Reflecting on Digital History

As our City Beautiful project comes to a close, we reflect on the time we have spent on the project and what we have learned throughout the course. There have been ups and downs, but the course overall has been a great learning experience.

Allow me to start off by saying this course was not what I expected. I expected textbooks, pencils and notebooks, and what I got was laptops, census records and hundred-year-old documents. Though unexpected, the surprise was a pleasant one and I was excited to take a class that  varied from a traditional classroom setting.

When we started the City Social portion of the project, I realized was I not going to be able to sit back and relax – I was going to have to put a lot of effort into the work. Digitizing 2000 census records seemed daunting, and I did not yet understand the point of the project. However, upon the

A letter written by Mira Lloyd Dock herself
A letter written by Mira Lloyd Dock herself

completion of City Social, I quickly saw that the work was not in vain – it was exciting to see all our work coming together, and the practical applications of the work were becoming more and more apparent.

Following the City Social portion came City Beautiful, which was the portion I was more excited about. It was an entirely new experience for me – I had never been to an archive before, and the idea of working hands-on with original documents was much more intriguing than trudging through census records. Getting to see original things like letters between people like Mira Lloyd Dock and J. Horace McFarland was extremely interesting, or articles from old newspapers related to the City Beautiful Movement, made the overall experience a much more fulfilling one.

Our City Beautiful Omeka site
Our City Beautiful Omeka site

For me, the best part of the course was seeing the entire project come together. Bringing everyone’s work together on our Omeka site and seeing the fruits of our labor, as well as knowing that people are going to benefit from our work made the entire project worth the work. Even though it was a lot of work, finishing the project made everything worthwhile.

If I could do it over, I would not hesitate to take this course again. It was a brand new experience, but definitely an exciting one. I am looking forward to seeing the future of City Beautiful as future students continue and improve upon our work.

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