Final Projects

4 Jan

Students will have the option of two projects, which will serve as their final projects for the semester. One of these is collaborative, and the other is independen. I would encourage you to choose the collaborative project. Not only do I think that it is the more interesting choice, but I also think that it will give you a better feel for the environment in which most digital and public historians work.

All of your projects are due on May 6 at 5:00 pm.  You should submit your projects in a digital format.  Please send Project 2 as a .pdf with 1″ margins.

You will have the opportunity to get input from both me and your peers.  You may also consider vetting your ideas through your blog posts.

Project 1: Historic Indianapolis Digital Tour

In this project, you will create a website and interactive google map that allows tourists to explore the history of Indianapolis by foot.  In effect, you will be creating a historic walking tour that visitors can access through their digital phones as well as a website that frames the experience.

You will note that Walk Indianapolis provides a walking tour of Indianapolis, along with some videos.  It is a very nice website that may spark some ideas.  However, I want you to think of your walking tour as a specifically historically focused experience.  And, keep in mind that you want to create something that can be experienced easily both at your desktop and on your mobile phone.

I would recommend using WordPress to create your site.  You are already familiar with its functions, and there are a lot of plugins and themes available to you.  Also, you can embed Google Maps in the site so that users can access the maps directly in the website (perhaps if they are browsing at home) or in their Google Maps app online.

You will work in teams of three to design your site.  You need to fulfill the following requirements:

    • Each project must have a theme that holds it together.  Perhaps you are interested in historic architecture; that could be your theme.  Or, perhaps you would like to focus on the history of race in Indianapolis.  That would also be a theme.
    • Each project must have a question or problem that drives the project.  What is an important question that you want to answer or a problem that can be elucidated through your project.  As an example, you could explore the history of race in Indianapolis by asking a simple question: “Why are there virtually no representations of African Americans or Native Americans on Indianapolis monuments?”  This is an important question that addresses issues of segregation and historical memory.  Your walking tours might address the presence and absence of underrepresented groups on monuments, buildings, or even in the social composition of neighborhoods.  If you have a problem identifying a question or a problem, please see me.  You will want to have this taken care of by the 4th week of class at the latest.  We have lots of experts on the history of Indianapolis, both at the university and in the community.  If you don’t know them, introduce yourself.  Ask them what their ideas are.  And, keep in mind, I can offer ideas, suggestions, and introductions as well.
    • Your website should provide the “big picture” for your audience.  It should summarize the history that you want to cover, and it should provide some depth and background material for each of the walking tours that you create.  Be sure that your audience knows which questions or problems you want to address and why they are important.
    • Be sure that each page has a bibliography for further reading.  Be certain that the text is both accurate from a scholarly standpoint and comprehensible from a non-specialist point of view.
    • Each project should have three walking tours that provide tourists with a different experience.  You may want to ask the same question for all three walking tours, but give the user a route to answer it.  Or, you might decide to ask three different, but interrelated questions.  It’s up to you, but I will help you work out your questions during office hours.  You can also post your ideas to the blog and get input from your fellow students and the public at large.  Keep in mind that a walking tour will take at least 1.5 hours and that most people would probably be up for a 3 hour walking tour, especially if there was time to rest.
    • Think about the flow of the website.  How will you design it to make it user friendly?  You probably don’t want it set up like a blog, which means that you should make the first page static.  You might think of the website in the same way that you think of a digital exhibition, so be sure to revisit some of the readings that I have assigned this semester.  If I were to design a website, I would probably have 5 pages: an introduction page, one page for each of the maps, and a conclusion page.  The introduction would be a historical survey for context followed by a deeper analysis of the question or problem.  Each of the map pages would survey the story you want to tell with your maps as well as discuss the deeper questions that it exposes.  You may want to highlight a few of the places or things that they should look our for along the route.  The conclusion page (I probably wouldn’t call it a conclusion) would sum up the overall experience and suggest further resources and readings.
    • There are a number of ways to design your maps.  Some of you may have more experience using basic GIS technologies.  If so, be sure to use your expertise.  However, at the end of the day, we need the maps to be user friendly, which is why the output needs to be in a Google Map.  For information on how to design a walking tour in Google Maps and/or Google Earth, click here.
    • Each of the walking tours should have at least 5 sites along the route.
    • The sites should include relevant historical information.  For example, if it is a building, the architect, date, patron, etc. is relevant.  You should explain the significance of the building in the context of your overall question or problem.  Remember that the walking tours that you are designing are linear in nature, which means that you can build on your narrative from previous sites.
    • You should make the information as appealing as possible.  A nice mix of text, images, sound, and video are a good way to keep the attention of your reader.  The nice thing about Google Maps is that for each site, you can create a rich media experience by embedding text, videos, images, etc.  Be creative.  If you want to narrate a site, go head.  Take your own pictures and close ups to illustrate your argument.  Remember, that you want your readers to be able to experience the walking tour both in person and virtually.
    • At minimum, each site should have about 500 words of text.  This can be written or recorded, but it must be your own original work.  Be sure to cite your sources in the bibliography at the bottom of the page.  It might be useful for you to distinguish “works cited” from “further reading.”  After all, as scholars you should be reading more deeply than a non-specialist.

