Historical Website: Complete

After a lot of trial and error it is finally complete. Clarence Street: Between Dundas Street and King Street is a website made through Wix.com to present the history of a specific area of downtown London, Ontario. The website contains information that dates back to the 1880s and covers three themes of business types: hotels, manufacturers and retail. There are also detailed histories for two buildings. If you have any thoughts about the website you would like share please comment on this post or on the ‘about’ page on the website.

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3D Printers: in libraries and history

Since I started the MLIS program at Western, Fall 2013, I have heard a lot about makerspaces. Makerspaces are spaces that have technology such as 3D printers, littleBits, Arduino kits and other interesting technologies that can be used for making things. These types of spaces are becoming more and more common in libraries. Also a couple of organizations have started having these types of spaces. An example is the Makerbus.

I had never been to a makerspace until this past month. I currently work at a library that has a couple of these kind of technologies. They are not always set up because there is a limited amount of space in the library but recently they have started having makerspaces on Fridays. I have been able to play a Play-doh Piano and make a little red dragon head in the 3D printer. The design for the dragon came from Thingiverse. These types of spaces are going to continue to become more and more popular in libraries, especially since many libraries are redefining their spaces.

But since this is not my blog about libraries I’m now going to switch to talking about how these technologies can be used from a public history point of view. With the types of technologies that are provided in makerspaces the possibilities of things that can be created are endless. “[B]elieve that the present moment offers unprecedented opportunities for experimentally minded humanists, artists, and social scientist of every variety.”[1]

There are a couple of obvious ways that the technologies discussed before can be used in relation to history. You can used 3D printers to make small replicas of buildings that have are significant to history and replicas of artifacts in museums. Since these would be made with filament in a 3D printer people would be able to touch them and look at them up close. Or you could also create accurate 3D models of heritage sites that may no longer exist someday because of natural disasters, climate change, or war. There is a team of people from the Historic Scotland and Glasgow School of Art who plan to create 3D models of 500 historic sites from around the world. The team is doing this with laser technology.[2]

The possibilities of what you can make with 3D printers are endless as long as you can figure out a way to design the materials but where should the possibilities stop? Last year there was a student at the University of Texas designed a plastic gun that was made through use of a 3D printer and it actually worked. He posted the plans to his website until the U.S. State Department demanded that he take them down.[3] This could change a lot of the ways we live and who these machines are allowed to belong to. 3D printers and other similar technologies are possible of great improvements in many topics but if they are placed into the wrong hands bad things could happen. Will the rules around 3D printers change in the future? Would you be able to make a historical gun with a 3D printer in a public space if you argued it was for historical purposes, not for actual use?

3D printing is still very new and people interested in practicing history in new and exciting ways will continue to be drawn to it in the future. Ideas that are unimaginable to us today will become possible as the technology advances further. What history related ideas will we think up next when it comes to modern technologies?


[1] Devon Elliott, Robert MacDougall, & William J. Turkel, “New Old Things: Fabrication, Physical Computing, and Experiment in Historical Practice,Canadian Journal of Communication 37, no 1 (2012).

[2] Gallagher, “Scottish Laser Pioneers Lead Way in Preserving World Heritage Treasures,” The Observer (23 August 2009).

[3]Blueprints for 3-D printer gun pulled off website,” Statesman, Friday, May 10, 2013, Accessed November 28th, 2014.

Historical Website: the project so far

Since completing the timeline for 387 Clarence St., London, ON, I have set out to make a website that will include the timeline and information about the section of Clarence St. between King St. and Dundas St. So far I have created a website through Wix and I have been working to create content to fill the website. I do not plan on publishing the website until I have finished working on it because it looks a little strange at the moment with all my random notes reminding me to do things, so stay tuned for that link.

