Digital Preservation

First off, I think we can all agree that the Internet is an amazing thing. It is immense and full of things you would never think of if you did not see it. The Internet contains some amazing pieces of history for the world to enjoy. Some, like the Virtual Hampson Museum, have 3D scans of archaeological artifacts for perusal by anyone who wants to look. Others like the podcast series Stuff You Missed in History Class make a concerted effort to spread accurate history from around the world that is not always a part of high school curriculum.

The Internet has become not just a place for entertainment, but also a place for scholars to gather information and educate the public. Now archivists and museum workers can scan objects in order to create a digital record. That record can be corrupted or cease to function, but it can also preserve an object on a platform that makes it more accessible than it otherwise would be. Digital records and scans can work as backups in case the original get destroyed. True, it would not be the same as having the original, but a copy (especially a high quality copy) is better than nothing.

I believe that one of the big problems with keeping copies or scan of historical artifacts online is the same as with most things online: someone taking something out of context or lying. If a scan of a historical picture is online then people are able to copy and paste or take a screenshot. Normally that is not much of a problem (easy access is one of the good things about the Internet, after all.) but it can be an issue if the person using that copy then reposts it somewhere with no context or with fake context. But again, this is an issue that most of the Internet has to deal with.



I surprised myself last class by actually knowing some of the facts about fair use. I did not know about it from the readings that were assigned, but from a YouTube celebrity that I watch, the Nostalgia Critic.


The Nostalgia Critic reviews movies, sometimes movies that you have never heard of and sometimes of the more mainstream variety. He uses clips from the movies that he is reviewing in order to make the critique more comprehensive and easy to understand. A few months ago, he posted a video about issues he was having with YouTube saying that his videos contained copyrighted material. In the video, Critic explained fair use and how it applied to what he did.

However, I knew next to nothing else about how the mechanics of copyright works when it came to the academic world. I was just happy that I was such a small fry that I could get images for a project from a good Google search and maybe scanning a few pictures from a book. It seems like a lot of work to use pictures in your work. (I knew that authors had to site their photos, but not the extent that they had to go to so that a photograph can be published.) But a lot of academic work improves greatly from some pictures, even if they are all in the middle of the book.

The lecture made me appreciate the work that authors go through so that readers like me can have a more enjoyable experience. When it comes to digital history, the situation is no less complicated. I suppose the copy and paste functions make it much easier to replicate a photo or bit of text, but posting a copy online leaves you more open to litigation. Which makes knowledge of copyright all the more important. Copyright also affects which objects can be put on display or what can be incorporated into the gift shop. If a museum or an archive has the photo but not the copyright basically all they can do is store it and not show it to anyone. Which kinda defeats the purpose of a museum or archive.

Google Earth Tour of Toltec Mounds

Hello all! I’m terribly sorry, but both Google Earth and WordPress didn’t want to cooperate. So, to compensate, I’ll be writing a description/tour of the site with pictures for visual aides.

toltec-map toltec-welcome-sign



Toltec Mounds Archaeological State Park is located in Scott, Arkansas. It has nothing to do with the Toltec Indians in Mexico. When Euro-Americans named the site, they believed that the native peoples in the area were not sophisticated enough to build things as imposing as the mounds and so the mounds must have been created by someone else. They were wrong. Toltec Mounds was created by a North American culture known as Plumb Bayou. It was a sacred site occupied during the Late Woodland to Early Mississippian periods. (Woodland took place about 1200 B.C. – A.D.1000 and Mississippian was A.D. 1000-1700) Some of the mounds are no longer visible to the naked eye; part of the site used to be a rice field and those mounds were plowed up. Toltec was not occupied year-round according to current research; it was purely ceremonial and people came from miles around to come here and celebrate and feast. It is currently a Quapaw sacred site, but they are not the only tribe associated with the site.


Recently the park got funding to plant and maintain a garden typical of the area during the Woodland period. This picture is from when they had just set it up. Now the gateway is covered in Maypop vines and the fence supports some gourds. The garden also plays host to sumpweed, goosefoot, and rattlesnake master as well as other plants.


Mound C is one of the smaller mounds still standing. It is a round-top mound, which are mainly used for burials. There are most likely bodies in this mound, but the park has no intention of excavating it. Instead they use ground penetrating radar and other tools like it in order to study the mounds without disturbing the individuals inside.

mound-a mound-a-2

Mound A is also a round-top mound, and also most likely has multiple burials inside. However this mound is significantly bigger. Mound A is roughly 50 ft tall and extremely steep. It stretches out into the lake so that there is no shore between them–lake goes straight to mound. During the fall equinox the sun sets on Mound A in an awe-inspiring sight.


This is Mound B. Mound B is a platform mound. This means that the mound was deliberately created to be flat on the top so that a building could be built and/or ceremonies could performed on top. This mound is significantly easier to climb than Mound A. You can probably notice a tuft of tall grass at one of the upper corners. This is because that corner was excavated in the 1980s, and archaeologists cannot fill in the divot in the corner as efficiently as its original builders. More dirt has to be added about every five years because the soil used to fill it keeps slipping down. Shows how difficult mound building really is.


Mound H is one of the mounds that is no longer visible. It was built in alignment with other mounds so that you can see specific celestial occurrences such as solstices and equinoxes. We are unsure just how big Mound H was and what the exact shape was.


Toltec Mounds is a huge site with lots to offer. So if you are ever near Scott, Arkansas come on by!

Voyant Knows All…

I recently copied the introduction of Burlesque: A Living History by Jane Briggman. Voyant spit out these interesting graphics.


