemporary resources.”

Each reading this semester has covered at least one of the above-mentioned topics in great detail. The ones I felt were most useful were the ones about topics I didn’t know much about. Going into this Digital History class I already knew that many historians used GIS maps to organize and share information on a topic, such a Doug Seefeldt’s map of the Lewis and Clark expedition. However, using podcasting as a new way of discussing history was one avenue I was excited to read about and see how different institutions used it.

The other major world I was turned on to was the world of digital exhibits. Those are the readings that I will take with me into the rest of my college education, as they will help me in creating my Capstone project. Doing a digital exhibit for a class is one thing, but creating one for a profession institution like CT Landmarks, I need to have all the background knowledge I possibly can on this type of project.

While most things for this class I enjoyed doing, such as the blogs and the digital exhibit, one thing this digital native has not gotten used to is digital note taking. Though many of my classmates use their computers to take notes all the time, I prefer the old school pen and paper method. However, to keep my notes clean and organized for use in following semesters (you never know when you’ll need your notes from U.S. 1), I will type them out and print them. Using the online platform EverNote for note taking became a challenge for me. I tried doing a couple of outlines for my World War 1 Omeka exhibit on the site, but since it wouldn’t let me write my notes the way I normally do in my notebook (the way Microsoft Word does), I eventually gave up with the site. I also didn’t like the fact that like most websites, it didn’t work on my work computer (it isn’t a flaw with the website, there are just weird blocks on my work computer), making it difficult to access materials I needed to be able to work on projects while I’m at work.

Overall there are a multitude of new skills I will be taking from this class to enhance my career in the future. Seeing the starting point of many of these ventures gives me hope that one day every historical resource will be digitized and accessible around the world, allowing those contemporary students to choose whatever topic for a paper or project they’d like, not simply get stuck with something just because they are the only materials they have access to.

Can We All Be Archivists?

While many historians in their ivory towers would say no to this question, some public historians are saying yes! They understand the benefit of having more than a few sets of eyes on a document. With the different background knowledge that each individual comes in with, they might have a different (and sometimes better) understanding of the documents than the archivist themselves.

Having those extra sets of eyes is great, but as most museum working public historians know, they don’t want a huge number of random people rummaging through their archives. Without proper document handling training, this could lead to missing or damaged objects, many of which are irreplaceable.

So how do you solve the problem of wanting those extra eyes but not wanting the extra hands all over your stuff? The National Archives Records Administration (NARA) had figured it out! By properly creating a digital format for all these easily damageable objects, one can now look at all the documents for as long as your heart desires without fear of losing or damaging them. This digital format is also helpful when trying to share these objects with the world. Rather than having the few people who know about the archive come and make an appointment to look at the actual objects (which for many people is physically impossible), now the NARA can upload everything to their website and have everyone who has Internet access be able to look at it.

Once it hits the web, that it when the magic happens. The NARA has a Citizen Archivist program that allows everyday people to go in and not only look at the documents on file, but to interact with them and make contributions. A person can add tags, add comments, or transcribe a document. These additions will make searching for these documents easier for future readers, who will also add their own tags and comments. For example, on a document that lists the voters at the Constitutional Convention, I transcribed a few of the names and their vote that were hard for other people to read (Being a history major, you get used to reading older handwritten documents in a way that most readers would not).  

The goal of the project is to have every document in the collection easily searchable and readable. Since achieving this goal with every document would be a challenge for the staff at the NARA (even though they have a staff much larger than most museums and historical societies), they use the American citizens as their new archivists.    

How Podcasting Helps Historians

The goal of every historian, especially public historians, is to have their work and the history they love be shared with the masses. With today’s technology, this goal becomes much easier to attain. Not only can historians post their written work to online academic journals, they can also reach a whole new audience with technological advancements such as online exhibits and of course podcasts.

Podcasts have become increasingly popular with college-aged young adults, who don’t necessarily have the time or the want to sit down and read a full historic monograph, many of which are over two-hundred pages. Rather than reading a text that could take hours, most podcasts last less than one hour. This allows young adults to fit them into their schedule better. They can listen to a podcast while they are at the gym or while they are driving, allowing for greater multitasking which has become a staple in the young adult life.

Other than the allowance of multitasking, podcasts also create new ways of looking at the history of the world. In academic settings, most classes focus on either wars or presidents or major events in a countries history, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall or the attacks on 9/11. These types of history may appeal to other academic historians, the masses in America might not agree. Being the only history major in my family, I can see this first hand. My family could care less about the statistics around America’s involvement in World War II, or to go even earlier, who the first settlers were. Unless they can relate it to their own lives, people are less likely to want to learn history. These podcasts come in handy because they can be created around any number of historical subjects.

