Hello, June! When did you get here? How many of you looked at your calendar today and thought:
Oh crap…June is already halfway over!
I certainly did. As you can see from my lack of posts lately, May got the best of me. Between moving my husband in, getting through the end of the semester and finals, and preparing to venture out-of-the-country for a major conference, I got lost. But as Lara says:
There’s nothing magical about January 1st!
So I decided to practice grace, not perfection, and chalk May up to a recovery period. So today, I’ll reflect a bit on the progress I made on my April goals, talk about some new things coming my way, and explain why my June goals aren’t perfect. But I did do something that I didn’t add to my June list and I’m super proud! Even if I don’t think they’re getting enough sun (and I may need to replace them soon).
Monthly Goals Met
Actually, the only monthly goals I met from April was to put some money into savings and mail out cards. I fell behind on my blog posts. Researching the JITP took a back seat in favor of new publication opportunities. My grant application is still in-progress. And home repairs will have to wait until Kyle has more time to help. [Or I can try to bribe some friends!]
Weekly Goals Met
Here, I was slightly more successful. I did attend writing group as I could. I took a couple of social-media free weekends. And I did get back into yoga (although not quite 3x a week). But I didn’t live up to my goal of calling people often. The French lessons also took a back seat (but are a major part of my June goals!).
Daily Goals Met
Although I didn’t do very well with the water goal, I managed to meet every other daily goal almost every. single. day. And it made me feel much better about not making progress elsewhere. Little-by-little. It adds up.
Positive Reflections: April and May
Kyle and I celebrated 6 years of marriage (and we got to celebrate it together for only like the 2nd or 3rd time)! We toured the monuments of D.C. one weekend. We had a wonderful dinner. And he got me my long awaited Coach bag!
Many cool field trips with my Public History students!
I got to go to Tobago for the first time for a conference. I made some great new friends there and won a travel award. And I might be getting a publication out of it!
I got to see Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness in Philly!
For the PowerSheets that I use, June is a 3-month refresh month. This gives me a chance to reflect upon my yearly goals to see the progress I’ve made. It also gives me a chance to set new goals or re-define my current goals.
I want the next three months to be filled with joy and exploration. This summer is going to be about learning, living purposefully, loving, and thriving.
My goals from the year are still relatively the same. I have made a few adjustments to accomodate the progress and changes over the last 3 months. Kyle and I joined a gym. I’ve made conscious food decisions for a healthier lifestyle. And all of my goals seem to be progressing, little-by-little. June is going to be a big month of planning and achieving!
I am most excited about planning a vacation for July! It will be my first, proper vacation!
Preparing for June
June is all about mindfulness. The month may be halfway over, but it’s not too late for me to be more mindful. I’ve removed the Facebook app from my phone to limit my time on the application. I wasn’t nearly as mindful in setting my goals for June, but I have the opportunity to work on that for July & August!
June Goals: Letting Go
The “Let it Go” page of my PowerSheets is always one of my favorite things. I had a lot of issues with my Bipolar II depression this month. Reading through Cheyenne’s post reflecting on her 10 years of marriage really resonated with me. Not because my marriage is in trouble (thankfully), but because I worry about reaching that point. Her vulnerability and honesty is endearing. With my Bipolar II depression, I think I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself and, inadvertently, on Kyle. I always worry about everything. Most of it is not only out of my control, but nothing I should be worrying about. Recently, I’ve struggled a lot with imposter syndrome, feeling insecure about my appearance, and feeling like a failure.
June Goals: 2017
These goals aren’t perfect. Not all of them move me closer to the larger goals I’ve set. Some of them are too vague. But it’s a starting point. And each day I can make new choices.
Submit proposal to LSU Press: I was approached last month by an acquisitions editor interested in seeing my dissertation transformed into a monograph. I’m mostly done with this goal, actually, aside from revising 2 sample chapters to include with the full proposal.