Wix has been fairly easy to use and I have explored some of the options that are offered through the apps market on the site. I have a number of images of what the section of the street looks like now throughout the website. I placed a search bar in the header of the website. A comment box on the about page. This blog has been pulled in to the about page in order for people to know that they can read about the project and the class from my point of view. There will be two documents that you can download from the website on the History of Clarence Street page which has been complied from City of London Directories to show the businesses that were in the building every five years since 1881. One document shows the information chronologically and the other by street address, then chronological order. I plan to look at a couple more of the apps but these are the ones I have used so far.

For pages on the website, I have decided to have a basic home page with an about page from there. Next I have a page titled the History of Clarence Street, which provides an short history of the street, shows images, and has two maps in order to show where the street is and then where each of the plots are. Under this page I have subpages for Hotels, Manufacturing, Retail and Featherbone Place. On the Hotel, Manufacturing and Retail pages information about a variety of businesses that fit under these categories is going to be provided. The basic information for each is: the name, years of operation and the street address it operated out of. If the business still exists and has a website there will be a link to the website. For a number of the businesses only the basic information is provided but when I am able to find more information a short history of a couple of sentences will be given. These three pages are meant to show the different kinds of businesses that have been on this street over the years and thus show how it has changed. The next page is specifically for 387 Clarence St., Featherbone Place. It has a short history, pulls in a photo steam from Flickr and has the timeline that I created before. The last page is a works cited page. This page will have information about all the different sources I used in order to create the website.

So that is the project so far, it will be done in 2 weeks hopefully so stay tuned for the link to the finished project.

Exhibits and collections online

Omeka is a website platform that can be used to present exhibits and collections online. There are a variety of libraries, archives and museums who use this platform to present their materials. Through this type of website historical information is becoming more and more accessible and interactive.

An interesting exhibit is Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of King James Bible. This online exhibit was created by Folger Shakespeare Library, Bodleian Libraries: University of Oxford, and the Harry Ransom Center. The homepage presents a series of changing images and information for different parts of the site that may interest you, on the left side. To the right side, there are three skinny images which represent a past, present and future of the book. Before the King James Bible presents information from before this bible was created through 6 different pages. The pages have explanations and histories of the bible along with images, videos and a timeline of different bibles. Making the Book shows the book’s present by discussing the long and detailed creation of this English Bible. A neat feature offered at this stage is Read the Book. Pages of the original book from 1611 have been digitized and you can now read them from your own computer screen. There are many pros and cons for seeing a document online, two pros are being able to zoom in  and brighten up your computer screen to read the text. Later Influences is the final section of the exhibit, which presents a variety of ways the text has influenced culture since its creation.

A feature that is offered through this exhibit and should be on more is a transcript for each video. On each page that has a video there is the word Transcript below a short description on right side of the page. If you click on the word you are brought to a whole transcript of the video. Through the transcript the information is presented in yet another way, making in more accessible.

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 7.49.30 PM
http://www.manifoldgreatness.org/index.php/making/reconstructing-the-process/. Accessed November 7th, 2014.

Through all the images, videos and other additions the history of King James Bible is presented in a much more interesting and interactive way than it could be through other formats. Seeing the exhibit for this bible in person would be a great experience, but would you have learned as much? I know at least for myself when I go to an exhibit it is more about seeing it and talking about it with other people. I learn more about the exhibit in the reading that I do before and after. For this reason I think it is best to be able to experience an exhibit in person and online. The websites created for exhibits lets it continue to be shown even after it is no longer on tour.

Manifold Greatness is just one example of the digital exhibits that different organizations have created. Click here to see a list of sites that were created through Omeka.org in alphabetical order, not all of them are history related. In this list, underneath the title and short description, there is a list of plugins used on that site. This is helpful for being able to see how the plugins look before trying to set them up yourself. There is a separate list for websites created through omega.net, click here.

