Public History

Rediscovering History

Attack on Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina – April 12, 1861

April 12, 2021 marks the 16oth anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. For many the conflict is long forgotten. But recent political events in Washington, DC have renewed interest in the war’s origins. It also serves as a reminder that sometimes people need to rediscover their history.

For the past semester, I have been taking a graduate course at George Mason University on Digital Public History. The course examines the impact of technologies, like the Internet, cloud hosted applications, and social media, on the public’s access to historical knowledge. For centuries, history was an academic process, based on scholarly research, and publications. However today, advances in information technology provide both opportunities and challenges as to how history is curated and publicly promoted.

An important part of the course was to prepare a final project to demonstrate how to design and implement an online historical collection. For my project, MTCWIA.COM, I chose to focus on Civil War history in Arlington, Virginia. My argument or business case, is that people living in Arlington today are unaware of what happened literally in their backyards over 160 years ago.

“Mapping the Civil War in Arlington” provides local historians, teachers and students, online access to historical photographs, drawings, maps, letters, newspapers, and official documents. These Civil War era primary sources promote a more collaborative interpretation of Arlington’s role during the conflict. “Mapping” also encourages new research and discoveries that will highlight the social, political, and cultural history of the people living in Arlington during the war. 

For decades, Arlington’s Civil War history has been overshadowed by Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Arlington House and Arlington Cemetery. In fact, people in Arlington are surprised to learn about the numerous military engagements that took place during the war. Many are unaware of Arlington’s role in the creation of the Union’s Army of the Potomac. The challenge of “Mapping” was to make accessible a sufficient number of primary sources to support the case that a lot did happen in and around Arlington.

A survey of well known Civil War online collections, including historic newspapers, photographic collections, drawings, and diaries, revealed a wealth of publicly available primary source material. An important goal of the project was to curate some of this material and make it discoverable, especially, for local teachers and students studying the Civil War.

Since “Mapping’s” launch, user feedback has been very positive. Local historians like the site’s ability to centralize access to primary sources. This capability has already promoted new perspectives on what Union and Confederate forces were doing in around Arlington.

The hosted platform supporting the site is George Mason University’s Omeka. It is Dublin Core compatible, and the key design elements follow a traditional museum motif, including (items, collections, and exhibits). Some of the key features of the project are a mapping functionality that provides visitors the ability to identify their location in Arlington and historic events that occured close by. The site also includes a useful timeline feature that identifies some of the major historic events impacting Arlington. Finally, the site provides a collaboration feature that permits users to submit historic resources for review and possible curation.

Lessons Learned
Curating historical knowledge is both a subjective and objective process. Individuals studying history learn from a variety of resources, and are often influenced by different historical interpretations. In regard to digital public history, making primary source material available is the key to maintaining objectivity. The goal of “Mapping” is to demonstrate that people can “rediscover” their history when provided online access to previously “unknown” primary sources.

For years, many local historians claimed that not much happened militarily in Arlington during the Civil War. But in fact, a rather brief online research revealed that well over 50 regiments camped on Arlington’s Upton Hill during the war. That is almost the equivalent of over 35,000 troops. In addition, a review of historic newspaper accounts, and official records, has determined that dozens of military engagements occured in Arlington during the late summer and fall of 1861, resulting in hundreds of casualties. Newspaper accounts of the day called it the “Battle of Munson Hill.” For a while the threat of a major military engagement occuring in Arlington was real. While these historical resources have existed for almost 160 years, it was their rediscovery online that is encouraging a new interpretation of the local history.

One of the key lesson learned is that the success of a public history project is dependent upon its accessibility and discoverability. That means that an online collection must invest in the necessary time to properly document its metadata. This especially includes the necessary text associated with a newspaper article or diary. If the digital text is not provided along with the images of the article, then the “discovery” part is minimized. Public historians can not expect their audiences to read everything. It is in the searching functionality, that real discovery and historical associations can be determined.

