Tag Archives: George Mason University

Vanderbilt University Center for Digital Humanities Internship Final Reflection

My internship this summer with the Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities could not have been better. I had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Mickey Casad and other scholars and digital directors at Vanderbilt. They included Juliet Larkin-Gilmore, Dr. Angela Sutton, Dale Poulter, and Dr. Steven Wernke.  I also had the chance to meet and collaborate with scholars from other institutions such as Dr. Chad Berry (Berea College), Dr. Reavis Mitchell (Fisk University), Dr. Lea Williams (Tennessee State University), Dr. Van West (Middle TN State University), Dr. Molly Taylor-Polesky (Middle TN State University), and Dr. Carole Bucy (Volunteer State College). Finally, I had many meeting with community stakeholders related to the Nashville Sites Digital Project including Nashville Public Library, Metro Archives, TN State Library and Archives, Slave Societies Digital Archive (Vanderbilt), Fog Haus, Metro Historical Commission, Belmont University, Middle TN State University, Convention and Visitors Corp., Smithsonian Institute, Humanities Tennessee, and more.

All of that to say, it has been a joyful internship. My experience has  provided me with new digital skills (particularly after meeting with Dale Poulter last week about Fedora and Islandora), while also allowing me to flex my own (digital) muscles. Not only has Dr. Casad and the center supported my work with Nashville Sites, I will also have the chance to give back in two weeks–as I lead a workshop at the Vanderbilt DH Bootcamp. I will be teaching a session on Omeka to Vanderbilt faculty. In terms of Nashville Sites, I am happy to report that just yesterday, I passed off all metadata and tour narratives and maps for the first five tours. They are: Downtown School and Education, Food for Thought (restaurants either historic themselves or in historic buildings), Civic and Public Spaces, Architecture Highlights, and Nashville’s Seedy Side.

This summer I put much of the knowledge gained through George Mason University coursework into action. That is perhaps the best part. My coursework at GMU inspired my work with Nashville Sites, which in turn has allowed me to turn this class project into “a real thing,” and has also led to me learning many new things on my own and from others connected to the Vanderbilt Center for DH. I can’t thank Dr. Casad and Dr. Platt enough for their encouragement, guidance, and support.

A final word of thanks to George Mason for giving me the skills and experience to expand my professional portfolio. This past year, I led a Digital Humanities Initiative at Harpeth Hall, which resulted in my work with at least one teacher in every academic discipline (except math) to develop a digital project. My work in Digital Humanities also played a big role in my recent one-year appointment as Professor of Practice at Belmont University next year. Dr. Mimi Barnard’s vision and ingenuity made this appointment possible.  I will be teaching an intro to Digital Humanities course as well as work with students on Nashville Sites (also two additional courses). In sum, Belmont is hosting me as I teach and work on this project. Two years ago, I could not have imagined that this certificate program would lead to a new position.

Below, I will share part of one of the completed tours as a sample. I will not send metadata as it is still being edited, and the GIS is under construction. I look forward to sharing the actual site when it is launched (estimated date August 2019). There should be approximately twenty tours. Enjoy.

1. The Hermitage Hotel/Capitol Grille/Oak Bar

J. Edwin Carpenter’s 1910 Hermitage Hotel is designed in the Beaux Arts Style, and even if you choose not to eat here, a visit inside is worth your time. Along with the ornate lobby and restaurant, the Art Deco men’s restroom located near the Oak Bar is famous for its design. Ladies, you can check out the restroom as well, just ask the hotel staff.
    
In the months before Tennessee’s decision to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment (August 18, 1920), both proponents and opponents of woman’s suffrage established headquarters at the Hermitage Hotel. They chose the location for its proximity to the capitol building, where women could not hold office but could lobby for their causes. After a fierce political battle, Tennessee became the thirty sixth state to ratify the amendment, which met the 2/3rd state threshold needed, granting women the constitutional right to vote. Tennessee is still called the “Perfect 36” for its role in the ratification process.
 
