A Review of the Oral History of Reverend Willie Ford Jr.

Reverend Willie Ford, Jr. http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/roho/ucb/text/ford_willie.pdf. Regional Oral History Office, The National Park Service, and the City of Richmond, California. Interviews Conducted by Nadine Wilmot, 2006. Reviewed by Gabriel Cohen on February 28, 2019.

Presentation

The website is very simple, which has both potential advantages and disadvantages depending on the audience. The simplicity of the site is undoubtedly useful for those who are unfamiliar with oral history depositories or archived materials. This same simplicity makes navigation quite cumbersome for those who are utilizing the website for research; one has to scroll through dozens of oral histories to find one relevant to what they are researching.

Another obstacle created by the simplicity of the website is the complete lack of metadata. When scrolling through these oral histories, the only metadata presented is the name of the subject of the interview, and the date the interview was conducted. There is a brief synopsis of the interview itself and a very small amount of biographical information provided about the subject. However, if one is looking for specific terms or dates, a heavy reliance on the search feature included in their browser is necessary. Even when conducting these rudimentary searches, there is a great deal of content covered in the interviews that is not touched upon in the synopses on the main page.

After selecting the oral history of Reverend Willie Ford, Jr., I was directed to a transcript of the oral history. Aside from the legal information included, the first information presented in this oral history is a table of contents, which breaks the interview into two distinct sections. This is a useful resource, as the oral history is quite long. However, there are no timestamps attached to the table of contents, which I believe would be of great benefit for a researcher who is interested in a specific type of content.

The main body of text that composes the oral history does have timestamps associated with each part of the dialogue. The interviewer was very thorough with the transcription, which is clear from the mistakes made, such as the poor placement of recording equipment that the interviewer Nadine Wilmot mentions during the interview.

Content

The interview is well organized, and Wilmot was very detail oriented in thorough in capturing Ford’s story. In the first section of the interview, Ford discusses his early life and his family. When Ford began to accelerate the narrative too much, and bypass critical information such as his mother’s occupation and lifestyle, Wilmot very directly yet politely asked him to slow down so that none of these critical pieces of the narrative would be overlooked. Ford seemed quite comfortable with the conversational style Wilmot adopted during the interview, and Wilmot had only to ask very short and concise questions to prompt the narrative to continue. Wilmot’s questions prompted Ford to discuss very sensitive subjects like slavery and segregation, but were put forward with very gentle and unassuming language.

Wilmot’s direct approach did have some drawbacks though. There are a number of instances where Ford was about to touch on an important subject, but Wilmot derailed the conversation to discuss something else. I noted that each time this happened, Ford circled the conversation back around to finish the portion he began previously. The result of this was that the chronology of Ford’s life was presented somewhat out of order at times. In the case of having a very personable and open interviewee, I believe prompting responses in such short intervals detracts from the narrative as a whole. At times, Wilmot ceased to ask questions and let Ford speak continuously for several minutes. This section was the most emotionally revealing portion of the interview. Overall though, Wilmot did a brilliant job making Ford feel comfortable during the interview, even when addressing difficult subjects involving race relations in America in the early 20th century, which is no easy task.

OUTHISTORY.ORG

This online oral history project is an online database of writings about the LGBTQ community and a way to preserve that information. The beginnings of this project came from a man by the name of Jonathen Ned Katz. After writing book in the 1970’s he wanted to keep the conversation alive and moving. Once he saw the importance and impact computer would have, that is when he decided to create a website. This conversation includes an outlet to not only begin an archive for this community, but also to expand the audience and find new solutions to the archive problem. Katza believes that there are archives throughout the world for the LGBTQ community yet they are hardly accessible and usually quite small.

This website was reinvigorated with a new look and transferred to the software, Omeka in 2011. The website consists of timelines, a blog, and written material about the subject from multiple leading experts on the matter. once I began working on learning the ins and outs of the website design and organization it was easy to understand. The website is organized so the user can organize what will pop up by dates, times, or subjects. After the user specifies it down to a single topic or event there is certain interviews or papers that can be read. I understand most of this website to be archival but at the same time creates arguments for these topics and is in no way unbiased.

