Recent Discoveries and Colloquations

I am still getting used to the fact that anyone outside of my undergraduate institution would find legitimacy in my foundation topical interest, family history/genealogy, in academia. While not a normally “acceptable field” within scholastic academic history from my impressions of the AHA Conference attendees and sessions, I am par for the course in breaking new ground. Like any student, the way that I think evolves and changes as I learn more. I feel like I learn something new daily that assists with explanations of my interests or in preparation for writing an article/book and app creation.

Recent discoveries:

Family History-Specific (Methodological practice and useful book.)

  • Genograms- While common in therapy for mapping family relationships, genealogists also have to map family relationships regularly as does anyone who normally deals with family interactions on a professional level. Whether researching Great Aunt Bergamoine (absolutely hypothetical examples; no basis in reality personally) and her husband, Fred, or their children, Boys 1, 2, and 3, there are a lot of complicated family dynamics. Before today, I saw symplistic examples of this in presentations. Nothing ever formally taught. Now I know the vocab term, and have friends in Psychology that gave advice of looking into Genograms: Assessment and Intervention. Added to Amazon wishlist.
  • The Unofficial Family Archivist– Mini disclaimer: I have not as yet (27 Jan 2012) read this book, but from the chapter summaries, links, and basic premise of the book it looks good. For friends asking for how to protect their documents, I want to recommend this as it appears to give answers to questions that I have not yet learned the answers to while in Library School. I may require this book someday for teaching undergrad courses on family history/genealogy in a general survey class on the topic. That would be fun.

App Research:

  • I am nervous about how much to say about the app that I want to make, but I will need to collaborate with at least two other universities than the two where I go to school in order to make this work. Suffice it to say, it’s smashing together already-existing data and maps, adding a GIS interface, Wiki mapping tags, and putting it into use for an app that allows for the lay person to access information about family from the document up, or basically to play your own version of Who Do You Think You Are? but in live time with current and useful sources. I don’t know anything about programming apps, but I know what needs to happen. Grew up with a programmer Dad. The demo vision is in my head, and explaining how it works is easy. Building the tool? Harder, maybe. Need help.

Article-Book Research:

  • I wrote my undergrad senior thesis on the History of Digital Family History. Heavy revisions four years later, and some soul gave me a shot as part of the LUC History Grad Student Paper Conference where I presented in the digital humanities panel. All of the back story is in previous blogs, so to bring things more to today’s interests, while in Organization of Knowledge class, I learned a little about the history of cataloging. After seeing a slide presentation barely skimming facts, proverbial light bulbs went off about a chapter on how things are or have been cataloged. I feel like I’m making a “Genealogy for the Uninitiated and How to Understand those That Do It” book. Have no idea of the title, but my professor is right. There needs to be more dialogue from those that do and those that don’t do it. Further, there is more discussion needed between the fields of public history, “regular” history, and anyone that works within a historical field who was not a part of AHA this year. Explicitly, museums, more archives, family history-genealogy, historic houses, and other places that feel like step-cousins from the same parental “genealogy” so to speak.
  • I am turning my History of Digital Family History into an article starting with the current paper. It may gain traction after finishing a possible poster proposal for AHA 2013. AHA 2012 taught me that anyone can do this, and a person does not have to be a PhD to start out. A PhD gets more respect, credibility, and the ability for more leverage in some forms of employment, but it also has breaking points. If you have a PhD, why aren’t you teaching? Honestly, I haven’t gotten that far yet, but there must be more than tenure track positions to vie for, even if I’m considering vying for adjunct professorships. I love teaching. I will not outline my experience in the topic at this time.
  • Although not typical for most historians from what I see of the field, maybe I am less uncommon than I think. I am willing to use any and all sources available, maybe. If it is an archaeological dig from an EPA Superfund site that was where a historical scandal took place, I am willing to find out more about the scandal, the resources, and dig in. Just because something is not within the confines of “normal historiography” doesn’t scare me. History is a creative process and a changing field. Sure, yes, you know the context of where you are moving into. If the wheel isn’t broken, no need to fix. However, if missing inner tubes, or if no one thought about the equivalent of vulcanizing rubber, let’s do something a little different and change it from wood to metal to something better, etc. I see no reason to ever be afraid of sources. I may not use them all since some things are not perfectly pertinent to research, and I can easily see historiography coming in to play to try to attack something that I consider precious or even sacred. My mind is open, but not so open that my brains fall out the other side. Critical analysis is a skill set absolutely necessary for anyone, and without it a historian cannot or should not function. Proper judgement meeting wisdom and culminating in something truthful is good. (Here, I wish that I understood like Solomon. But even then, I don’t recall the Bible mentioning how Solomon got so wise outside of it being a gift. Gifts are bestowed and sometimes earned, but it makes me wonder how Solomon got where he was. If someone wants to answer this thought process, fine. I haven’t had a chance to look up specific reference for the tale, but am pondering on my own.)

My background with the History of Technology:

  • My Dad is a programmer, so when asking stories in childhood about my Dad’s college background, I got tales of punch cards and he taught me about computers in places the size of rooms and the days of Bell Labs. The history of computing technology was a part of my household complete with electronics parts from age five and my first time trying out the new computer Dad bought. Plastic and metal cadavers of computer towers were normal in my house along with transistors, resistors, ports boards, Read/Re-Writeable E-Proms, and green plastic boards in all sizes and shapes. These went  along with Dad’s oscilloscope, soldering irons, and drafting tools for design back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. My father always said that unless there was a Radio Shack in a town, there wasn’t civilization. These days, I’m inclined to agree.
  • For me, if there wasn’t a Borders, there was a lack of civilization. The world went down the tubes earlier last year with Borders closing all stores.  Seeing the closed stores in otherwise pretty and trendy locations makes me think that a) I need to know more independent book stores, and b) paper books are still tremendously viable and need protection/enforcement, and use. By that I mean that a country whose educational system does not emphasize learning to think independently (read: high comprehension and critical analysis) for its citizens needs help. The Founding Fathers were more literate than the current civilization.
  • When I was a child, I tried BASIC and that didn’t work as well as I hoped. In high school, I learned extremely basic html during the beginning of Internet coding. Now, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of the languages and codes if I tried, but I’m not sure that I have to know everything to create an app. I want it to run on Androids as well as Macs because I own an Android, not an i-Something. But in any case, if it doesn’t work from the outset on a regular computer, it probably won’t work as an app. So, back to history of cataloging.

After all of that, I need to get back to/on homework. It makes it easier to download my brain onto something every once in a while, and although I sincerely doubt that anyone is interested in reading all of this, maybe I can do some good. I do not know whether these opinions will change but I feel like a ship with the prow of the bow plunging ahead through semi-stormy waters. Who I am at the core does not change, and my path feels reasonably clear. How I get there and make it through the storm is anyone’s guess, but I plan to move boldly and as nobly forward as I am able to do.


One thought on “Recent Discoveries and Colloquations

  1. Hi Amanda,

    Thanks for mentioning my book “The Unofficial Family Archivist.” As a somewhat a-typical practicing archivist for two decades, I was happy to read this post and to see that you are thinking “outside the box.” I think there are many a-typical history types out there. 😉 I look forward to reading more of your ideas.

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