Like traditional museum collections, public history sites still require some interpretation. This is especially important in trying to engage audiences and making sure the content is relevant. The Omeka platform’s exhibit feature permits some historical context to be displayed so audiences have a reference point. However, the primary value of a collection site, is its ability to catalog and index a wide variety of items, including images, text, and media. This is becoming a powerful resource for public historians, as they continue to help their audiences to rediscover history.

Public History

Arguing History

Mapping the Civil War in Arlington

This week’s assignment is to present an argument of our final project and the intellectual and practical justifications for the choices we made in creating it. Also, we have to explain how we plan on evaluating our work. In response to the assignment, the title of my post rather explains it all. Arguing history is a process of discovery.  In fact, the root of the word history, comes from the Greek word “historia” which originally meant “inquiry” or the act of seeking knowledge.  But in regard to my project “Mapping the Civil War in Arlington” it also means the knowledge that results from inquiry.

From an intellectual and practical justification, the accessibility of digital collections demonstrated by “Mapping” is providing new and public venues for amateur and professional historians to research and analyze history. For years the argument supported by local historians in Arlington was that nothing much happened here during the war. There was some mention of the construction of the 22 forts built to defend the Capital, and the numerous Union camps that dotted the countryside. But not much discussion or interpretation in regard to the early military conflict between these two opposing armies in northern Virginia along the Arlington, and Falls Church border. While the Civil War was well documented only until recently could an individual search and discover large volumes of newspaper accounts, illustrations, photographs, books and diaries. Public access to these digital collections, including historic newspapers and official military documents now reveal more frequent and intense military engagements that often met with deadly consequences. This rediscovery of the past requires a new and refreshed historic interpretation of Arlington’s role during the Civil War.

The Omeka platform that supports my final project, provides a simple and easy to build collection database, along with a contribution feature, that enables Arlington audiences to participate and collaborate in defining and preserving their history. This shared approach, will provide a stronger “historical argument” due to the wisdom offered by a wider source of contribution. The power of inquiry will be magnified and the long hidden or forgotten primary resources can be easily rediscovered.

It is also clear that audiences in the 21st century are definitely influenced by public opinion. Recently there has been a strong response to dated Civil War scholarship. As result public access to digital collections invariably requires or even demands frequent updates to traditional historical arguments. For example, the 20th century acceptance of southern historians and their “Lost Cause” take on the Civil War, has yielded in the 21st century almost as fast as the tumbling of Confederate generals and their statues. For Arlingtonians, “Mapping” provides the next generation of historians, with a better vantage point or knowledge base. Many visitors to “Mapping” have already started to comment that the collection is helping them to recognize that a lot of history actually happened here.

Unfortunately, the recent launch of “Mapping” was too late to contribute to saving the historic Civil War era Febrey house located on Upton’s Hill. However, the public campaign to save it was a motivating factor in creating the site. With the demise of the Febrey house, what then will be the evaluation criteria to measure “Mapping’s” success?

Evaluation Criteria #1
April 12th, 2021 is the 160th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. As a result, there is going to be a renewed interest in the Civil War and local history in Arlington. An important evaluation criteria will be the number of unique visitors.

The project is designed for several key personas. These include local historians, teachers, students, and history buffs. The primary audience will be on local historians. The secondary audience will be for teachers. In regard to local historians, the site is intended to become an important source of validating historical authenticity and presenting new discoveries. It will provide a venue for sharing knowledge and collection sources. For teachers, the site will include lesson plans and activities targeted for Arlington students. These activities will promote local history and discovery of important Civil War sites, including Upton’s Hill.

Evaluation Criteria #2
The project will attract a lot of attention from Civil War historical societies and roundtables. Engagement with these groups will increase collection contributions. Stories about Arlington and the war may be new to many in this audience. However, since during the Civil War regiments from over 15 states camped in the county, there may be a greater national interest. One benefit of seeking a wider audience is the potential for new and undiscovered primary sources. These history buffs could be the “wisdom of the crowd” and their engagement could fill in some missing historical references and add to new interpretations.