And just like that, it’s April! Last month I made progress on some goals. On others…not so much. But as Lara Casey says: progress happens little-by-little. So I’m going to celebrate my little wins and ring in Spring with exuberance! The Spring edition of The Magnolia Journal has a quote that’s just too good not to share! (So much so that one of my favorite bloggers, Cheyenne Schultz, had the same idea to share it with you all as I did!)
“Welcome Spring. Make room for what matters. Breath Deeply. Tidy Up. Learn Something New. Choose Simplicity. Keep Growing.”
March was such a roller coaster for me in terms of managing my Bipolar II disorder. Some days I was just with it and some days I didn’t even want to get out of bed. But I feel pretty good about reaching some of my goals and making progress on others.
Monthly Goals Met
Taxes filed (I can thank the hard work of my husband for that one–although I did nag him and offer helpful info!)
Blog posts submitted (even though one of them was quite late, I’ve made huge strides on my blogging in a short amount of time)
Although I didn’t “meet” some of my goals, I did make progress. In particular, I worked on being kinder to myself. I also added some money to our savings account and am getting into the habit of creating a daily schedule. I’m shifting my grant application to April!
Weekly Goals Met
This is where I struggled the most, quite honestly! I didn’t meet any of my weekly goals in March. Spring Break really wrecked some of my weekly goals, especially writing group and exercising. But I’m going to utilize The Balanced Life‘s motto: grace over guilt. I’ll simply shift many of these over to April and continue to cultivate growth in these areas.
Daily Goals Met
Took my vitamins daily (with rare exception)
Bed by 10pm (almost every day)
Active 6 of 11 hours (improvement here!)
Dish-free sink (easy peasy)
Two areas of improvement for my day-to-day: drinking enough water and limiting my spending! One day at a time.
Positive Reflections: March Edition
Despite some setbacks and difficulties, I had a lot to be thankful for in March.
My PHist Freshmen; they call me Momma G and take time to foster a meaningful relationship with me
Kyle; he truly is a rock when I need to feel stable
Spring Break; I got to spend time with Kyle in Alabama and meet my friend Melissa’s not-so-newborn!
Had an opportunity to cultivate one of my friendships in the face of personal tragedy
Supported one of our students when he presented at the 2017 B’More Proud Leadership Summit
What’s ahead for the month of April
As it’s April, our semester is quickly coming to an end. That means it’s going to be a very busy month (even if my calendar doesn’t quite reflect that). Due to some unforeseen circumstances, I had to (quite sadly) cancel my trip to Boone to comment/chair at one of my favorite conferences: the Appalachian Spring Annual Conference in World History and Economics. But it did open up the opportunity for me to attend the 13th annual Privateer Festival in Fell’s Point!
This month I added my Outlook calendar to my organizing system. I think it will become my single-digital calendar platform for next year (once I sync it properly with my Google Calendar). I have a lot of grading in my future (projects, papers, blog posts, etc.) and many meetings to go. But one thing I’m REALLY looking forward to is heading to Philly on Friday for the Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness tour (with special guests Atlas Genius and Night Riots!) Another thing that’s really special is mine and Kyle’s 6 year anniversary. How has it already been 6 years!? I wish time would slow down. But now that it’s official I think it’s safe to share with you all: Kyle will be moving to the area very soon! No more traveling between Maryland and Alabama!!!!
For the month of April, I chose the word “Engage” as my word for the month. I know that it’s going to be so jam packed with deadlines and meetings and obligations that I wanted to remind myself to be present. I need to work hard to actively engage with my friends, my students, my family, and my colleagues. It’s a challenge I face daily. And I’m cultivating engagement one day at a time.
April Goals: 2017
I have lots of goals for the month of April. Some of them (especially my weekly goals) carried over from March. I want to continue to cultivate good habits daily, but some of them I don’t need reminders for anymore. And I decided to add one that wasn’t part of my personal health, but will help me with engagement.
Blog Posts: I want to keep up with these! I think they’re really helping me to focus and to work on my writing overall.
Grant Application(s): My friend Amanda just won two amazing grants (and she totally deserved them!). To see her struggle with the process (despite being absolutely brilliant!) made me feel even more motivated to knock this out this month. I was rejected from a fellowship I applied for, which initially had me re-thinking this goal. But the only way to win a grant is to apply. And keep applying!