The Capitol Grille, originally called the Grill Room, once served clear green turtle soup, Tennessee squab, celery, and salted almonds. While these dishes epitomized fine dining in the early twentieth century, they no longer exist regularly on the menu. Even though food tastes change over time, Capitol Grille has continued its long-standing tradition of using locally sourced ingredients when possible. The hotel owns Double H Farms that raises free range cattle and uses seasonal vegetables grown at historic Glen Leven Farm. If you don’t want a full meal, unwind in the Oak Bar, originally an exclusive men’s club. Today all can enjoy this space, which has served drinks and dinner for over a century. 
 
Move southeast on Sixth Ave. toward Church St, and turn LEFT onto Church St. Then, turn LEFT onto Fifth Ave N to reach 227 Fifth Ave. North. Woolworth on 5th is about halfway up the block. Along the way, you will pass buildings with historical, architectural, and artistic significance. On Sixth Ave. North, take note of the Herakut mural of the dog, created through the Nashville Walls Project. Church Street is full of important sites including the Nashville Public Library, 505 Nashville, and the Downtown Presbyterian Church, which you pass on your right as you walk toward Fifth Avenue. 
Additional Info: Hermitage Hotel Audio

2. Woolworth on 5th

In February 1960, a group of black students from Fisk University, Tennessee A&I (now Tennessee State University), and American Baptist College boldly sat down at the lunch counters of Woolworth’s, Kress, and McClellan—all department stores. This is how Nashville’s sit-in movement began. Implementing methods of non-violent protest, young Civil Rights leaders such as John Lewis, James Lawson, and Diane Nash began a historic journey to end racial segregation. In the face of violence, intimidation, and arrest—the determined spirit and perseverance of these and other students led Mayor Ben West to support desegregation. He did so, and the Nashville business community followed by integrating lunch counters, stores, and restaurants. By the summer of 1960, Nashville had desegregated all public facilitiesthe first southern city to do so.
After a major renovation, the Woolworth building reopened as a restaurant in early 2018. The venue hosts a “welcome table for all,” showcasing the Civil Rights movement in Nashville through historic photographs and visibly patched floors where the segregated lunch counters were removed. Visitors can enjoy live jazz, R&B, early rock, and more while dining.
Woolworth’s reflects the power of food to connect the past to the present and to provide a window into the complicated nature of southern culture and identity. You can likely think of popular foods associated with the American southeast: barbecue, fried chicken, or biscuits. These dishes represent points of contact between Native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans. These popular dishes reveal stories about women and men, many enslaved, who cooked for others and adapted foods during times of plenty and times of need. As you explore Woolworth on 5th, consider how its “welcome table for all” unites not only those who challenged Jim Crow with the present, but also celebrates the different races, classes, and cultures who made the cuisine we know and love today.
Turn LEFT outside of Woolworth on 5th; after walking about thirty yards, turn RIGHT at the Fifth Ave. North crosswalk to reach The Arcade located across the street. When you leave Woolworth’s you will see a historical marker describing the sit-ins. 
Audio about Civil Rights Movement sit-ins in Nashville, TN
  • Oral History Interview with Edward F. Jones, 2006 November 3, excerpt 17, is a three minute clip of Jones describing the sit-in movement in broad terms. He mentions student activism, and the negotiations between business owners and student activist leaders. 
  • Citation per NPL:                                                                                                             Edward F. Jones, Series 1, The Turner Interviews, Nashville Business Leaders Oral History Project, Special Collections Division, Nashville Public Library.