Evaluation Criteria #3
Finally, an important and critical criteria is collecting audience feedback. The “contact us” feature will be used to gather usability assessments and help determine what platform features or corrections need to be made. Also, since the site is still in development, users can help identify basic typos or ther human errors that should be easily corrected.

Final Thoughts on Arguing History
Mapping the Civil War in Arlington was originally intended to be a resource to support historic preservation. However, the argument to save history goes beyond a physical building or property. So in the case of the Febrey house, the primary argument is not whether a owner has the right to sell their land, but rather who owns the history associated with a property. Hence, the argument that all history is public supports the necessity to efficiently capture and curate historical knowledge. The demolition of the Febrey house without any curation or discovery is painful. Like the burning of books, the knowledge is gone and unrecoverable. But hopefully its demise will serve as a reminder to the people living in Arlington that saving history is a collaborative and shared process. Projects like “Mapping” will continue to make the argument that inquiry and knowledge go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.

Public History

Technology’s Influence on Public History

Demolition of the Febrey Estate on Upton’s Hill, Arlington March 23, 2021

At the end, over 160 years of history came tumbling down in a matter of seconds. Despite a heartfelt and very public effort to save the Febrey Estate, the owners were permitted to proceed with its demolition. Historic preservationists vainly attempted to leverage social media, including Facebook, and a petition, to mobilize local residents to challenge Arlington County’s board to preserve the property. However, it was too little and too late. Buried among the ruble is suspected Civil War soldier graffiti, and other 19th century artifacts there were unable to be saved or documented.

But in regard to advancements in technology and their impact on public history, the lessons learned from the “Save Febrey” campaign are worth noting. First, there is no doubt that social media is a game changer in getting the word out and creating awareness. The one victory in the Save Febrey effort was getting Arlington County’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) to recommend that the Febrey Estate be designated historic. Unfortunately Arlington County’s board did not act fast enough to confirm the status. As a result a permit to destroy the house was issued prior to a formal vote.

A second and more important lesson, is the future role that technology is going to play in what author Barbara Heinisch, describes in her 2020 article “Citizen Humanities as a Fusion of Digital and Public Humanities?” Ms. Heinisch points out that this fusion will permit citizens to be more engaged and contribute to policy and democratic processes. The failure to save the Febrey estate is in part due to the general lack of awareness of the site’s history. Unfortunately the ability to uncover the historic forensics was a monumental task. Only as a last minute, and desperate attempt to scour the digital repositories did some interesting public stories surface. One positive result of the experience is that many of these stories can now be shared.

It was clear from the recent historic preservation effort, that a few people can not emulate decades of historical research. But the one area that technology can help is in the “wisdom of the crowds.” In the case of the Febrey Estate the discovery of a Civil War drawing for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated publication confirmed that a portion of the house date back to the 1850s,

The Army in the Advance – Alfred Lumley 1861
Rear of the Febrey House – March 2020

While the drawing has been there for over 160 years, it took the action of a local resident to bring it to everyone’s attention. The drawing sparked an interesting debate, but the architectural proof and visualization was irrefutable. What was compelling is that Lumley documented the name of the family, Febrey, in the drawing’s notes. Barbara Heinisch asserts that technology’s influence on citizen humanities will lead to “mutual exchange and knowledge co-production.” This digital collaboration and engagement is where technology will have the most immediate impact.

A third and final lesson learned, is the need for local governments and historical organizations, to invest in online digital collection platforms. The demolition of the Febrey house, without any defined plan to curate or document the historic structure is tragic. The cost of these online collection platforms have been drastically reduced. The Omeka open source platform is a perfect example of how accessible they are right now. But the cost of full-time historic research staff is still an obstacle. Arlington County staff were limited in their ability to collect and curate the rich historic potential that the estate represented. The Febrey example demonstrates that if public history programs are going to succeed they will need to leverage public participation. Large-scale crowdsourcing projects are now manageable and their impact is worth the effort. Labor intensive activities such as tagging, transcribing or annotating research data, can now be supported by vetted volunteers. According to Ms. Heinisch, this could also “encompass forms of participatory (action) research or co-creation, such as initiatives in which the community has the lead or shares stronger responsibility with academics or co-develops research questions, research designs or project management.”