The things that could be worked on are on a more technical note. The website is on Omeka yet I do not feel that the oral history project is using Omeka for what it was created to do. The website is using it as a place to exhibit but the amount of information and how it is edited makes it look very cluttered. Another point that could be worked on is the blog section of the oral history project. It has not been updated on since 2017 and i believe that may also include the totality of the website as well. Overall the website is very informative and has a large amount of resources that can be easily accessible.

http://outhistory.org/

Digital Review: Musical Passage

This website talks about music in the Caribbean from the African slaves brought over by the slave trade. “Musical Passage,” talks about this topic through the diary of a man named Hans Sloane. In his diary, that is mainly botanist research based, he also briefly speaks of the native inhabitants and their music.

The website opens up with a page of sheet music and an audio reflection of that music being played. On the left side of the diary/ sheet music the user can see the inscription that Hans Sloane wrote about the sheet music. Once the user places their mouse over a key word it reveals a question on the far left of the page. On the right side of the page with the musical composition, the user can choose one of five songs to listen to. Those songs are listed as Angola, Papa, Koromanti 1, 2, and,3.

After the user is done looking at the front page they are able to browse the options on the right hand side of the page. The drop down menu has three options that include explore, read, and about. The explore section is the first tab where the user can look once again at the opening page. The next tab of “read,” is a page that tells you the information that is known about Hans Sloane who was taken to the island as a doctor to take care of the Caribbean governor. Quickly the governor died and Sloane stayed on the island to study the environment. The page continues with more descriptive information about Sloane. It then transitions to the history of the slave trade in the islands. Of those slaves the author talks about the musicians within the free slave communities.

The author does point out the downfalls of the research. Explaining the music could have been from a man who did not follow the traditional slave journey. Another key note is the audio file of the music that is playing in the background are interpretations of what musicians and historians believe to be correct.
The author of the page brings on a historian by the name of Richard Rath who speaks about the historical perspective. All of this is then cited in the about page with the rest of the authors references.

The points that were somewhat a hindrance in learning about this history and interacting with the website is the length of information, the scroll bar, and the information given on the opening explore page. The read tab really is a read with a huge amount of information and argument. The author proves his argument like they would with a thesis paper. It does not use a digital history to the best of its abilities. The scroll bar is a user friendly problem for the fact that if the user uses the up and down arrow keys then the page scrolls slowly. Once the user finds the scroll bar to the right, the mouse when moved down the page scrolls up. The information on the entrance page looks very appealing. Yet, it is in old English and needs some translation as well.

http://www.musicalpassage.org/#about

Review of Remembering Rondo

Remembering Rondohttp://rememberingrondo.org/. Created by partners Rondo Avenue Inc. and Dr. Rebecca Wingo with students of an archive class at Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minnesota. http://rememberingrondo.org/historic-rondo-businesses/. Reviewed February 21, 2019 – February 22, 2019. 

Dr. Rebecca Wingo taught an archives class that partnered with Rondo Avenue Inc. to create a map of the businesses in the historic Rondo neighborhood.  The students mined and scanned business ads from historic newspapers from this community, and selected ESRI StoryMaps Tour and Journal to organize the files and create the map. 

Remembering Rondo begins on the home page by clicking on the first link that appears when one searches. The page has “Places & Spaces”, “Life & Culture”, “Voices” and “Buy now!” Underneath these tabs are four other tabs — Map of Historic Rondo Businesses, Photo Archive, History Harvest and Team. Scrolling down further, there is a section that says, What’s New, Entertainment and News and Politics, presenting recently added to the site allowing one to scroll through the newest additions. There are filters that can be applied to manage what is seen by clicking all or three horizontal dots that provide a more detailed search. Next, it breaks down to another section that is formatted differently, with three tabs (Popular, Recent and Comments) showing articles life above.  Then there is the “Featured Posts” section and ”Recent Stories” section.  There is “Follow Us” and a subscribing section. Finally, there are “Most Viewed” and “New Restaurants in the City” sections.  Towards the bottom, there are “Most Viewed”, “Most Popular”, “News Tags”, and “Categories.”

The information on the site is well communicated and written.  The content that is written about is not difficult or too challenging to read. The intended audience, which is the local Rondo and St. Paul community seems to be very clear due to the creators and partnership of the project and the background of how the project was created. The images provided in the photo archive are of high quality but do not contain much metadata, however this may be due to the fact that it is from a private collection.  The history harvest (when community members are invited to share their letters, photographs, objects, and stories and participate in conversations about these items) Omeka website, which is embedded into the site, provides basic and sufficient metadata about the items brought in from the history harvest. The Omeka website is well-organized and provides different options to browse and search.