3. The Arcade (and Peanut Shop)

If you seek a variety of options and a quick meal, drink, or snack—Nashville’s Arcade, located across the street from Woolworth on 5th, is the place for you. For decades, Nashvillians saw Fifth Avenue as the most popular shopping area in the city. At its peak in the early twentieth century, department stores lined the street, and the Arcade was the center of it all. 
Running though the middle of the block between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, this space was originally a rose garden called Overton Alley. In 1903, Daniel C. Buntin funded the construction of a two-story indoor shopping venue designed by the architectural firm Thompson, Gibel and Asmus. Modeled after the famous Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in Milan (Italy), the Arcade features a glass-gabled roof, reinforced with steel beams made in East Nashville. When the city celebrated the Arcade’s opening, approximately 40,000 people gathered for shopping, music, and mingling. Shop owners and businesses in Nashville’s Arcade have changed over time, and the second floor mezzanine currently boasts art galleries that participate in the free Downtown Nashville First Saturday Art Crawl. 
The street level promenade offers over twenty food stops with pizza, deli sandwiches, tacos, Chinese food, coffee, pastries, and more. The plethora of affordable options allows customers to find the perfect meal while taking in the architecture of this hidden gem. The oldest store in the building, The Peanut Shop, opened in 1927. Owned by Planters Peanuts until 1960, the store has run independently for over fifty years. Much of the decoration here is original, so make sure you look around if you stop in for a treat. 
After walking STRAIGHT through the Arcade, you arrive on Fourth Ave. North and see the Bobby Hotel directly across the street. Turn RIGHT and you will see a crosswalk which you will take to get to the other side of the street. The small road in front of you that separates the Bobby Hotel from the Southern Turf building is called Metro Alley. The Southern Turf building, the historic location of your next stop, is on your RIGHT. Take the alley to Skull’s Rainbow Room restaurant and bar, located in the back of the Southern Turf building. 

Final Reflection for Smithsonian Internship, May 2018

Having completed my 160-hour internship with Smithsonian Global and the University of Pennsylvania, it is my pleasure to provide a final reflection and tour of my work on the Conflict Culture project.

Our intern cohort, using excel spreadsheets with partial data, were assigned countries such as Morocco, Finland, Poland, Denmark, and Ireland. I was assigned Ireland and worked on this data set throughout the semester.  In addition to research and data entry, our group created a test map component using Google Fusion.

These datasets and maps will be used for multidisciplinary research on cultural heritage in order to prevent intentional destruction, assist in recovery following natural disasters, and generally protect historical sites as well as the collections of museums and archives. At this time, we were unable to create a “clustering” function and so the map appears quite busy when zoomed out.

The final product, however, once the user drills down and clicks on a data point, is a pop-up window with all relevant information for each site (above). Our group selected not to show some of the coding that would not be meaningful to a general audience at this time. For example, we coded each entry to show whether the site was state-sponsored and/or prior military function. We also ranked its significance as 1-international, 2-national, or 3-local. Our group discussed different ways to represent this information and it was determined that, at a later date, the Smithsonian can choose to color code these or build additional layers. We did color code sites based on complete, partial, or coordinate-only data (below).

Uploading the data was fairly simple, the excel was saved as a CSV file. A CSV stands for comma separated values file, which allows data to be saved in a table structured format. CSVs look like an excel spreadsheet but have .csv extension instead of .xlsx. A CSV takes the form of a text file containing “information separated by commas,” for which it is named.

From the file menu, users select import rows, which is followed with the following screen. From here, the user can upload the file from their computer, link a Google spreadsheet, or build a table from scratch (above).

Once uploaded the data sheet could be viewed as rows (below) or cards (above). We used a cultural repository code book and instruction manual provided by Smithsonian Institution. My research focused on Ireland’s sites related to the cultural heritage, which include: historic sites, religious sites, libraries with exhibits, archives, art galleries, museums, and archaeological sites. Historians are rarely short-winded when writing; thus, it required work and discipline to properly code and describe in 25-30 words each site/entry. I gained experience in using scientific methods to integrate qualitative information into a standard frame of variables and data formatting.

This is a great and worthy project. Through this research, I gained a deeper appreciation for the importance and complex interpretations of cultural heritage. I also see this as a way to elevate traditional museum/archive/site indexes so that they are more accessible and visual for scholars, hobbyists, students, national and international bodies, and the larger global community.

My DH skills, gained through George Mason’s post-graduate DH certificate program, came into play on several occasions. I understood the importance of controlled vocabulary, metadata, and DH tools and terms needed to ask and answer questions. As far as digital skills gained, I learned the basics of using and working with Google Fusion.  On a personal level, I learned a great deal about the rich history of Ireland from Dublin Castle to the National Leprechaun Museum. With over 300 cultural heritage sites, I will surely build my next trip itinerary to Ireland around my work on Conflict Culture.

 

Smithsonian Internship Update, April 2018

Kilkenny Castle

My Smithsonian internship is still going well as I research cultural and heritage sites in Ireland. I have completed 60% of the coding for these sites and will soon be turning my attention to mapping.