Add $$$ to savings: A continuation for each month! One of my goals for 2017 was to learn to manage our finances better. Another goal for 2017 was to go on at least 1 vacation with Kyle. By paying attention to saving money, it will force me to think more critically about my spending.
Research JITP (Journal for Interactive Technology and Pedagogy) to possibly publish in: This will push me out of my straight academic work and help me to think critically about my place in Public History. I think this will make me a better educator, better researcher, and will knock out one of my 2017 goals!
Mail Cards: This is part of my engagement goal. I used to be amazing at sending out cards and notes, whether for birthdays, congratulations, or just because (ask my husband!). So I want to get back into that. Part of that is staying organized!
These last 3 goals I chose because with Kyle up here, they seem more attainable!
Organize Office (Home): I need to be able to work from home in a more organized way. Working in the living room/dining area is just not cutting it! I have an office at home, so I need to utilize it. But right now, it’s sort of a catch-all!
Paint Bedroom (Master): Our master bedroom is a DIY-gone wrong. Whoever owned the home before had some…interesting decorative choices. Right now it’s an odd shade of green with a “texturizing” overlay attempt, which makes it look like some really dated wallpaper. Time for a lovely shade of light blue!
Replace Foyer Flooring: Right now it’s an old, dark brown parquet style laminate that looks dated and too dark. I want to brighten the foyer up with something light, but still easily cleanable! Keeping my options open right now!
Many of these will look very familiar!
Attend Writing Group(s): I’ve been slack about attending the Stevenson Writing Group on Fridays due to conflicts with student meetings and deadlines. But no excuses! I also managed to go to this month’s Baltimore History Writer’s group, which reminded me of how important it is to read the work of other’s and get back into a history research mindset!
French Lessons (1 hour): I keep saying “I’ll get to it.” And I haven’t. So this will be the month. It will happen! And if I can do it at least one hour a week, then this summer hopefully I can up it to two!
Yoga/Exercise (3x a week): I still want to cultivate this and make it a habit.
Call someone just to catch up: I am an awful friend when it comes to keeping in contact via the phone. Social media makes it too easy, I think, to reduce our engagement in other ways. So this month, I’m going to make a more concerted effort to check in with friends. There are so many exciting things happening in their lives and if I’m not careful, I won’t be part of them any more!
Social Media Free Weekend: This is going to be tricky. Social media is the one way I can connect with all the loved ones I have who are so far away from me. But if I can do this at least once this month, I’ll feel really accomplished. Clearly the first weekend was a bust (because of the Privateer Festival). But moving forward, I’ll simply save my weekend adventures to share on Mondays! The goal: 7pm Friday nights until 7am on Monday mornings.
Water (64+ oz. a day): Coming down with food poisoning yesterday helped kickstart me on this goal for the month. Now if I can just keep up with it!
Use Waterpik: I bought a Waterpik Aquarius Flosser late last month at the stern suggestion of my new dentist. He said that since my teeth are so tightly compacted in my tiny mouth (yeah, my mom will get a kick out of that!), regular flossing just isn’t cutting it. I can already tell a huge difference in just a couple weeks, so I need to keep it up. Less bleeding from my gums, minimal tooth/gum sensitivity compared to before, and a really great check up when I got my recent fillings (the result of bad flossing).
Vitamins: I’ve done fairly well with this and could probably remove it, but for now, I’ll continue to grow in this area!
Active 6 of 11: I’ve done better with this than I imagined. But I still need to be more active on days that I’m not teaching all day!
Compliment Someone: This is new! As a way of engaging not only with people I already talk to and care about, I want to use this opportunity to compliment strangers. One small way to brighten someone’s day with a sincere compliment!
We must let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us. –Joseph Campbell
I find myself saying “as soon as” way too often. “As soon as” summer is here, I’ll be more productive. “As soon as” I have free time from teaching, I’ll exercise more. So this month, I will engage with the present. I will work to be here, in the now, and stop saying “as soon as” quite so often. My life is happening now. And I need to stop
My life is happening now. And I need to stop expecting it to look like something other than what it is, unless I actively change it.
