Teaching Tuesday: Digital History and The Fritz at 50

The Fritz at 50 digital history project has gone live.  The Fritz, of course, is the Chester Fritz Library on the beautiful University of North Dakota’s campus and the 50 is the library’s 50th anniversary. For more (and you know that you want more), you should rush over and check out our website.

A link to our website is also featured on the fantastic Fritz at 50 posters produced by my colleague in the Working Group in Digital and New Media’s Joel Jonietz.  Just follow the handy QR code.

Fritz50 4 final

As I have noted in previous posts, the effort to digitize various objects related to the history of the library has been an interesting challenge. The student team that is doing this is pretty eager and dedicated, but it’s clear that they are struggling to wrap their head around the creation of a digital collection. Some of the struggle comes from having to adapt their workflow around unfamiliar tools and processes – camera stands, scanners, digital recorders, and the like.  Yesterday, for example, they interviewed the Director of Libraries and dutifully placed the small Olympus digital recorder on his desk, but neglected to hit the record button.  Fortunately, they also captured the interview on a small video camera.

The occasional difficulties associated with collecting digital objects, however, has made it difficult, right now, for the students to analyze the digital objects and place them within a larger narrative. The hope is that they begin to interweave the narrative of creating the collection with the narrative history of the library on campus. So far, we’ve started this discussion on our blog, but it hasn’t gone very far yet.

The core of the digital collection lives in an Omeka archive. Again, I think we’re on the downward slope of the learning curve here and the content of the archive continues to expand and improve. As the students begin to analyze and think historically about the objects they have produced, the Omeka archive should allow a reader to “drill down” into the underlying evidence and metadata. (Check out this recent blog post on using Omeka to teach history from Teaching History.)

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