I have been using Omeka at work for the past month and a half. I work at a small library on the campus of Western University, and they use Omeka.net to present some of their special collections. There is a collection of Rare Books and Special Materials but personally I have been working on the Games Collection. The collection is made up of board, card and role playing games. I do not have a lot of experience with Omeka since I do not manage the whole site, only 1 collection with 40 items. But it has been easy to use for the information I need to present for each item. There is little or no learning curve for the basic platform.

Doors Open Project: Done!!!

It has been a lot of work but it is finally done, I have finished creating a timeline for Featherbone Place. I found that this project took a lot of time because some problems that I was not expecting arose. Google drive and Timeline JS have teamed up to make it really easy for anyone to make a timeline through a spreadsheet on Google drive and then publish it too the web. But they have almost made it too easy, which makes it difficult to understand when things were going wrong.

First thing that went wrong was because of Flickr. Only materials that are already posted on the web can be used with Timeline JS, so I created a Flickr account to post all the photos that I have taken of the building and different documents. I created 4 different albums for the photos. The problem arose when I placed the link into the spreadsheet for the timeline. If I used the link for the album in the spreadsheet, a photo that is not even mine would show up in the timeline for that entry. I really do not understand this. In the end, I stopped trying to understand/fix it and instead used the link for a specific photo from the album. For the entries in the timeline that use photos from Flickr you can click on the photo and be taken to the Flickr page where you can see the rest of the images in the album and descriptions for each.

Second problem involved linking to a blogpost. A couple of years ago Roxanne Lutz, a local history researcher from London, Ontario, wrote a blogpost about Featherbone Place, when Bud Gowan Antiques was closing and Bud Gowan was retiring. I found her post interesting and it gives a good short history to the building so I decided to link to it from the timeline for the building. But for some reason when I put the URL into the media box on the spreadsheet, a screenshot of the website does not show like they do with all the other entries that have links to other websites. Instead it shows html script. This was yet another thing that I could not figure out and instead I had to just place the URL into the description for that entry. Making it so that you have to click on the URL to see any of the blogpost.

Google drive spreadsheet and Timeline JS do not let you see how they are translating the spreadsheet into the timeline, thus making it difficult to fix when things do not work as planned.

Another part that I was not pleased about but it was to be expected is how I was not able to find  information for each business that has been in Featherbone Place. More than 10 different businesses have been in Featherbone Place since it was built in 1886 and there does not appear to be any information about some expect that the name of the business was recorded for certain years in Core Heritage: A Survey of Built Heritage in Downtown London Ontario.[1] This was unfortunate but could not be helped.

When I finished creating the timeline I decided try to make a simple website to post it on. I made a quick website through Google Sites. I did not do much with the website since the main product is the timeline. The website is called Featherbone Place and the only content is the timeline in the middle of the page. But I decided that I did not like this option because the timeline is constricted to a box instead of taking over the whole webpage, because of this I have decided to forget about the website and only use the URL provided through the timeline.

It is done, that is the main point!


 

[1] J. Michael Evans, Core Heritage: A Survey of Built Heritage in Downtown London Ontario, (London, ON: Corporation of the city of London, 2009), 37-39.

 

Information visualization

This week in class we are going to be talking about big data and the visualization of information, so I thought I would share two youtube videos that I know of, which were created through data and are history related.

A Time-Lapse pf Every Nuclear Explosion Since 1945 – by Isao Hashimoto

Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 minutes – The joy of stats – BBC four

3D Virtual Exhibits through Second Life

In class this week we talked about 3D visualization and a number of projects that have been done.

Here is a project that is a little different than the ones we discussed called Bread and Roses (leads to a blogpost by creator of project, close to bottom is the link to the exhibit). This is a 3D Visualization that is set up through the virtual world of Second Life. You travel back to Lowell Massachusetts in the winter of 1912 and role-play as a person working in a textile mill to learn about different perspectives on child labour abuse.

I have not actually tried this out since you need a Second Life Browser, if anyone has this and tries it out please tell me about it. I think this sounds really interesting and it presents another option for virtual exhibits.