Recently I reviewed Click! The Ongoing Feminist Revolution for the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC). It was my first opportunity to do a digital humanities exhibition review. Normally I’m tasked with doing traditional book reviews. I encourage anyone interested to check out HASTAC and offer to review a digital exhibition!
What is HASTAC?
According to their website, HASTAC is an “interdisciplinary community of humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists, and technologists that are changing the way we teach and learn.” They have over 13,000 members from over 400 different affiliations. Founded in 2002, HASTAC shares “news, tools, research, insights, pedagogy, methods, and projects–including Digital Humanities and other born-digital scholarship–and collaborate on various HASTAC initiatives.” HASTAC is a free and open access community. And they have a number of exciting current initiatives under way!
I’m unsure if I have the right to share the full review on my page. So I’m linking you directly to the review on HASTAC’s website. It can be found here. In the meantime, here’s the introduction in the hopes that it will lure you to the full review!
“Click! The Ongoing Feminist Revolution derives its clever name from two unique understandings of the word “click:” one being a 1970s term referring to the moment when a woman awakened to the powerful ideas of contemporary feminism, and the other referencing the click of a computer mouse connecting individuals to powerful ideas on the Internet. The objective of the site is to explore the power and complexity of gender consciousness in American life throughout history from the 1940s to present. In this capacity, the digital exhibition succeeds brilliantly and appears to be current with modern scholarship on the many subjects covered—no easy task.”
This post about my TEDx experience originally appeared on my guest blog for the British Naval History website.
A few months ago a call came across our university Portal asking for TEDx speakers. For those unfamiliar, TEDx is a way for local, independent organizers to host TED style events. The students, faculty, and staff who organized the TEDx: Stevenson University event chose “Embracing Change” as the theme. Initially, I was hesitant to submit a talk proposal. Sure, I’d given countless conference talks over the last decade. But this was different. The only guidance was the theme. We could talk about ANYTHING that could be construed as “embracing change.” What could I possibly say that would be of any relevance? But I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So I decided to throw my proverbial hat into the ring. What follows is a mix of information from my talk and a reflection of my experiences.
When people learn what I do, they assume that I’ve always wanted to be an educator. But the reality is a little more complicated and, I think, important to the development of my own pedagogical methods. The idea of “embracing change” seems to be something like a mantra for my entire life. I grew up in an extremely lower “middle class” blue-collar family. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to attend college. In fact, my father had to drop out of high school before graduating in order to help care for his mother and later went back for a GED while in the Navy. We settled in the piedmont region of North Carolina when I was about 8 years old and from that point forward I attended relatively small public schools for K-12.
Although many in my high school had plans for college, it was in no-way a foregone conclusion that all of us would go to college. Knowing my parents’ dire financial situation, college seemed impossible. But my mom managed to squirrel away $50 for me to send in one college application. So it was all or nothing for me. Just a few short months later I was accepted to Appalachian State University in the mountains of North Carolina: requiring a $300 deposit to secure my spot to be paid within 2 weeks.
Would I make it to College?
I sat in my AP English class during the lunch break and cried. My mom had barely been able to scrape together the $50 to apply. How could we possibly come up with $300 in just 2 weeks? My AP English teacher happened to find me mid-tears and asked me to fill him in on the details. Three days later, I received confirmation that my deposit had been paid. It came with information on summer orientation sessions and dorm assignments. I asked my mom how she did it and she simply said “I didn’t.”
Now, I don’t know if I’ve altered this memory in some way. But in my mind, I am confident my AP English teacher found a way to cover my deposit. Or my mom lied so I wouldn’t feel bad. Either way, it was to be the first time in my now-adult life that I would be forced to embrace change: I would soon become a first generation college student.