The local impact of the destruction of the Febrey house is still to be determined. But the public reaction so far has been one of dismay and disappointment in their county’s government to act swiftly enough to preserve such a historic site. One thing for sure is that in the historic preservation movement, advancements in information technology will continue to have a significant impact on citizen humanities and public history. For the citizens of Arlington it is hoped that the demolition of the Febrey estate will serve as a reminder that it takes a “village” and the “wisdom” of the crowd to preserve and protect its heritage.

Public History

Project Progress Report 3/22/21

For this week’s progress report the number of curated items are now over a 100. Also, the contribution feature has been implemented and successfully tested. Once you start to have dozens of items you start to get a better feel of the collections and can start thinking more about what type of exhibits you want to develop. For “Mapping the Civil War” I have decided to try to present at least three “stories” or exhibits for my public launching of the site.

While collecting the items and uploading the necessary metadata it becomes apparent that there is a lot of interesting historical information. Most of this content is not easily associated with an item unless you create companion documentation. As a result, the “exhibit” interface provides a venue to capture some of the more interesting historical information. I would encourage the Omeka developers to explore ways to improve this “storytelling” process. It is clear that people learn better through stories and having a better way to present these historical vignettes would make Omeka a better product.

Another plugin that I am going to explore during the next week is Neatlines “timeline.” I think a timeline functionality would provide a better historical overview for visitors. The great think about a timeline is that the site’s users will not have to memorize dates, but rather have a visual reference to aid them. Fortunately, the associated time frame is only two years, and I already have identified the important dates that I would want to display. What this means is that I will need to either add additional items with more specific date references, or go back and ensure the current items are updated to include them.

Finally, the feedback I am getting from site testors has been good. This includes adding content and searching for items. The platform seems to be robust and I have not noticed any technical problems worth mentioning. However, I imagine with any first time “collection” project, it is the curation process that eventually becomes the real challenge. In my case, the availability of items to curate and upload is significant. So my challenge is being selective. I am only trying to focus on higher quality or more interesting items to include for now.

Public History

Exploring Your Landscape

DC Historic Sites ( represents the next generation public history mobile experience. The site is both on the web and there is a mobile application as well. While its navigation is quite simple, it is rich in content and offerings. DC Historic is great for both tourists and long term residents. It has a effective map interface, and links to proposed tours, sites, and stories.

DC Historic’s “theory of history” is to help visitors learn more about the District of Columbia’s important and irreplaceable “historic places and spaces.” The primary source of the site’s content is based on the DC Inventory of Historic Sites, the city’s official list of properties deemed worthy of recognition and protection for their contribution to the cultural heritage of the nation’s capital.

DC Historic Sites was developed by the DC Preservation League, Washington’s citywide nonprofit advocate solely dedicated to the preservation, protection, and enhancement of the historic resources of our nation’s capital.

A unique feature of the site is a link called “random stories.” It is an effective place-based technique that the project uses to promote engagement. By selecting a random story, users can discover something new about the city, even if they have lived in DC for a long time.

But the most interesting feature are the well defined walking tours, currently numbering at 18, that provide visitors and residents alike, an opportunity to walk and talk about their history. What makes the tours interesting is the well written historical interpretations that are provided. DC Historic sets a high bar for other cities to follow, but the formula is simple and effective.

