Much Needed Perspective

In recognition of the 183rd anniversary of the Siege and Battle of the Alamo, residents of San Antonio are reminded of what makes this city so popular. Lifelong residents of this city, are introduced and introduced again to the defending heroes who fought for our city’s emblematic historic site. In celebration of that heroism, historians for the Alamo recently provided San Antonio residents with an opportunity to view the Texas Revolution through a new lens, one based upon new evidence and research. 

For this panel, Alamo historians brought together three individual perspectives on the familiar story of the Alamo. Dr. Miguel Soto, Ph.D., Professor of Mexican History at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, reimagines the story of the Alamo from the perception of the Mexican Army. Dr. Andrew Torget, Associate Professor of History at the University of North Texas, examines the story of the Alamo while emphasizing the connection between the Texas Revolution and the forthcoming Civil War, while Dr. Gregg Dimmick, a medical doctor who is an avid Alamo enthusiast provided a layman’s but still well-versed perspective.

Most intriguing among the things mentioned by these speakers were the ideas of looking past the traditional perspective of history, an idea growing among historians today. In particular, I found the theories of Dr. Torget most interesting. His connection of the Texas Revolution with the Civil War was highlighted by a discussion of por-slavery feeling among early settlers of the Texas Republic. Torget discusses this topic in-depth in this book, Seeds of Empire: Cotton, Slavery, and the Transformation of the Texas Borderlands, 1800-1850

In an age where differences in interpretation and opinion are not popular, voices which parallel Dr. Soto, Dr. Torget, and Dr. Gregg are much needed. It is my opinion that an absence or unwillingness to acknowledge the opinions of other historians of varied levels, disables us as enthusiasts from fully producing a complete history.  

Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory – A Digital Review

Sherman’s March and America: Mapping Memory. http://shermansmarch.org/. Directed by Anne Sarah Rubin (Professor of History, UMBC). Received production assistance from the American Council of Learned Societies’ Digital Innovation Grant Program, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the Dresher Center for the Humanities. http://shermansmarch.org/about/credits/. Reviewed on April 18, 2019.

As the title suggests, this site maps out General Sherman’s infamous march across Georgia near the end of the American Civil War. Starting off, the homepage is a single image of the title and map. Title aside, the homepage has very little to offer in hooking the audience. The map section features five different types of perspectives: Sherman, civilians, tourism, soldiers, and fictional (which consists of historical songs). Each type has a different map aesthetic but all feature pins that point to interesting events. Clicking on a pin opens a brief description of events that occurred at that location, usually accompanied by an image. Some of these pins only have an audio clip, although it takes a few seconds to open, and there is no way to pause or move the clip forward or backwards. Unfortunately, the map is a work in progress. Many of these pins are blank, especially the “tourism”, “soldiers”, and “fictional” maps. I believe that more images and more primary sources could benefit this site, as only a small number of images are displayed. There should also be some indication as to whether the pin is a text entry, video or an audio file. The site has a small bug in which clicking and exiting out of the Covington pin on the “civilians” map causes it to freeze. On a smaller note, each popup could have an exit button to make it easier to close, as some people may click the back button on their web browser which takes them back to the homepage.

Aside from the map, the site has a blog that gives first-hand accounts of Sherman’s march. These include memoirs of Sherman and diaries of soldiers and civilians. While this is a nice addition, I wish there was more background context to these posts. It would also be nice to have the primary source attached to each blog post.

The site is said to be completed by November 15, although no year is given. It is unclear as to when this site was last updated, but it seems recently because of the copyright. This site is aimed towards a large public audience, as the author points out that they do not wish to fill the viewers with text-heavy documents. While more work needs to be done, like a more engaging homepage or more pin entries, the site is making progress, and has the potential to attract a wider audience.

Digital Review 3: The Well Read President: Examining the Reading Habits of Theodore Roosevelt

After looking through the American Historical Associations website I noticed an interesting excerpt. The American Historical Association conducted a conference in the beginning of 2018 that included a section called, “Digital Projects Lightning Round.” There were about 15 separate digital history projects that reigned from Omeka sites to text mining. Of these separate sites, the one that intrigued me the most is, “The Well Read President: Examining the Reading Habits of Theodore Roosevelt,” by Ms. Karen Sieber at Loyola University in Chicago, IL.

Her Project begins with a Word Press site that explains how she came to wonder and in turn research this topic. She understood that Theodore Roosevelt throughout his life is an avid reader and an author himself to many manuscripts. Sieber saw the opportunity for a truly interesting text mining project that can show influence through Theodore Roosevelt’s political career. She creates a visual timeline of teach book that Roosevelt is believed to have read during 1901-1904, his first term as president. The timeline also includes a virtual bookshelf that holds a selection of these books through themes. Sieber’s main purpose and thesis of the digital project is to show Roosevelt’s connection to the books that he read and how they shape his diplomatic decisions as well as his family relationships.

Once entering the timeline, the user is presented with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt himself that explains his love for books and how they connect with the idea of choice. The quote is presented with an image of Roosevelt sitting in his own personal library at home. The user is then asked to click onto the next slide that explains everything that is written in paragraph two while also including that each book in the virtual bookshelf can be read for free with a link through the book title. The slide show continues and begins with the first book on October 12th, 1901 being, “Uncle Remus.” An image of an illustration within the book is placed next to a short paragraph that explains President Theodore Roosevelts connection to the book being a duty as a father. This slide show goes on and proceeds in this arrangement through the timeline of his first term. Looking at the timeline, which is placed above the slide show, the user can interact with it. The user is allowed to skip around the timeline and choose which book they would like to learn more about and the books relationship to the former president. On the left-hand side of the timeline, each book is placed in a group of themes. These themes include, Father, President, Intellectual, Historian, and Outdoorsman.

Some points that do need to be addressed are the user interaction with the themes and the number of books on the timeline. The timeline could be improved by allowing the user to choose one of the assortments of themes to look at only a certain range of books. This is an organizational suggestion that could make it easier for the user to understand the concept. The other quick concern is that there is no scroll bar to move through the timeline making it harder to see the full scope of it. There are a good number of books on the timeline, but it does seem contradicting when the introduction explains that Theodore Roosevelt would at many times read a book a day. This timeline only places a handful of books a month, this may just be due to lack of resources. One may not be able to know each, and every book read by Theodore Roosevelt during this time. Overall this digital project is very exciting, and I believe is the best way to show this type of research. This research is made to best be done as a digital project. https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1XxQsrOujJ-jtnzdjaF15oXhvXN4pJUurFnxf8_Xsc6w&font=Default&lang=en&timenav_position=top&initial_zoom=2&height=650