Final Project and Feedback

My project webpage can be accessed from this page (tab top right labeled “Nashville”) or directly via: http://drpethel.com/nashville/

My project goal encompasses a practical and educational aim using digital tools. I am creating a course portfolio with a thematic focus of “Making Modern Nashville.” I have taught a special topics upper-level course for Belmont University for the past two years entitled: Making the Modern City. In the course we trace urban history and development and place it within the larger economic and cultural context of American history. The last part of the semester students examined Nashville as an urban case study and produced a culminating work based on original research, primary, and secondary sources. My project seeks to build a Omeka collection and exhibit based on their research. I chose this focus because I wanted to apply tools and methods associated with digital humanities with courses I currently teach. Further, I wanted to create something that could be beneficial to multiple audiences while also showcasing student research that deserves digital and more public platform.

I chose to use Omeka because it fits the purpose of my digital and educational goals because I can create collections, exhibits, and special features that will allow me to add, layer, and reorganize from one semester to the next. In other words, there is no finished product but rather an ongoing project that can continue to grow to showcase digital-born student research and work that is valuable to scholars, the university, and the local community.

Before this course I had Omeka account and had established a site, but it was really for experimental purposes. I have since migrated any information and data from the original site to my drpethel.com domain. Some of the formatting changed a bit with the migration, so it took some time to clean up, delete duplicates, upload new sources, and create metadata. I also had to determine the best possible way to set up collections and exhibits that were easy to navigate and engaging for the user. I discovered that aside from the overarching theme, “Making Modern Nashville” there were more connective sub-themes among the different projects than I had originally realized. This made my work both easier and harder as I wanted to feature all projects connected to my “Past, Present, and Future: Downtown Nashville” exhibit, but I didn’t want to create an exhibit that completely overshadowed other items and other collections. I also had to do quite a bit of editing to make sure I used common language via Dublin Core and also with tagging.

The feedback I received was helpful–particularly to read that both reviewers thought the idea and sources interesting and potentially useful as a student showcase but also a source of scholarly work that could help someone researching a similar topic in another city or Nashville itself.  Elaine mentioned the potential of this project to go beyond the university to involve crowdsourcing. While I think this is a very noble goal, I would need additional support or funding to be able to commit that kind of time to promote, build, and manage such a project. Even beyond this class I plan to continue to hone this site–adding more features, sources, and descriptive information in order to show its value as an academic and cultural home for special topics related to the metro Nashville area.