One museum institution does this very well. The Smithsonian’s SideDoor podcast has episodes on a vast number of topics, from the traditional historic topics such as the Cold War and colonial enslavement to more fun topics such as food history and culture, as well as the history of beer. By giving audiences these more interesting and fun topics in this new technology based format, public historians are creating a new group of history students; these students are more eager to learn than ever before because they have found a way to make history work for them.

Social Media: A Social Life

This semester, I was given the task of creating a blog for my Digital History class where I would follow other academic history bloggers. I also took to Twitter, which I had been using for years before this class, to follow a number of different historical associations and what the Twitter world calls “Twitterstorians.”

On my blog, I feel as though I am on par with other graduate students and smaller historical associations. I try to keep my blog very academic, while still incorporating a few personal anecdotes here and there. From what I have seen on other blogs this is very much the norm.

On Twitter, however, this is where I differ from my “Twitterstorian” counterparts. I use my Twitter for more personal use than academic, which can be seen by the types of pages I follow. Some of them are history related, but the majority are the pages of my favorite actors and bands. Occasionally one of my favorite actors will post something relevant to current events that I will either Like or Retweet. For example, Lin-Manuel Miranda has tweeted about relief efforts in Puerto Rico or his issues with our current president. When the Olympics came around, I also retweeted posts from NBC regarding different athletes and different concerns surrounding the games such as Russia’s doping scandal and the United North/South Korea Team.

Most of the “Twitterstorians” I follow however use their pages very differently. These users post different historically based commentary, like a “What happened on this day” post or an argument to an article or book. Also, if they are a part of a museum, they will retweet things from the museum’s page about different events coming up.

In order to become a better public historian, my social media pages should become more professionalized. If a potential employer is looking at my social media pages, I want them to see a person that will fit into their institution, not someone who is more interested in connecting with random people on the internet. In order to do this, I have been removing a lot of the random “click-bait” type pages I have followed in the past. I have also been removing pictures that make me look less than professional. When your parents nag you saying “You need to be careful about what you post online!,” most kids don’t listen. However once you see for yourself how those posts can change the way someone in the real world views you, you begin to change. Think of social media not as a way of telling the world all of your dirty laundry, but instead as a fun new resume, where everything you post can help you get the job of your dreams.


While taking a History of the American West course a few semesters ago I was introduced to GIS through the work of Douglas Seefeldt. He has been the director of many GIS projects, including “Envisaging the West: Thomas Jefferson and the Roots of Lewis and Clark.” That particular project uniquely maps the route Lew and Clark took on their expedition using the letters written between themselves and their advisor, President Thomas Jefferson. The interactive maps allow users to click on a specific letter, and even before the letter document opens on the screen, it will have a blue dot representing where Lewis and Clark were on an early 1800s map of the Louisiana Purchase territory.

In this Digital History course, one project we looked at was “Mapping the Republic of Letters.” While it is not as interactive as some of Douglas Seefeldt’s work, it still has value in the scholarly and public history community. What was learning and the transmission of scholarship like before email and online academic journals? It is hard to picture in today’s world, but modern technology, letter writing was how the world heard about things going on around them. Letters were how ideas were spread and how new scholarship was heard. “Mapping the Republican Letters” looks particularly at the letters and publications of a select group of individuals who they thought best represented the era of the early Republic. These case studies include Votlaire, Galileo, Jogn Locke, and Benjamin Franklin.

When specifically looking at each case study, users can see different types of graphs and tables depicting the countries that the majority of someone’s letters came from or the gender of the person who sent the letter.

There are also bubble-type interactive graphs that depict how many times a certain person has written to another. For example, when mapping Benjamin Franklin’s letters, the chart has a large bubble in the middle with Benjamin Franklin’s name that hyperlinks to digitized versions of almost everything he ever wrote. Surrounding the bubble with Franklin’s name are smaller bubbles with other names written/hyperlinked in them. These bubbles range in size depending on how many letters that person sent to Franklin. The next largest next to Franklin is James Parker who, according to the map, sent one hundred letters to Franklin.

These projects add to the current historical scholarship because it makes historians look at sources in a new way. In previous work, not many people would have cared as much about where the letters came from geographically or what gender the person who sent them was. Today, those key details give just as much, if not more, historic context than the actual words written on the page. By creating these projects, historians are opening up a whole new world of scholarship just waiting to be uncovered. From handwritten letters to emails to GIS maps, history is always changing and so are the ways we document it.