Researching the significance of Kilkenny Castle was both challenging and enjoying. Kilkenny Castle has a complex history that involves architecture, politics, history, archaeology, culture, and various military functions. At present, it also serves as an important site for public audiences across multiple disciplines on local, national, and international levels.

This site was part of my research for the Conflict Cultures project, which connected me to the Smithsonian and the University of Pennsylvania as a digital historian and digital humanist. For example, only a handful of entries involve both a prior military function and a current relationship to the state. For these categories I coded them both as “1” that designates it as a site that could be potentially endangered if Ireland ever experiences either a national or man-made disaster (civil war, terrorist attack, hostile occupation). In other words, coding and mapping this site will help future generations protect, preserve, and learn about the important role of Kilkenny Castle in Ireland’s history.  While I have never used Google Fusion Tables as platform for GIS mapping, this entry (along with 318 others) taps into the mapping skills gained through my digital public humanities coursework through George Mason University.

File:Kilkenny Castle 26-09-2015.JPGNormek82, Kilkenny Castle, 2015 (Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0).

It primarily features medieval and baroque architecture. In addition to serving as a residence, the castle also served as a fortress. The buildings have been in the care of the Office of Public Works since 1969. Visits to the Kilkenny Castle feature several types of collections: decorative arts, art, textiles, print materials, military artifacts, and archaeological artifacts. The mission of the Kilkenny Castle and the Office of Public Works includes archaeological excavation, conservation, preservation, and restoration of the buildings as well as the collections.

Sources and Further Reading:

Bence-Jones, Mark. A Guide to Irish Country Houses (London: Constable Press, 1998).

Bron, Daniel. Kilkenny Castle and Fountain, 2013 (Wikimedia Commons, CC 3.0).

Department of the Environment. An Introduction to the Architectural Heritage of County Kilkenny (Government of Ireland, 2006).

Murtagh. Ben. “The Kilkenny Castle Archaeological Project 1990 to 1993,” Old Kilkenny Review (Kilkenny Archaeological Society, 1993).

Normek82, Kilkenny Castle, 2015 (Wikimedia Commons, CC 4.0).

Office of Public Works, “An Introduction to Kilkenny Castle,” Kilkenny Castle (Government of Ireland, 2017).

Williams, Jeremy. A Companion Guide to Architecture in Ireland 1837– 1921 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1994).

Smithsonian Internship Update, March 2018

My internship with the Conflict Culture project has been very interesting thus far. I was assigned Ireland as my country to research with the goal of providing information to be used in the ultimate database. I was faced with some initial challenges as some of the information had already been entered by a previous intern. Checking geographical coordinate proved tedious, and learning to locate precise latitude and longitude was a task with which I had little experience. However, I found that I gained efficiency and speed as I moved through the 319 sites.

I am now finished checking preexisting data and have moved to research and descriptions of my own. I have particularly enjoyed getting to learn about historical and cultural sites in Ireland. Other than some of the well-known sites, such as Dublin Casle, I had/have very little familiarity with Ireland as I have never been there. While I am only 20 percent through the site descriptions and other coding categories, I have already begun a list of sites that I would like to visit when I do travel to Ireland. In fact, I may be making a trip sooner than I thought — inspired in part by this project and assignment.

While my work constitutes a long distance relationship (of sorts) with the Smithsonian, the weekly conference calls have been helpful. In addition, they add a personal component to this virtual internship as our supervisor guides us and answers questions and as we, the interns, talk about our work. The communication with the Smithsonian and the University of Pennsylvania has also been great.

This project utilizes several skills and methodologies connected to the GMU DH certificate program. Specifically, our early lessons on the importance of copyright and metadata have come in very handy. I also have greater confidence in my research skills, understanding of coding categories, and use of controlled vocabulary. George Mason is on spring break next week and so we have a week off as well. I am looking forward to a bit of a break before getting back to work. I am determined to finish the data for Ireland as my contribution to Conflict Cultures.

HIST689 Introduction

I am looking forward to taking HIST 689 with Dr. Kelly as the final online course for the post-graduate certificate in Digital Humanities through George Mason University.