Me: The College Years
Now, if you’re thinking that I immediately decided to be a teacher in that moment due the actions of my AP English teacher, I’m sorry to disappoint. I had no idea what I wanted to do. My dreams of becoming a medical doctor had been thwarted by an unkind counselor and I didn’t know what my passion was. College was a new experience. I was no longer necessarily the “smartest” kid in class. I had to learn how to study and manage my time. And I had to do it all myself. There didn’t seem to be many obvious & readily available resources for someone like me. Someone who didn’t come from a background of family members who went to college.
First, I earned my B.A. in Archaeology. But 3 herniated discs in my back during the required dig made it clear I had no future in the laborious field of Archaeology.
My next step was to earn an M.A. in Public History, which I thought would marry my love of archaeology and history with a field that was less physically demanding. But after a snoozefest of an 8 week internship, I realized that, too, wasn’t my calling. So as I talked out my frustrations with one of my professors, she asked me what my favorite thing about working on my M.A. was.
On to the PhD!
It was in this moment, nearly 5 years after that fateful day in high school that it clicked: my favorite part had been working as a T.A., developing assignments, and helping the undergraduate students. So with the advice of several other professors and roughly 8 rejections later, I found myself on my way to The Ohio State University. This would be another major chance for embracing change. I’d never lived anywhere but the East Coast before. And no one I knew (aside from my professors) had ever earned a PhD. Somehow I had managed to navigate the difficult world of the B.A. and the M.A. But the PhD was filled with acronyms and phrases and language I had never heard before.
Changes in Academia
It was during my time at OSU that I learned a lot about the changing field of higher education. This was most often in the form of laments about what was wrong with those changes. So I began to develop an evolving pedagogy that, in my mind, would embrace those changes. All through the PhD process I heard about how I’d never land an academic job because there simply weren’t any. I was told that online education was bunk. Many told me that technology was ruining the classroom and that students just didn’t care about education anymore. And for a long time I bought into those grievances because they came from scholars and mentors whose opinions I respected.
And who was I, a lowly PhD student, to question them? Their lamentations and fears seemed supported by the latest musings. Stuart Butler of the Brookings Institute, a highly respected thinktank, argued in 2013 that traditional college models should give way to “contractor models,” in which the “core business function of the contractor-college would be assembly and quality control rather than running an institution and hiring faculty or holding classes.” Basically, the college would customize a package of courses and educational experiences from many suppliers.
Similarly, Dr. Alex Hope suggested that “the ‘academic’ of the future will not be tied to an institution, but be a thought leader, communicator, and teacher undertaking a range of activities on a freelance/contract basis-and that the world would be a better place for it…” Many colleges have taken advantage of the model Dr. Hope recommended, leading to our current adjunct crisis. And as far as pedagogy, several colleges, like George Washington University and the College of William & Mary, and countless professors took to banning technology from their classrooms arguing that laptops and phones have become powerful distractions, calling students “tech addicts.”
My Current Pedagogy: Digitally-based Assignments
Rather than focus on what is or isn’t changing, I used the TEDx talk to offer just one example of a way that we can “embrace change” in the classroom pedagogically: digital assignments & literacy. This is not to say embracing change for the sake of change. Rather I tried to demonstrate how we might marry traditional modes—like exams and lectures—with innovative course/assignment designs that take advantage of tech in the classroom.
Most recently, Cathy N. Davidson, distinguished professor and founding director of the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, argued that we must recognize that educational structures should meet the needs of the time, to “train active learners who don’t just fit into the status quo, they challenge it.” Although my examples represent my field—history/humanities—I firmly believe that those in other fields can implement assignments in their own way.
My pedagogy has been, and is, shaped by both my own background, educational experiences, and the ever-evolving backgrounds/needs of the student population. My educational philosophy is grounded in four important principles that I believe create an active and involved classroom environment: passion, creativity, independence, and clarity. I’ve been able to create digitally-based assignments and incorporate digital/visual elements—such as music videos, historical reenactments, or comedic sketches—into my classrooms to help foster those principles. I’ve found that it has helped students understand that A. history doesn’t have to be a boring, rote memorization of names, dates, and places and B. that they can incorporate many of the skills they learn in my classroom—digital or not—into their daily lives and future careers.