Digitization & Preservation

As the world of history becomes more digitized, issues of lost information and how best to present information become prevalent. As stated in the chapter “Becoming Digital” by Roy Rosenzweig, when digitizing handwritten materials, a lot of the key information within those texts is unintentionally lost. These losses can include the valuable information written the margins of card catalogue cards, or the general layout of an original work, such as spacing, paragraph breaks, etc. This issue of lost information becomes especially important when trying to digitize handwritten manuscripts. If there is an image of the document it is easier to understand what the original author meant (unless you can’t read cursive and old English, then you still may have a problem). However, going just by a typed translation, a researcher loses a lot of meaning. For example, when I was researching some of Alexander Hamilton’s correspondence for a paper, I found myself having to use both FoundersOnline as well as the Library of Congress website (LOC.gov). I used the typed translation on FoundersOnline to get the general gist of the letter or essay, and then went back to the actual scanned/photographed image of the original document on Library of Congress to see Hamilton’s exact handwriting and his word spacing and other typically missing pieces in typed translations (as mentioned above). Having both options and being able to use them together allows researchers to work more quickly and efficiently than in previous decades before the introduction of digitization, but also allows for the lost pieces of information to be regained by keeping a piece of the analog world with it.

Once all of these different historical resources (audio, visual, and text), become digitized the new challenge becomes how to disseminate this information to as many people as possible. This is where the Internet comes in handy. Now, historical institutions can create website to post all the information they have just digitized. However, as the chapter “Designing for the History Web” states, just like when writing a book a website creator must be aware of the balance between giving their audience as much information as possible without overloading them with pages upon pages of black text. Rosenzweig also argues that while you don’t want a page that is all text, you also don’t want a page that is all images and graphs, or as he quote web designer Edward Tufte: “chartjunk.”

The best websites that I have used for historic research are the ones that balance text and images well and cleanly. Some examples of this are the previously mentioned Library of Congress and FoundersOnline (the latter of which is more user friendly than the first), as well as different museum website such as the site for Connecticut Historical Society (CHS.org) or the website for the Smithsonian Institute (SI.edu). I use all four of these websites quite often because none of them bombard me with text, but also give enough easily accessible information that I am not trying to find what I need somewhere else. These diverse examples prove that it doesn’t matter how large your museums or collections are, it’s how you are able to present the information to the public. As a Connecticut History Day judge for the past three years, that is something I try to teach the kids whose websites I am judging. It’s not about making the website flashy and exciting and overly busy. It’s about getting the information you want your audience to know out there in a easy to read and attractive way.

Olympic Wikipedia Comparison

Being an accidental sports historian, I decided to do my Wikipedia comparison on three pages dedicated to the Olympic Games. To show how the world’s view of these games has changed over time, I am comparing three very memorable games: Germany 1936, Los Angeles 1984, and this year’s games in Pyeongchang.

All three talk pages are relatively short; however what surprised me is that the newest Olympic Games, 2018 Pyeongchang, had the longest paged. I assumed that since the other two were older, there would be more debate over different aspects of the games and the page. Because these games are so new, the main debate that occurs about the layout of the page is who is and who isn’t competing. Many comments from November 2017 asked to include a table that gave the number of athletes competing per country. As many commenters replied, the problem with that is until the games begin in February, that number of athletes could constantly change as more qualify and in the worst case get injured and must drop out. What there is very little discussion of is the Russia ban which in the regular media is very much a hot topic. However the other media hot topic, the United Korea Team, has a lot of comments on this Wikipedia page. The main question that kept going back and forth was if the IOC had legitimately said the two countries would compete under the same flag, or if it was just North and South Korea that agreed to this.

On the Wikipedia pages for both the 1936 Germany Games and the 1984 Los Angeles Games, the majority of the conversation had to do with changing external hyperlinks and better citing sources. Specifically, one commenter that posted in 2007 stated that they were adding a reference section to the 1984 Los Angeles Games because in their words “Shouldn’t more of this article be properly sourced?” (User: NYDCSP) After going back through the comments I found the earliest one was from 2004. This shows that it took three years before someone thought it was a good idea to cite anything on the page. Issues like this are why most teachers today don’t let their students use Wikipedia as an actual source. If things are not cited correctly, how do you know that the information you are getting is accurate?

Adding to the issue of citing sources, using hyperlinks within an article can be helpful for readers to see where you are getting your information, or how to learn more about things that you don’t have the article length to discuss. However, just like with proper citations, if your hyperlinks don’t go to anything of value to a researcher then the researcher is less likely to believe or use anything in your article. For the page for the 1936 Germany Games, the majority of the talk page is one or two commenters going through and changing all the hyperlinks to websites that they believe are more accurate. These website are different digital archives and other scholarly sites, rather than just the usual fan pages about the games.