Public History

Project Progress Report 3/15/21

Mapping the Civil War in Arlington is proceeding rather well. The “curating” is straightforward and I hope to have over two hundred items in the collection by the time I submit it as a final project. Since the project is going to have a post-project phase I was able to get some assistance and add some rather cool functionalities. This includes a map feature and a contribution feature. It reflects well on the Omeka developers that the platform is quite agile in providing the option to add plugins. I am learning more about other more expensive alternatives, like “Past Perfect.” Many museums use it for managing their collections, however, I understand that it is rather on the pricey side for providing a public facing.

For the next week I will be testing the Contribution function and develop a social media strategy as to how I would like to promote it. I will be conducting an online presentation to the Arlington Historical Society on April 8th, and I would like to feature it.

Finally, in regard to challenges and any problems, I continue to struggle with how much Dublin Core metadata is necessary to input. I guess if I had a grant and hired a part-time assistance I would have the time to make sure everything is properly notated. I suspect that additional reviews will be necessary to maintain some consistency. The good news is that the majority of items are from already existing collections. So this will help. Finally, I am also trying to normalize the use of standard tag definitions, and limit the number of collections. The use of inconsistent tag labeling becomes self evident once you start adding dozens of items. Omeka has a rather decent aid to helping us curators and hopefully like a gardener, I will be able to “weed” out the duplications or redundant tags.

Public History

Annotating Oral Histories

A considerable amount of historical content today is multimedia, including both audio and video files. Most of this content is interviews and this creates a significant problem for curators. There is a need to index this content to enable future researchers to be able to easily search and discover what is contained on these files. The solution is programs like the University of Kentucky’s Oral History Metada Synchronizer (OHMS). OHMS is an online tool for enhancing access to online oral histories created by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky Libraries. Oral history involves audio or video recordings on time-based media. In order to be practical an indexing application has to provide the users a means to precisely identify the start and stop times of a segment.

OHMS was developed as an open source application. It is the next best thing for those not wanting to invest in speech recognition and artificial intelligence indexing services such as Microsoft’s Video Indexer. However, it’s layers of complexity and different levels of indexing are time consuming, For a large project it may make one reconsider paying for the service.

For my testing of the application I used an interview I had conducted with Steve Phan from the National Park Service.

Public History Uncategorized

Project Progress Report 3/8/21

I am pleased to report that there has been much progress in starting the “Mapping the Civil War in Arlington” project. The basic site theme and layout has been worked out. Also I have started populating dozens of items in the hosted Omeka platform. I think the first challenge that needed to be overcome was understanding the item, collection, exhibit hierarchy that Omeka provides inside the box. Then ensuring that item definitions, and collection descriptions were logical. Finally, the were the need to conceptualize how exhibits were going to be developed.

At this point in the project, a persistent problem is inputing the metadata and tags. There is a reason that this type of work is specialized. Since I consider myself a forest type of person, working on the individual trees seems tedious and laborious. Building this collection right, will take some time and some other sets of eyes.

For this reason, I also want to include a contribution feature to encourage other people to upload files and the associated metadata. I would compare this to Tom Sawyer encouraging other boys to paint the fence. It is my understanding that Omeka has a plugin that supports this feature. I am seeking some assistance to help me set this up.

One bright spot so far is the “mapping feature” that Omeka provides. Since the title of my project includes the word mapping, having the ability to place an identifier on a map to locate a geographic reference to an item is pretty cool. I think for students this will be a popular feature, especially if they want to see if anything happened in Arlington near where they live.

For next week I am going to spend time on better defining tags and collections. Also, I am planning on creating specialized pages for resources, videos, and lesson plans. I realize that the collection or curating process is reiterative and it is necessary to revisit and constantly add information as necessary.

Finally, it did not take too long to get familiar with the Omeka platform. The basic functionality and navigation are well thought out. I’m glad to see that you can add additional themes, and someday, if my grant is awarded, hire a graphic designer to create my own custom theme. Words of advise to those that will someday have to do a similar project. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Do your homework and review collection sites that work well. This will make all the difference in feeling confident to proceed.