Examples

I’m sure that many of you have been on historical walking tours.  But, there is still much room for development — especially here in Indianapolis.  There are many ways to provide a self-guided historical walking tour, and you should look for models in books, on websites, and in apps.  We are approaching the historical walking tour from the standpoint of an underfunded  organization that wishes to provide services to the public but doesn’t have tens of thousands of dollars to design a sleek app.  Using open source and free software, we can do a lot, especially if we are creative and take a design centered approach.  By a design centered approach, I mean that we should focus on usability.  We should be asking ourselves a few questions.  What do we want the users to get out of the experience?  What does a user want from the experience?  What would intrigue them?  What would turn them off?  In other words, you might simply ask yourself what you would like to see in a self-guided walking tour website.

I’ve chosen a few sites for you to look at below.  Keep in mind that no site is perfect, but these might spark your creativity and imagination.

    • Greenwich Village Walking Tour: This is a good design, but it lacks detailed information and the media experience that can be offered in Google Maps.
    • Boston Freedom Trail: A bit overwhelming with detail at first, have a look.  Each landmark has an image, details, and a link for further information.  Your entries will differ in that they will have historical interpretations embedded in the site data.  I would also like to see a bit more interactivity.
    • Frederick Douglass Walking Tour: Again, this lacks some of the detailed information that your projects will include, but notice how the author has embedded historical documents and images.  Very nice.  Think about how you might do something similar.

Workflow

This is a suggested workflow for your projects.  You may modify this as you wish as long as you hit deadlines.

    • WEEKS 1-2: Establish working groups
    • WEEKS 2-4: Establish historical question/problem. Visit potential sites.  Walk the city. Interview relevant members of community about topics.  Consult the Encyclopedia of Indianapolis for ideas.
    • WEEK 4: Group Meeting about progress, next steps, peer review, and deadlines.
    • WEEKS 4-8: Research more deeply the sites related to your question. By week 8, you should have all three map routes worked out. Define assignments for the project.  I would recommend that you divide up the work by individual site, not by map.  This will prevent the maps from being uneven and inconsistent.  While not all sites will have full multimedia, investigate what is available and what you would like to add.  Are there historical documents, youtube videos, or images available to you (i.e. available through Creative Commons or fair use licenses)?  If not, can you get them?  Should you create your own media?
    • WEEK 6: Group Meeting about progress, next steps, peer review, and deadlines.
    • WEEKS 8-12: Compose text for each of the sites.  Each person should write roughly 5-8 entries, equivalent to about 10-16 pages of text.
    • WEEK 8: Group Meeting about progress, next steps, peer review, and deadlines.
    • WEEK 9: Create a WordPress site and decide on the theme.  Lay out the general outlines.
    • WEEK 10: Watch Google Map tutorials and experiment with your own.
    • WEEK 12: Group Meeting about progress, next steps, peer review, and deadlines.  Begin drafting introduction and conclusion.  The introduction and conclusion will be approximately 1000-1500 words.
    • WEEK 13: Peer review and revision of site entries.  Add final multimedia.
    • WEEK 14: Peer review and revision of introduction and conclusion.  Add final multimedia.  Input sites on map and draw routes.
    • WEEK 15: Final group meeting and revisions to the site and map.
    • May 6: Final Project Due

Project 2: NEH Digital Humanities Grant Proposal

In this project, you will write an NEH Digital Humanities Level II Start-Up Grant.  You will write from the perspective of a professional public historian who works in an institutional setting — perhaps a museum, library, or university.  The guidelines are available at the NEH website.

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