Digitally-Based Assignments: A Learning Process
I think one of the ways that digitally-based assignments have not always been as successful and impactful as they could be is the result of the “digital native” myth, which Stevenson English Professor, Dr. Amanda Licastro, discusses in her recent open-access publication on the problem of multimodality. Assuming that students have certain digital literacy skills due to growing up with this technology at their fingertips undermines students’ ability to successfully complete many digitally-based assignments. Even I’ve had to learn the digital world. One example Dr. Licastro discusses in her case studies is the use of multimedia, folksonomic elements—or tags/categories—and commenting in digital writing, such as blog posts, Learning Management System (LMS) assignments, Tweets, etc.
By scaffolding “digital literacy practices into assignments with careful attention to the rhetoric they use and intentional instruction” and developing these skills in the academic environment suggests Dr. Licastro, instructors may cultivate active digital citizens and more successful digitally-based assignments. This is still a learning process for myself and I’ve learned that I have to be specific and teach the students how to use the elements I want them to use. I just wanted to share a few of digital assignment examples from my recent classes that help harness students’ dependence on social media in a way that can be not only academically productive, but develop digital skills that employers desire from recent graduates.
Digitally-Based Assignments: Some Examples from my Classroom
These examples demonstrate how, despite being digitally-aware, students demonstrated varying proficiency with the Twitter platform. The only directive I gave starting out was to create a handle specific to their “persona” and to use a hashtag I created for use with that specific class. As you can see, some students were better about incorporating other folksonomic and multimedia elements than others. I’ve learned that I have to begin creating more “rules” for the assignment and teach them how to use the platform, rather than assume they know how to do so; especially how to make a succinct point in 140 characters or less.
By allowing my students a bit of creativity and flexibility, I was turned on to a new tech platform that is great for my field: Tripline. Students are able to create digital “roadtrips” showcasing important historical landmarks along the way. It allows me to incorporate basic map-usage, digital writing, and multimedia skills into a single assignment. It also forces the student to think constructively about the point they are trying to get across.
PowerPoint is not a new tool, but I’ve found that students often have very minimal skills when using the software. Aside from choosing a pre-made layout, students often incorporate too much text, too few visuals, and little-to-no animations. This is a demonstrable way for me to marry the traditional PowerPoint with new modes of thinking. In my assignment, I require them to design their slides as if they were Museum Exhibit panels. It forces them to think more specifically about the layout, text-to-visual ratios, and “visitor” attention spans.
Blogging is another tool that isn’t as “new” as others, but offers another way to teach digital literacy in the classroom. I’ve found that students often have difficulty navigating new platforms (ex. WordPress vs. Tumblr). They also use tags, categories, and multimedia elements with varying proficiency. It’s another assignment that I’ve had to be more explicit in my expectations. This helps students to understand how and why to use folksonomic and multimedia elements. They seem to understand “tags” in a loose sense for things like Instagram (as a way to drive traffic). But students aren’t always able to transfer that skill to other modes of digital writing.
Tiki-Toki: Interactive Timelines
Timelines are a pretty traditional and standard way of laying out information across time/space. Tiki-Toki and similar platforms allow students to translate the traditional skill of linear-thinking with critical thinking, examining not just when, but why, events have occurred. Not only do students lay events out on a timeline, but they provide categories for those events in a variety of ways (in this example: sources vs. structural elements) and incorporate multimedia elements to support their historical research.
I was the last person to speak during the day-long event. But I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who stuck around to hear me talk. The variety of topics within the theme of “Embracing Change” made for a wonderful experience. And there was a great mix of students, faculty, and staff who gave presentations. Each one was unique. Many were deeply personal and heartwrenching. Although mine was pedagogically focused, I hope many found it useful. As far as conclusions about my digitally-based assignments, it’s a learning process.
Don’t assume tech is useless or too complicated. Much like any other skill, students will have varying proficiency. Think about scaffolding assignments. This allows you to incorporate specific skills you want students to achieve or specific target goals (like X number of multimedia elements). Routinely incorporate digital technologies into the classroom/syllabus so that it becomes a natural extension of your pedagogy. Harness students’ reliance on digital devices and social media usage. Let digitally-based assignments serve as teachable moments regarding digital presence.