The actual site is set up very nicely and has a professional and modern aesthetic, and choices of the colors. The site is fairly easy to navigate, though it may be confusing for one that is not familiar with technology.  The home site provides a lot of information all at once and not a lot of context until one looks through the other tabs of information. I wonder if all of this contextual information could be put in one place to make it easier for the audience or guest viewers. The site is very compatible with tablets  and mobile-friendly. I tried on my iPhone and it did not require manipulation such as, zooming in or out. The site contains some quirks, such as the “Team” tab on the top of the site not working and what appears to be a photo and perhaps something connected with a Twitter page related to the digital project.

Since the team page is currently unavailable  for use, I am unable to make all the correct attributions except for the community partner, Rondo Avenue Inc., Dr. Rebecca Wingo and the archives class.

Overall, this digital project contributes to the field of digital history, providing examples of successful collaboration between a community and institution.  With minor fixes on the different links and perhaps taken from the suggestions previously made, this website can blossom even more so. The unique layout and design draws attention to the different articles and pieces of history presented in a different form, that most do not think of history as, when one thinks of history only in the traditional sense.

S. Shine Trabucco

St. Mary’s University 

San Antonio, Texas

Recreating PT Barnum

The Lost Museum, https://lostmuseum.cuny.edu/index.php . Created by The Graduate Center, City University of New York, in collaboration with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media George Mason University Supported by a major grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities.  The original Executive Producers of the project were Andrea Ades Vasquez, Joshua Brown and Roy Rosenzweig. Reviewed Feb. 22, 2019.  

The Lost Museum recreates the PT Barnum Museum of the 1800’s that was destroyed in a fire on July 13, 1865.  This digital project recreates the inside of the museum three-dimensionally based on illustrated guide books from the 1850’s. When you open the website, a quick two-minute video captures your attention and leads you to four basic options which allow you to explore the digital museum, attempt to solve the mystery of who set the fire, search the archive for information, or go to the classroom section to consider looking at activities to provide students.  

Exploring this digital museum is fun although the technology feels dated. This is likely a challenge that all digital projects will face. For example, you can click on an image and zoom in but when it comes to user experience, most digital natives will expect a smoother up to date technology experience. It would be better if this functioned more like an Omeka site that could then source an image and provide context instead of just a 3D rendering. In order to attempt to solve the mystery, a visitor would have to log in which is a barrier to entry. I am not sure why the creators of the site required a log-in for this portion and I know that is something that will serve to push visitors away from that function.

The archive allows the visitor to browse topics, sources and images which was the most engaging part for me. I’m not a teacher, but I liked looking at the activities and essays about PT Barnum. Although the project team has worked on updating the site for new use of technology, I am concerned that this digital project will become just as much as snapshot of early 20th century technology as much as the specific subject matter. I feel like the major collaborative piece of this project is in getting visitors to sign in and look at evidence of those who might have been responsible for setting the fire to the museum.  The audience for this project is more focused on educators and those interested in PT Barnum. It is an excellent tool for educators to refer to and utilize.  

This digital project challenges viewers to imagine what it must have been like visiting this type of museum in the mid 1800’s. I feel like the archives portion provides context to the nature of the space and times but from a 2019 perspective, I feel that it could be maintained and updated. For example, this could compare movie reviews for the Greatest Showman with actual reviews of PT Barnum’s show from newspapers to see how close the movie got to historic reality.  This project provides a successful 3D recreation of the PT Barnum Museum and serves its purpose to help educators make this topic interesting to explore.  I feel that the mystery aspect of the website could be updated and engage more of an audience on social media to determine who was most likely to have set the fire.  Overall, I rate this project a B+ with an option for an A if it were to be updated to remain relevant to collaborators for years to come.  

Imagine if this digital project or something like it became the standard for digitizing and providing resources and collaboration for digital collections for museums in the future so that no future exhibits would be lost to history again.

Railroads and the Making of Modern America: A Digital Review

Railroads and the Making of Modern America. http://railroads.unl.edu/. Directed and edited by William G. Thomas, III (Professor in Humanities at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln), Richard Healey (Professor of Geography at the University of Portsmouth U.K.), and Ian Cottingham (Software Engineer for the Computing Innovation Group at UNL). Received production assistance from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. http://railroads.unl.edu/about/team.php. Reviewed February 22, 2019.