In the first two courses I gained a real sense of the trends, direction, and scope of Digital Humanities. In addition to technical expertise, the courses also provided meaningful readings and activities. I hope that this class will further add to this new base of knowledge and skill.

Professionally, I juggle several different roles. I am a secondary school educator at the Harpeth Hall School where I also serve as the archivist. I also teach as an adjunct at Belmont University in the Honors program as well as the Global Leadership studies department. Most recently I taught an interdisciplinary class entitled “Making the Modern City.” In the last several years, I have also added author to my list of professional achievements. This fall will bear the fruit of two and a half years of research and work with the release of two books. Athens of the New South: College Life and Making Modern Nashville will be published by University of Tennessee Press and A Heartfelt Mission: A History of the West End Home Foundation published by Orange Frazer Press. Adding my GMU coursework on top of my day job and writing this past year was a challenge but well worth the time and effort. Next year I will add Digital Humanities Coordinator to my list of duties at Harpeth Hall, and I will be continuing the development of my project from Dr. Leon’s class in partnership with the Metropolitan Historical Commission. The project, Nashville Sites, will be modeled on the History of the National Mall project and will initially launch this fall with continued development (and funding, fingers crossed) in 2018.

I look forward to this course, and I hope to find a way to incorporate and tailor my work in HIST694 to further Nashville Sites as well as my work with teachers (as Digital Humanities Coordinator) at Harpeth Hall.

Final HIST694 Post

It is time to close out HIST694 with a final blog post about building the prototype for Nashville Sites and doing public history.

Having just put the finishing touches on this version of my course project, I feel comfortable reflecting on the experience as a whole. I think that this course and this project has enabled me to realize the full potential of doing digital history. From developing personas, a social media strategy, and an evaluation plan to building content, metadata, and walking tours–this digital project has been both challenging and rewarding. At times this project felt like a sprint, other times it felt like a marathon. In reality, most projects dealing with large amounts of information (whether a book or a digital prototype) are both.

Perhaps most exciting is the continuation of this project beyond the semester. As I mentioned in my screencast video, this project started with an idea inspired by the Histories of the National Mall.

While I ran into technical problems with using the “mall theme” I continued my course project by creating a prototype using the Berlin Theme in Omeka. I also used Neatline to build two walking tours: Upper Broadway and Lower Broadway. These two tours focus on different historical markers and themes that will appeal to different types of audiences. I also used Exhibit Builder to create a “Up from the Cumberland,” which is a thematic exhibit with four parts: Maps and Geography, Athens of the South, Nashville’s Acropolis, and Broadway. Each of these nested pages links and cross referencing the majority of the items in my collection. Each part of the exhibit was designed to focus on different areas related to Nashville history. Following the order above, I organized these pages to target history, and historical markers, based on several categories: geography and urban growth, secondary and higher education, government, and architecture.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the course, the assignments, and I have learned a great deal. I am more confident in my abilities as a project manager, public historian, and digital humanist. I look forward to next semester and hope that the course is designed in a way that I can continue this work.

“Nashville Sites” Project Proposal

Title:
Nashville Sites: Understanding Nashville’s Narrative using Public Historical Markers
Institution:
Metropolitan Historical Commission of Nashville and Davidson County
Project Director:
Mary Ellen Pethel, Ph.D.
Grant Program:
Digital Projects for the Public: Prototyping Grants

In 1967, the newly-formed Metropolitan Historical Commission of Nashville and Davidson County (MHC) initiated a historical marker program to commemorate significant people, places, and events in the city’s past. With over 150 historical markers now in the county, this program is one of the most successful, and most public projects to date. There is quite an extensive process to erect a marker, but most importantly: “Every statement on a Metropolitan Historical Commission marker must satisfy two conditions: Is it significant? Is it accurate?” (http://bit.ly/2lkfo8Z). For this project, I will begin with these two historical questions and expand to include the following:

  1. How can marker content be complemented with other primary sources to convey a more engaging and important story.
  2. How can this digital history project combine individual entries for markers to create a broader historical narrative for downtown Nashville’s historical site markers.
  3. In what ways can I connect this project to other significant downtown sites  where there are not metro historical markers.
  4. How can I best engage audiences both local and visiting to participate in the walking tour, and how can I best use historical scholarship to support this project.
  5. Are there connections to the broader arts and humanities community that I can easily incorporate?