Public History

Collections Project Proposal

7th Ohio Regiment Scouts on Upton’s Hill, Virginia June 17, 1861. Artist – Alfred Waud

Mapping the Civil War in Arlington: Upton’s Hill, is an Online Media Collection Project (OMCP) that will provide local historians, researchers, and students, access to primary sources from the Civil War. These primary sources will include photographs, drawings, maps, letters, public records, as well as historic newspaper articles related to Arlington.  In addition, there will be photographs of Civil War artifacts, and links to other media collections. 

The OMCP will centralize access to disparate archives and collections of Arlington related Civil War records, using a popular digital collection management platform called “Omeka.” The availability and accessibility of these Civil War era primary sources will promote a larger and more collaborative interpretation of Arlington’s role during the conflict.  The project will also encourage new research and discoveries that will highlight the social, political, and cultural history of the people living in Arlington.  “Mapping” will also document the stories of Confederate and Union regiments, as well as those of individual soldiers that came from all over the country to fight and die in Arlington.

The Online Media Collection Project will be developed in several phases.  These include:

  • Prototype development phase, using the Omeka application and only targeting the local history of Arlington’s “Upton’s Hill.”
  • Buildout Phase, recruiting local historian support and volunteers to help with inputting and building out the site.
  • Evaluation phase, conducting site usability studies and capturing feedback
  • Going public with the OMCP

Historical Context:

“Mapping” is a prototype project that demonstrates the value of centralizing access to online collections for the purpose of promoting public history. During the first six months of the Civil War Arlington was at the epicenter between two large armies. While the first Battle of Bull Run/Manassas did not occur until July 21, 1861, the months preceding and following the battle were witness to almost daily contact between northern and southern troops. These small military engagements often took place along the Arlington and Falls Church border.  No where was this more evident than Upton’s Hill. The hill’s summit, rising 410 feet about sea level, and overlooks, Arlington, Fairfax, Falls Church, and Washington, D.C. Its strategic location made it an important military objective.  During the war dozens of regiments from both sides camped there, and eventually the Union Army built a fort there.

160 years later, Arlington County residents know very little about the Civil War, and even less about Upton’s hill’s local history. Overshadowed by the major battles that were to take place in 1862 and beyond, the military conflict in Arlington is a forgotten period of US history that is worthy of retrospect. The major combatants of both sides, including William T. Sherman, George B. McClellan, James Longstreet, and Jeb Stuart all lived and fought in and around Arlington in 1861. For a brief period of time the Confederates seriously considered invading Arlington. While Arlington’s Historical Society has published a few articles about Civil War, the scope and scale of what occurred on Upton’s Hill during the war remains unknown. However, this is dramatically changing due to the fact that the Civil War was well documented and photographed. As a result, there is a wide availability of digital collections that provide access to primary source material. These collections, including letters, diaries, drawings, regimental histories, and photographs, include many records associated with Upton’s Hill.  These collections are helping local historians “rediscover” Arlington’s Civil War history.  Not surprisingly, the introduction of these “new” primary resources, is somewhat disruptive, and challenging the status quo of decades old scholarship.

The initial focus of the prototype project will be on the Union regimental camps located on Upton’s Hill. Some of the project’s historical questions will include:

  • What do the collection’s primary sources reveal about how these soldiers lived, and what was their war experiences?
  •  What was the impact of the war on local residents?  How did they react?
  • What new local historical interpretations can be discovered?

An expanded project would include more geospatial details of fort locations, local military engagements, and other topographical features, like bridges, hills, and roads. Finally, the project also has the potential to personalize the war by permitting researchers and students to identify individual units and soldiers and track their real-life stories.

