Friday, March 9, 2012

Catching Up On The Latest News

I'll admit my attention has been focused on a certain offline project in recent months . . .

But you can still find my musings on digital history on the blog for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers-Camden. Over the last few months, I've written about audience, social media, Wikipedia, online giving, the lifespan of digital projects, and more.

I'm also still writing about my work at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania as we develop a new digital history site focused on the Great Depression. You can read about our progress on Fondly, Pennsylvania, HSP's archives and conservation blog.

Finally, you can now find me on Twitter @danadorman.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A Posting Recap

It's been quiet here on Assembling History in recent months, but I've been hard at work elsewhere on the web.

I am now blogging about digital public history for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, based at Rutgers-Camden:

* Getting help from a few thousand friends

* Online storytelling

* Making digital public history useful

And over at Fondly, Pennsylvania, the archives and conservation blog of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, I continue to write about my work on a new digital project there:

* Getting from paper pages to digital texts

* Sharing ideas

* Untangling text encoding

* An unexpected connection to Dr. King

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A New Memorial For City Hall

As a fitting companion to this year's 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the City of Philadelphia has pledged $500,000 over the next two years for a monument to under-appreciated African American activist Octavius V. Catto (1839-1871).

Catto was murdered for his political activism during the election of 1871, just one year after Pennsylvania ratified the 15th Amendment guaranteeing black men the right to vote. You can read more about Catto's life and legacy here and here.

The new monument is planned for the southwest corner of City Hall's Dilworth Plaza, which is currently getting a facelift.

The O. V. Catto Memorial Fund still needs to raise additional funds before the monument can become a reality, but in the meantime, you can learn more about the city's gift here and here.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Is Web 2.0 Gender Biased?

According to a study published last year (and written about in The New York Times today), only 13 percent of Wikipedia contributors are women.

I can't help wondering as I continue planning a new digital history project: what role is gender playing in web 2.0 more broadly defined? Does interactive mean mostly male?

The New York Times reporter argues that the Wikipedia contributor bias is reinforced by "the traditions of the computer world and an obsessive fact-loving realm that is dominated by men and, some say, uncomfortable for women."

But, in 2008, the same newspaper published a story that argued a very different point: "among the youngest Internet users, the primary creators of Web content . . . are digitally effusive teenage girls."

Now, I realize that "web content" does not mean Wikipedia entries, but why doesn't one type of content breed another?

Meanwhile, journalist Kara Swisher wrote just last month about the absence of female board members among the biggest web 2.0 companies (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), pointing out that each of those companies have a huge female audience. Yup, in case you missed the good news in amongst the bad: these sites have a huge female audience.

So is there a digital gender divide or not?

For those of us interested in creating and playing with digital history, this topic is well worth considering. How do we encourage participation by many different types of people, and how do we know if we're succeeding?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Philly Past and Present

A Temple University journalism class has launched a new photoblog, Documenting Philadelphia, to share their documentary photography work this semester.

For one of their first assignments, the students have dug up historic photos of assorted streetscapes and taken modern photos of the same locations. Fascinating stuff.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Civil War and Bank Failure

I've written two recent blog posts on Fondly, Pennsylvania, the archives and conservation blog of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, about collapses that happen to have anniversaries this week.

As you may know, today is the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's secession from the United States. You can read about this and other events leading up to the Civil War in my post about the papers of President James Buchanan.

This week is also the 80th anniversary of the failure of Bankers Trust Company, which on December 22, 1930 became the first large Philadelphia bank to fail during the Great Depression. I am researching the Bankers Trust story as part of my work with the Greenfield digital history project.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Staying Power of Signs

Now that the exhibit has opened, I have a bit more time to think about other topics. Lucky you!

A couple weeks ago, I noticed an article in the Metro newspaper about the city's renaming of a block of Broad Street as "Gamble and Huff Walk." One observer said, "I’m sure 50 years from now . . . people will say 'Why is that name there?' And what will happen is people will go and read about the music of [sic] and the legacy."

That got me thinking. Is that really what we can expect from honorary street names?

Do these signs ensure a long-lasting public history legacy?

Keep in mind, these streets are not officially renamed, at least according to the U.S. Post Office. The block now marked as Gamble and Huff Walk, for example, is still just Broad Street.

So I took a (very brief) walking tour of the city to see what we're commemorating.

Do neighbors of McCollough's Way know to whom that refers? I don't, and couldn't figure it out by Google-ing or doing a quick search of digitized Philadelphia Inquirer articles.

Stokowski Place is a bit easier to decode, for those who care to try. That block is named in honor of Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977), renowned conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra who had a studio there.

But who stops to notice the Broad Street block named in honor of Rev. Charles A. Tindley (1851-1933), a key figure in African American gospel music? (You can read more about him and his church, located on that block, here and here.)

Dozens of other signs throughout the city honor various other notable personalities. Maybe with all my new free-time (ha!) I'll start a new digital project to record where these markers exist.

Because that's one problem with honorary street signs: they don't help you find the actual street.

I originally planned to include a photo of Marian Anderson Way, but while walking through the neighborhood, I couldn't remember where it was. (It's the 700 block of S. Martin Street.) Thankfully, Anderson is commemorated on more than one block, thanks to the Marian Anderson Historical Society.

Another problem with considering honorary street names to be public history tools is that some tacked-on signs have more to do with marketing or neighborhood identity than with history. How are viewers to know which signs are historical?

The city renamed Broad Street just south of City Hall "The Road to Beijing(TM)" in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympics. I keep forgetting to check, but I don't think the route to Beijing still heads south from City Hall.

In my opinion, if you're interested in a more lasting public history legacy, better to get a street officially renamed, like activists did for Cecil B. Moore Avenue (formerly Columbia Avenue) or Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive (formerly West River Drive).

At least then your legacy will show up in Google maps.