Voyant shows the user the most common words in the corpus (body of words), as well as a word cloud, and a line graph showing the frequency of the word selected in the top middle section. These tools could come in handy when writing papers in order to know how often certain words are used. It’s also fun to see parts of your favorite texts in a new way.

Digital Genres

Hello all! This week I’m reviewing four history websites: The Valley of the Shadow, the Yiddish Book Center, Gulag: Many Days Many Lives, and History Wired. Gulag: Many Days Many Lives and History Wired fall into the category of exhibit websites, the Yiddish Book Center is a teaching resource, and The Valley of the Shadow is an archive.




The Valley of the Shadow is an archive focusing on two communities–one Northern, one Southern–before, during, and immediately after the American Civil War. The information is split into three main categories: before, during, and after the Civil War with subcategories offering different types of resources. For example, you can find newspapers from both communities from before, during, and after the Civil War depending which of the main categories you picked. In order to access the newspaper you want, you would have to pick from one of the main categories, pick a PDF or transcription of a particular newspaper from one of the communities, and then pick which date you would like to see.

This may seem like a lot of clicking, but it makes it much easier to focus on a particular subject. The PDFs might make good images for a presentation, but are virtually illegible, both due to the size of the print (an entire newspaper page is one PDF) and the quality of some scans. The scans of the letters and diaries are of a much better quality, but it is still easier to read the transcriptions. There is a wide range of primary sources available in order to give as close as possible a complete picture of what life was like in the communities before, during, and after the Civil War.


The Yiddish Book Center is a nonprofit teaching resource for those who wish to know about Jewish heritage, language, culture, and modern identity. They offer literature in both Yiddish and English, a magazine, and various learning programs. The site is beautiful and well made with an adorable mascot, the klor vays tsigele (small white goat).

There are learning programs provided for high school students, college students, college graduates, teachers, and other adults. There are even programs for aspiring translators! The Yiddish Book Center has a wide variety of valuable resources, including a digital library in English and Yiddish.



And lastly, Gulag: Many Day Many Lives and History Wired are exhibits. Gulag focuses on the lives and experiences of people in the Soviet labor camps known as gulags from 1917 to 1988. The exhibits has sections about arrests, labor, suffering, propaganda, conflict, solidarity, guards, survival, the prisoners, and their ultimate fates. The information is presented in an easy to understand and is aesthetically pleasing. However, not everything works. It appears that there should be a video, but if so, it will not play.

History Wired is an exhibit that is no longer active. It was launched in 2001 and was retired this August. History Wired featured 450 objects at various levels of fame. The point of the site was to let the public examine objects from a museum’s holdings that was not necessarily being shown at the time in the museum itself. In some ways, it was also an archive of digital objects. But you could tell that it was from the early 2000s. Still, it is sad to see it go.



History Wired

Gulag: Many Days Many Lives

The Yiddish Book Center

The Valley of the Shadow

Fashion Pictures and Camscanner

Hello again! I wanted to give you guys some more examples of what Camscanner can do and some of the pitfalls. 

This is Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century from he collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute. It’s a great resource for pictures of outfits throughout the ages and information about those outfits and why they were significant for the time. Even if you’re not a history buff, this book is a great reference for designing costumes for period productions. 

Here are some pictures taken at random in my room. As you can see, some of the pictures still have the edges of the book in them as the pages get closer to the binding. That’s one issue with Camscanner: if your source is curved there’s amount of stretching Camscanner can do. You may also notice some shadows. If you’re going to use Camscanner, you need excellent lighting. I’ve used the lightening feature on some of these photos and they’re still not as bright as I’d like them to be. 

Here are two more photos that include text. Again, the curves of the source and the shadows are a problem. If you wanted notes on the actual text of this particular book, you should use a different tool. Another issue you might notice with all of these pictures is their relative graininess. Sadly, when it comes to research, pictures taken from a phone or an iPad (as these were) are not always up to snuff. For notes they’re usually fine, but f you want to use the pictures in a presentation or an official document it would most likely be better off with a flatbed scanner or a better quality camera. 
If you want other sources on fashion history, The History of Modern Fashion:  From 1850 by Daniel James Cole and Nancy Deihl, Fashion and the Art of Pochoir: The Golden Age of Illustration in Paris by April Calahan and Cassidy Zachary, and Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style by April Calahan, Karen Trivette Cannell, and Anna Sui all have great reviews.

MyHistro and Camscanner

Hello! I have found this cool site on DiRT called MyHistro. You create a free account and make timeline presentation. This comes in handy if you are trying to showcase change over a period of time. Your timeline can feature places on a map as well as pictures of the event you are depicting. You can “play” your timeline to go through your events and the map will move to show each new event. If you are lacking inspiration, MyHistro has popular timelines that you can watch and comment on. 
MyHistro also has 3D battles for you to explore and create. This way people can have a much easier time of visualizing battles and other complex events. Both of these features allow you to spice up your presentation and make your content easier for your audience to understand. The maps and pictures also give your audience something to look at that is not text and that moves. 

Another handy little app is Camscanner. Camscanner allows you to take pictures of 2D objects and stretches that picture out until it fills the whole screen and is more legible. You can alter the brightness and have the app scan the picture for text so that you can search for it later. The picture can be turned into a PDF and emailed. Camscanner makes creating PDFs a snap which is very handy if you are collecting sources in an archive or a library. This way you can take high quality photos of sources and have them at your disposal later on. C

Apart from being sources of information, the high quality pictures you take with Camscanner can serve as beautiful and interesting images or examples  for a presentation. 

MyHistro and Camscanner are both wonderful examples of digital that can make the life of a historic researcher much easier and more effiecent.