Wrapping Up the Women’s History Garden Project

Image Source: Alex Shehigian

by Alex Shehigian

For part one of this story, click here. For part two, click here.

As the semester draws to a close, it is time to provide a final update on the Women’s History Garden project. It’s been an incredible journey working with the Civic Club of Harrisburg and the Messiah University Humanities Fellows and I’m excited to share our results.

At the time of the last update, we had completed the first phase of the project. All the plaques for the six honored women were in place and were presented at the Sneak Preview event at the Civic Club on October 30, 2022. Since that time, our team has created audio stories to accompany these plaques. Throughout November, we conducted thorough research and created detailed scripts narrating the stories of each woman, past and present. These audio stories provide richer biographical details than the descriptions on the plaques and capture the values, hopes, and legacies of each woman in a more personal way. The content was recorded at the Hostetter Chapel studio at Messiah University, with narration by Humanities Fellow Camryn Wimberly and PennLive Opinion Editor and Civic Club Secretary Joyce Davis.

We used Adobe Audition to edit our audio stories. Image Source: Alex Shehigian

Next, we fine-tuned the recordings using Adobe Audition. We added nature sounds from around the Messiah University campus to keep consistent tranquil atmosphere of the garden. We also incorporated music at the beginning and end of each story for a more polished experience. We presented our final product at a virtual symposium on December 12, 2022. Now, the Civic Club can add the six audio stories to their website so that visitors will be able to enjoy them when the Women’s History Garden officially opens in March of 2023.

I have learned so much about the practice of public humanities over the course of the semester.  Through the research stage of the project, I saw firsthand how digitization has made information much more accessible to the researcher. Without Newspapers.com, I would not have had access to the newspapers I used to reconstruct the historical women’s stories, some of which were from Virginia, from the convenience of my personal computer.

This project has also demonstrated the value of collaborating with individuals of different skill sets. Our team of students included a digital media major, an English major, and me, a public history major. We each brought different knowledge and skills to the project and helped one another with different areas that related most closely to our own areas of expertise, such as sound editing, writing, and historical research. Moreover, partnering with the Civic Club has been a valuable exposure to community engagement. I learned how to apply my specific skills to the Civic Club’s vision and to balance frequent communication and feedback on my work. Ultimately, it is my hope that our team has contributed to the presentation of history in Harrisburg in a meaningful way this semester by telling the stories of these incredible women.

The posters and audio stories for each woman are included below:

Gabriella C. Gilbert

Mira Lloyd Dock

Mary C. Stackpole Audio Story

Cate Barron Audio Story

Rafiyqa Muhammad Audio Story

Contrena Baltimore Audio Story

Alex Shehigian is a sophomore at Messiah University. She is majoring in public history and minoring in the digital public humanities. She is also an Archives Office Assistant at the Messiah University Archives and volunteers with the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association archives. You can read more about her here.

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