Vanderbilt Center for Digital Humanities Internship Update, June 2018

My summer internship with the Vanderbilt University of Digital Humanities has been very fruitful thus far. Working primarily with the center’s associate director, Dr. Mickey Casad, the internship promises to be beneficial in a variety of ways. First, the Center for DH is providing in-kind support for Nashville Sites — of which I am the project manager. This allows me to expand my digital skills while also working on a project already in progress that will continue beyond this semester. Dr. Casad and I have met twice to talk about this as well as other initiatives and projects connected to the center. These projects include Mappalacia, with Berea College, and Fedora, with Dale Poulter (VU Director of Library Technology and Digital Services). I will have more to report on these projects in my next post.

Most of May and June was spent working with a staff of four on the initial five tours for Nashville Sites. There are many challenges in building a digital infrastructure, content management system, navigation, and taxonomy. The first five tours are are located in a centralized area of downtown because we wanted to keep our geographical parameters tight as we worked through certain issues. They include: architectural highlights, seedy side (Nashville’s former red light district), food for thought (restaurants in historically significant buildings), and downtown schools/education. My assigned tour was downtown schools/education. Mapping out the tour, doing the research, collecting metadata for individual records, and writing a tour narrative took quite a bit of time. Also valuable to the process was physically walking and “testing out” the tour. I realized that many sites on other tours are visible on mine, and so we’re working with our web designers to determine how best to alert the user to these sites in order to provide the option of a customized or deviated tour. Here is my final tour, which includes the following stops:

1. Tennessee State University
2. Nashville Female Academy
3. Nashville School of Law/YMCA
4. Ward Seminary
5. Hume-Fogg School
6. Lipscomb University Downtown Spark Campus
7. Hatch Show Print
8. Taylor Swift Education Center
9. Walk of Fame (Local Alums and School Connections)
10. Seeing Eye (First Dog Training School for the Blind)

The tour is 2 miles long and takes approximately 75 minutes if walked without more than five minutes spent at each site. Other considerations included accessibility (sidewalks, ramps, lighting), balancing active sites versus historic markers only, and creating a subject/keyword/tag hierarchy. The subject list is still a work in progress, but we are basing it on the Omeka’s Simple Vocab plug-in. Specific methodologies and skills learned through GMU coursework have been key to working on this project: Omeka, copyright, Google Maps, using images, history based on place, creating personas, and even Slack. I look forward to the next few weeks as this and other work/projects through the VU Center for DH develop.

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