Railroads and the Making of Modern America is a digital project that looks at the social impacts of railroads in 19th-century America. It covers topics such as slavery, the Civil War, politics, migration, segregation, tourism and railroad work. The website implements visual aids including documents, maps, and statistical graphs.

As an example, when you look at Slavery and Southern Railroads under the topics tab, there are two columns: On the left are documents and on the right are visual aids. Under documents, you can take a closer look at contracts, annual reports of railroad companies, and letters. When you click on contracts, there are seven items – all of them are receipts for a slave purchase. One receipt was for the sale of slaves to the Mississippi Central Railroad Company on March 5, 1860. It briefly describes and shows a photo of the receipt. Underneath it is the metadata in the “about” section. It gives the source, the citation, the date, and other related topics. In the letters, they all have a description, but some do not have the photograph of the letter. However, these contain a transcript of the letter. As for the visual aids, many are maps to visualize information. Some require Adobe Flash Player 8 to view.

The next tab on the website is “views”, which are specific cases that focus on a research question or problem. Some of these “views” include passenger mobility in the 1850s, land sales in Nebraska, the growth of slavery and Southern railroad development, and women’s experience on the Great Plains in the 1850s. Just like the topic section, these “views” use multimedia when presenting the material.

This project openly shares their data and tools used in the making of this site. Under the data tab, you can download these resources for free. The authors encourage you to use these resources for your own research. The search bar for this project has several categories to limit your searches. These include types of document, the topic, scope, year, and publication.

Railroads and the Making of Modern America features four railroad-related projects from several graduate students in history from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Finally, this site offers teaching materials such as seminars, interviews, worksheets, and links to other teaching sites for university, college, secondary and elementary school teachers. Just like the sources provided in the data tab, these resources are free and open-source.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council for Learned Societies, Economic and Social Research Council, and the UNL Office of Research, this digital project uses digital tools and primary evidence to analyze social changes and impacts that relate to the development of the railroad. There is plenty of data here already, but this is a work in progress. The project team is currently working on adding documents and visual materials to the website to further help teach American history. This project is most suitable to those who want to research this topic or teach it in an academic field.

Review of Archives of Lesbian Oral Testimony

The oral history project I chose to explore for my review is a collection of stories about lives of women who are lesbians. These women experienced different trials and tribulations as they grew up in different time periods. They relate what their daily lives were like and the things they experienced growing up in often conservative communities.  I picked this one because I thought it would be interesting to hear accounts of lives that do not get regular attention in the mainstream history books.

The archive is housed at Simon Fraser University in Canada. It is maintained by their library’s special collections archive and is funded by grants from the Canadian Government. They have recently begun exploring digital media options for making their archive more participatory. The website has a huge collection of stories collected over many years from many different decades. This gives interested people a chance to hear about what life was life for these women in the 1930s and 40s and not just the post 70s era. Some of the stories were in an audio only format and some were recorded as audio and video. Both formats were of great quality and I had no trouble understanding the story teller in either format. The archive is well organized and has well documented metadata to aid research. There are labels for topics, places, and time periods. The researcher can click on a decade mentioned in the talk, or they could click on a place that is talked about in that segment. Different topics are also tagged in the metadata. There are labels for things like work, Sex and relationships, coming out, first kiss, and discrimination just to name a few.

I looked over several different files before I found one that I listened to at length. The different stories that I randomly clicked on were all over an hour and they all had multiple parts on file. Some of the recordings ran for a little more than an hour while others had over five hours of recordings archived. The stories were very detailed. The speakers went over what their lives were live from very young ages. I listened to a lady’s account about how she grew up in Utah in the 1940s. She shared details about how she was different from all the other kids she played with. Little things, like how she wanted an erector set for Christmas but her parents bought her dolls instead and how when playing house she didn’t mother her dolls but instead pretended to be the leader of a pioneer family fighting the wilderness for survival. She shared some very personal details about the girl she had her first sexual experimentation with as she was growing up. Her account of her marriage and the loneliness of being a housewife who did not relate well with the other wives in the neighborhood. The other stories I briefly previewed followed this pattern.