Digital Technologies

The Online Media Collection Project will leverage the Omeka application as its web publishing platform for sharing the project’s digital collections and exhibits.  One of the goals of this project is to demonstrate the viability and sustainability of developing an online collection.  Omeka provides the flexibility to start small, with the focus only on Upton’s Hill.  But the platform can scale later on to include a wider and more in-depth collection of Arlington’s local Civil War history. An initial challenge will be developing an information hierarchy that reflects the available primary source material, and how to present it in a user-friendly way.  The built-in themes and interfaces provided by Omeka will provide some assistance in establishing this framework.

The OMCP should promote historic research collaboration by providing the means for the site’s users to publish primary source recommendations, questions, and comments.  This will help in the discovery phase.  The project will encourage engagement and scholarly discussion regarding collection items, their authenticity, and applicability.  Omeka has some additional plug-ins that may need to be added later on in order to provide this capability. 


April 12th, 2021 is the 160th anniversary of the start of the Civil War.  As a result, there is going to be a renewed interest in the Civil War and local history in Arlington. The project will be designed for several key personas.  These include local historians, teachers, students, and history buffs.  The primary audience will be on local historians.  The secondary audience will be for teachers.  In regard to local historians, the site is intended to become an important source of validating historical authenticity and presenting new discoveries.  It will provide a venue for sharing knowledge and collection sources.  For teachers, the site will include lesson plans and activities targeted for Arlington students.  These activities will promote local history and discovery of important Civil War sites, including Upton’s Hill.

Finally, the project will attract a lot of attention from Civil War history buffs.  Stories about Arlington and the war will be new to many in this audience.  However, since during the Civil War regiments from over 15 states camped in the county, there may be a greater national interest. One benefit of seeking a wider audience is the potential for new and undiscovered primary sources.  These history buffs could be the “wisdom of the crowd” and their engagement could fill in some missing historical references and add to new interpretations.

Public History

Personas Revised

As part of my collections project I had to develop two personas. These personas are intended to keep me focused on who the project is intended for and how will they determine if it is successful or not. Using personas are very helpful and their application goes beyond just digital projects. As a disclaimer these personas are not intended to represent any one in real life, but they are certainly inspired by people I know. As they use to say in the TV show “Dragnet” the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Persona #1

Name: Jim Thurber
Demographic: 55-75, White male, retired
Descriptive Title: Member of the local historical society
End Goals: Jim is aware of social media and online collections and recognizes that his local historical society has not kept up with these technologies. He also would like to widen the society’s demographics, and bring more younger people into the organization. Jim also knows that his society is rooted in a dated approach to local history. This has impacted its interpretation of Civil War history. In the past the society has advocated support for the creation of an onsite museum, located at small elementary school. However, the impact of COVID now demonstrates the greater need to make local history accessible online, so the wider community can participate in its curation and interpretation.
Quote: “History needs to be a shared experience and everyone should be able to participate in its interpretation.”
A Day in a Life Narrative: Jim is very active with the local history society. As a member of the its board for many years, he is concerned that the society is losing its relevance as a recognized advocate for historical curation and preservation. He has a strong track record in promoting local history and is well known among civic associations and local government. Since he is retired he can spend a lot of time researching and promoting preservation projects. He has a strong interest in local Civil War history.

Persona #2

Name: Yolanda Smith
Demographic: 30 -45, African American, female
Descriptive Title: 4th grade elementary school teacher
Quote: “I want to make history more exciting for my students.”
A Day in a Life Narrative: As a 4th grade teacher in Virginia the Civil War is an important part of the state’s history curriculum. It is difficult to make something that happened over 160 years ago relevant to a 10 year old. Being able to offer class assignments based on local history would be of great value.
End Goals: Ms. Smith wants to be able to direct her students to online resources that support interesting and innovative activities. She wants to teach my students the difference between primary and secondary sources, and how to develop their own skills for historical interpretation. Many historical documents, like letters and diaries, are still in cursive. She needs help in decoding them. Some of the concepts of the Civil War are difficult to teach in today’s politically charged environment. Ms. Smith is looking for county supported programs that provide new and local interpretations of black history and freeing the enslaved. She would love to have her students participate in the local historic research and curation process.