The Live-Stream Video
Below is the live-stream video from the second half of the event. I start at 1:25:25, but please feel free to listen to the other speakers!
This post originally appeared on our class blog for Hist 209: Research and Writing in History. I pondered for a long time how best to model a blog post to my Hist 209 01 students. I decided that demonstrating what some of my research was like in my early PhD years could be useful. It would also offer them just one example of how public AND academic historians can utilize blogging. There are no shortage of amazing public/history related blogs out there. Great examples include the National Council on Public History (NCPH) blog, “History@Work,” the Junto Blog of early American history, and Pamela Toler’s blog “History in the Margins.”
As digital skills are increasingly necessary in many of today’s fields, our public history students need to understand the fundamentals of digital public history. This includes blogging. Posts need to be readable. They need to be engaging. And they need to contain a multitude of elements, like subheadings, multimedia, links, and folksonomic elements (i.e. tagging). According to Thomas Cauvin in Public History: A Textbook of Practice, “digital tools are transforming the work of historians…” (pg. 174) Not only are being digitized, but scholars can reach wider audiences through digital publication. And public history venues can exhibit vastly more than physical displays can hold.
Blogging, in particular, can be a great way to crowdsource and engage the public with various projects. For example, MarineLives.org has crowdsourced the transcription and translation of many archival documents like UK High Court of Admiralty records and Probate records. This makes such documents easily accessible to the public. This is not only for those who cannot visit the archives physically, but also for those who have difficulty deciphering the handwriting. And the Preserve the Baltimore Uprising Archival Project enables the community to contribute and shape the narrative of protest and unrest in Baltimore. What follows, then, is an example for my students about how they can blog effectively to engage their audience.
I learned a lot of valuable information during each of these trips. Some of it was related to my work, some of it was learning about how to be a better research. There is no better method to becoming a better researcher than to physically enter an archive and get your hands on the records. During my first major research trip, in England, one valuable lesson I learned was to double-check the archive’s operating hours before making the mile-long walk in frigid January temperatures. I woke up bright and early that Monday morning, excited to dive head-first into my research. Turns out that the National Archives in Kew are closed on Mondays.
I also learned that you should make sure your camera is fully-charged. And that you remembered to buy/bring a memory card. There are few feelings worse than showing up ready to get through some volumes only to realize you have a dead camera on your hands. Needless to say, I’m glad I had 8 weeks in England because I made a ton of mistakes in the first 2 weeks. And I still have a lot to learn when it comes to being a good researcher.
Research is a Process
Below is a list of just a few tips and tricks you might utilize as you venture into the world of research: [This list is my own, with tips adapted from William Cronon and Richard Marius]
ask good questions
identify your audience
imagine your ideal sources
determine what sources you can realistically access
keep an open mind (don’t limit your searches to narrow keywords or phrases)
question your sources
take notes (and make them thorough so you can refer back without forgetting why you made that note)
avoid confirmation bias
mine bibliographies to check out their sources
don’t rely solely on digitally available sources (there might be transcription/translation errors, for example)
ask for help
develop new questions based on your sources
seek scholarly secondary sources (i.e. monographs via reputable publishers and peer-reviewed journal articles; general websites, encyclopedias, etc. are not usually considered “scholarly”)
Examples from the Archives
What follows are some examples from my time in the archives researching piracy, smuggling, and illicit trade in the early modern Caribbean-Atlantic. Some of the documents I found were relevant to my research. But many were not. And some of them were downright amusing. Whether the sources were relevant to my work or not, each document contributed to my overall experience. You’ll see that I don’t have the volumes listed below. That’s because these were taken with my cell phone. I photographed all of my true archival work with a Nikon point-and-shoot camera and noted in a research journal. Again, many rookie mistakes.
Initially I thought that this document would be immensely helpful. It listed a number of prizes brought into the local admiralty. While it was useful, several pages were missing, which made it difficult to properly contextualize.