Omeka will be the primary format for “Nashville Sites” with an interface based on a modified version of “Histories of the National Mall.” This project, sponsored by an NEH grant and developed by George Mason University and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media leads the way in digital histories based on public history sites within a particular geographical area. “Nashville Sites” will follow a similar thematic layout based the following categories: maps, explorations, and places. In contrast to mallhistory.org , this project will designate and create a walking tour based on existing, physical historical markers. The site for this project is nashvillesites.org and relevant primary documents will be available for each destination point. These primary sources include images, renderings, and other media files.

In addition to these project resources, digital technologies will enhance metadata available via public records. Curatescape will be used to provide latitude/longitude for geo-spatial mapping, Omeka exhibits will organize marker text and context, and there will also be additional outside links related to selected markers. Points to be included for this project range from the earliest known business to the Ryman Auditorium to historical churches to government buildings.

This format will effectively convey Nashville’s historical narrative based on a humanities-centered approach. Selected markers in the downtown core will be used as the prototype for a larger long-term project will ultimately include all existing markers managed by MHC. The Metropolitan Historical Commission is the steward of two commissions which guide historic preservation projects for metro Nashville. The MHC is funded by the citizens of Davidson County through tax revenues with an annually appropriated budget. In addition, MHC is supported by a separate 501(c)(3)—Metropolitan Historical Commission Foundation (MHCF). The MHCF solicits outside funding and donations for projects that exceed the commission’s budgetary scope. The MHCF has verbally committed to additional funding as this project develops, and the MHC staff is currently collaborating and providing data and sources related to “Nashville Sites.”

The timeline for the project, for this stage, is May 2017. However, it is my hope that funding from MHCF will continue this project until all 150 markers are part of the digital project. There are several targeted audiences: visitors (tourists), local residents, and students. Reaching these audiences will depend on whether or not the project is user-friendly, which is why I am using a web rather than an app-based platform. Evaluation of “Nashville Sites” will be determined, in large part, by the number of hits the site generates from month to month once fully functional.

Distribution and sustainability with specific public user groups will depend on continued support and funding through the MHCF, the development of a social media presence, and the promotion of nashvillesites.org via visible signage on the markers themselves and brochures (and the like) in local businesses and hotels.

Digital Public History Introduction

Hello HIST694! I am excited for this course and post this entry as an introduction. Interestingly, I was recently asked to update my biography for Belmont University, where I serve as an adjunct professor. Here is an excerpt that provides some background information about my professional work and interests.

___________________________________________________________________________

Author, scholar, and educator Mary Ellen Pethel received her BA from the University of Tennessee, MEd from Berry College, and PhD from George State University. A lifelong learner, Dr. Pethel is completing a post-graduate certificate in Digital Humanities through George Mason University. At Belmont University she teaches in the Honors Program as well as Global Leadership Studies including interdisciplinary courses such as “The Age of Exploration,” “Making the Modern American City,” “Global Cities and Urban Spaces,” and “Introduction to Global Leadership.”

In addition, she is a teaching faculty member and the school archivist at the Harpeth Hall School, which celebrates a shared history with Belmont University from 1913 to 1951 as Ward-Belmont. This shared history was part of a recent book, Girls Education from Ward Seminary to Harpeth Hall, 1865 to 2015. Dr. Pethel’s newest book expands on the scope and sequence of higher education and the role of higher education in urban development. Athens of the New South: College Life and the Making of Modern Nashville, published in 2017 by the University of Tennessee Press.

___________________________________________________________________________

Digital Humanities is a still a relatively new field, not available when I was completing my PhD coursework, but the DH have always been of interest to me. It is for this reason that I remain grateful for the post-grad opportunity to gain meaningful training and experience through GMU and the RRCHNM. Meanwhile, my interest in Public History has long played a role in my educational and professional career. My goal for this semester is simple: to continue the work and experiential learning that began with HIST680. Let the work begin.