The stories I listened to were not heavily edited, although it could have used some touching up of some background noise. There was no conversation with the interviewer, it was just the speaker recounting her story. The only prompting from the interviewer was an occasional reminder after a break. It worked rather well considering the lack of dressing up. The stories were interesting and it was a great look into history from a different perspective.

Oral History Analysis and Review

I listened to the oral history of Celedonio Galaviz in the Bracero History Archive. The interview was conducted solely in Spanish. It was an extensive, unedited interview around an hour in length. The interviewer created a calm setting that permitted Mr. Galaviz to share his experience concisely and methodically. Mr. Galaviz would stop and ask the interviewer questions at times and she would answer to the best of her abilities. Several times, she provided context for her questions, or would clarify, so that Mr. Galaviz could answer appropriately. At other times, she would provide a personal anecdote which served two purposes: she built rapport with the subject and she gave Galaviz an example of what she was looking for in his response to her question. The informal structure of the interview provided the best atmosphere for Mr. Galaviz, who seemed rather reserved, to share his experience working in the bracero program.

Despite beginning the process of receiving his papers in the 60s, and ultimately becoming a United States citizen in 1991, Celedonio never learned to speak English. During the interview, he mentions that he was illiterate most of his life. His wife taught him the alphabet when he began the process of applying for citizenship. As he notes, Galaviz never received a proper education because of the political climate he grew up in. Galaviz was born in 1921 and his father took part in both revolutions that occurred in Mexico. The President of Mexico at the time, Porfirio Díaz, didn’t want to establish schools because a proper education would cause the people to rebel. Galaviz’s statements infer that a large part of his generation were set for failure. Working the fields seemed to be his only option, whether it was picking maize or beans in Mexico, or tomatoes and cucumbers in Spring Valley of San Diego County. Galaviz presents this information matter of factly, without including any thoughts of what could have been or if he has any regrets. Galaviz says that all the workers of the bracero program had el nopal en la frente, a Spanish idiom that suggests that one’s Mexican indigenous features are predominant. Galaviz’s comments suggest that learning English wouldn’t have made much difference, because they were just seen as workers, and wouldn’t have had the opportunity to venture or integrate further into American culture.

Towards the end of the interview, Galaviz asks the interviewer the purpose of her questions. Before he gives her the opportunity to answer, he mentions that he was previously contacted by people from the government, seeking to recruit him as part of a class action to provide workers with reparations. Galaviz says he is not interested, despite his children urging him to attend meetings. The interviewer mentions that the interview is just for historical context. Throughout the interview, Galaviz appears to be a no nonsense man, who views his time in the bracero program as just an event in his life that helped support his family until they could all be moved to the San Diego area. He had kind words to say about his boss, a Japanese man, who he fully respects. His response to what he would do on his days off (which were full of errands) further suggests that Galaviz just focused on the quotidian . Celedonio Galaviz’s oral history provides insight into the experience of a bracero worker without the added commentary of hindsight.

“Celedonio Galaviz,” in Bracero History Archive, Item #3125, http://braceroarchive.org/items/show/3125 (accessed February 16, 2019).

The Podcast Project

 Click here for the Podcast.

This was an amazing assignment. Mario and Kristine were great to work with. We were able to come up with a idea that we felt comfortable with and that we could execute in a decent manner. We chose a round table discussion style format because we did not have a lot of technical knowledge or experience in making a podcast and did not want to be overwhelmed in the editing process. The topic we agreed on was to look at historical walls and compare them to the current Presidential administration’s national security policy. We shared research duties and wrote our own segments. Kristine took on the role of host while Mario and myself were the historical experts. We each presented our segments and then answered questions put forth by Kristine. I took on the role of editor which was the most challenging part of the project, at least from my point of view.

I learned many things from this project. The main thing being how to listen to the sound of my own voice. I have always hated the way I sound on tape and it was a challenge to listen to me talk on the recording. I got real comfortable with the software real fast. I stitched together the 4 segments we recorded. I also edited out all the umms, awkward pauses, and random noises as best as I could. I am rather impressed at how easy the editing was. I feel that I could handle a bigger project and tougher challenge like moving chunks of audio around in the recording to make a better story.\

The next time I would work a little bit more on the recording volume. I think that was a weak point. The other thing I would do would be to script the questions out a little better. I thought the discussion time would carry on longer but we could not keep it going and I think we fell a little short in time. Overall I think we made a great effort and we really didn’t have any problems that caused drama or tension in the group. I look forward to doing this again.