In mid-march, as skepticism and minimal concern over the impending Coronavirus epidemic began to mount, Digital Harrisburg began to develop plans to carry our work into remote-work context. I was never doubtful of the seriousness of the matter, but I was surprised all the same when Messiah announced that our date of return to campus would be pushed back several weeks, and subsequently to the end of the year. As strange as it has been, this development has reinforced the importance of the digital skills that I have spent the last year learning and has put the adaptability of their functions to the test.
The greatest worry I had was whether or not I would be able to continue at the same speed with my work on the ArcMap GIS project. ArcMap is a program that requires lots of processor power, and is only on computers in Messiah College’s Humanities Lab. That computer is 75 miles away from where I am now, yet I have been working on it using a remote connection to Messiah’s network. I spent my first few hours working to recreate what had already been done since the remote connection did not have the same file pathways established, but I am now very satisfied that the entire map has been recreated.
This sort of technology would’ve seemed futuristic a few years ago (and I’m still pretty mind-blown by it now) but through use of cloud-sharing and remote server connection, we have been able to overstep with minimal effort, an obstacle that would’ve otherwise been immobilizing.
All of this is not to say that it has been an entirely smooth transition. Digital work carries over fine, but an enormous part of what makes Digital Harrisburg tick is the way that those of us involved collaborate and work together both remotely and in person. What’s more, the groundbreaking of the Commonwealth Monument has been cancelled (it was to take place on March 25th). This symbolic gesture was meant to be a landmark in many people’s hard work and it feels anticlimactic that this has been cut short.
The entire purpose of the Commonwealth Monument Project, and Digital Harrisburg has always been to serve the people of Harrisburg, and those interested in it; to foster meaningful interactions between researchers and the public, and help people understand the history of the city they live in. Currently this is difficult, but I am grateful that though mildly impeded, Digital Harrisburg has not by any means ground to a halt. I for one will be resting, and learning in my quarantine, waiting for someday soon when the Public Humanities can be Public once again.