Our portion of the Century America project began with the simple mission of researching the FSNS and the town of Fredericksburg during the Great War, and creating a digital project from what we discovered. The project has been a great success, a rewarding experience, and an exciting fulfillment of our contract.
To complete both the UMW site and the overarching home page for the Century America project, we used each of the tools originally planned, including WordPress, Timeline JS, and MapsAlive. We completed each aspect of the contract on schedule, with the exception of minor tweaks and a few technical challenges with the map that created delays. Structurally, the finished website very closely resembles that which was outlined in the contract months ago. The way we decided to provide citations changed as we were able to start using the site, but all menus and main pages were created following the format outlined in the original contract. Sub-categories within the Fredericksburg and FSNS pages saw some changes, as we got a better sense of exactly what material would make the strongest argument. We determined not to use the Eastburn diary as its own page, but to incorporate it into the introduction to the Fredericksburg site because its timeline content was less suited to a full narrative. Due to lack of primary source material, we also followed the same method for the influenza section.
For the technological aspects, the interactive map saw the greatest evolution as we learned more about the capabilities of Maps Alive and how the program could communicate with WordPress. In talking with representatives from Maps Alive and working closely with the invaluable DTLT, especially Ryan Brazell, we were able to self-host and embed an interactive, visually appealing map to the main Century America site, through which visitors will navigate to each individual project. The “Voices of the Great War” section also developed over time, and in the end became one of my favorite aspects of the UMW site. Using widgets in a custom sidebar, we were able to highlight some of the fascinating stories and quotes from our research that could not constitute one of the main sections of the site. In some places, these images were even linked to digitized newspapers to allow visitors to explore more of the archival material for themselves.
We did not strictly follow the division of labor in all aspects, although honestly we never had intentions of doing so. However, we maintained a consistent, effective, and enjoyable group dynamic throughout the project, in which all four team members worked on virtually all aspects of the site together. Generally speaking, Jack and Leah provided more technical support, especially when coding was involved, through I was primarily responsible for the technology behind the map. Julia and I were primarily responsible for the Voices of the Great War sections. All four members made significant and equivalent contributions to text writing and editing and to the overall design and creation of both sites. All majors decisions were made as a group, and each person made significant contributions to the conceptualization of both sites as a whole.
Our greatest weakness was in the promotion of the site, which to date has been minimal, but will continue more extensively now that it is complete.
Conceptually, I believe both sites fulfill their missions, and I am very pleased with the finished product. We sought to create a digital history project that would serve as an online, educational exhibition, of interest to locals, students and alumni, and anyone interested in the Great War era. The site is engaging both in visual appeal and in content, and requires little to no background in World War I history to be enjoyable and educational. I have been fascinated by the stories of our school and its community during this time period, and am truly excited about how we have been able to present them to the public.