Although relatively difficult to read, this is some of the better handwriting I encountered. According to this deposition in 1719, “…and after all the said Pirates were all gon[sic] out of the said River, he the Informant understood that the Inhabitants on Shoar had received several parcels of goods from the said Pirates…”
Sometimes prize vessels just weren’t worth it… In 1796 a treasury record states that “…the Yellow Fever was brought to Bermudas in a Prize vessel by which upwards of two hundred of the Inhabitants had fallen victims…”
These were the best records to come across. I got an idea of what went unrecorded in illicit activities by seeing what was recovered.
Some repercussions of the American Revolution. #SorryFrance
I found this 1614 admiralty deposition while in the Netherlands. My Dutch reading skills were not up to par for that trip, BUT, I did find some useful items.
Being governor of Virginia in the mid-17th century must have been quite a chore. Here, a deposition says that Berkeley was “abused and Called Pittiful, ffollow Puppy, and Sonn of a Whore...” Nothing worse than being called a follow puppy I suppose.
This came from my time in the Bermuda Archives. 3000 pounds sterling for “scandall and defamation.” Ouch.
Some men finding themselves unemployed and in distress; but they “helped themselves by unsavoury bitches…”
In 1796, a resident of Bermuda reportedly “…had lately spoken very disrespectfully of me in the Billiard Room…he has said that the Governor was a ‘damned Republican Rascal’...” A warrant was issued and he was punished.
A 1775 map detail of the Mississippi River by Nathaniel Lindegreen.
An 18th century coded document I found in the State Papers volumes. I didn’t have time to find the cypher to decode the letter.
Apparently in 1660s Jamaica, Governor Edward D’Oyley banned people from carrying a “stick of fire” or a “pipe of tobacco lighted” through a field of canes in Jamaica.
Start editing the BNH Book Reviews Site–As a new member of the website BritishNavalHistory.com, my role is to re-organize and edit the Book Reviews section. Since it’s going to take a lot of work, I want to make sure I don’t bite off more than I can chew. My first steps will be to go over the plan with Sam and Justin via Skype and then get more comfortable with editing the page through WordPress.
Construct new chapter outlines–Now that I have new, solid direction for my dissertation, I need to write up a new set of chapter outlines not only for myself, but to send to my advisor so that she and I are on the same page.
Join the Twitter #writingpact–I’ve seen several colleagues using the hashtag “writing pact” to keep themselves on point. This month, I’d like to start participating in “writing pact” and get at least half of my second chapter drafted. If I’m good, I’ll get the whole chapter drafted.
Write my summer syllabus–I need to get this written up (probably just an edited version of last summer’s syllabus) and get my summer books ordered.
Get my summer class page up and running–Once I have the syllabus edited, I need to make sure that my Carmen page is up and running for the students.
Write my teaching philosophy statement–Since I’ll be entering the job market in the Fall, I think it’s high time I get my teaching philosophy out on paper. While it seems overwhelming, I’m determined to get a draft of it completed this month.
Get back to the gym–In the last couple of weeks, with lots of traveling and friends visiting, I’ve fallen off my workout routine. I’ve decided that rather than sticking to the rigid daily routine I was working on before, that I’m going to incorporate a lot more cardio activity and then stick with the weight lifting routines I can do without a buddy.
Spend more time with new friends–I only have a short time left here in Fayetteville, so I want to make sure I spend as much time with my new friends here as I can. I want to designate at least one day a week to social time (in person, not online).
Spend less time on social media sites–Aside from my duties with BritishNavalHistory and my academic work on social media, I want to spend less time checking my personal Facebook.
Have one date night a week with my husband–This is a no brainer. The further along he gets in his program (and the more work I have to do with my dissertation), the less time we get to spend together. I want to designate one night a week to a no-study/no-school date-night. Getting him on board will be the tricky part.
Finish the two novels I started–I am most of the way done with both The Scarpetta Factor and Dust by Patricia Cornwell. I need to go ahead and finish both of them!
Do you write monthly goals? If you do, I’d love to hear them!