You Never Know Who’s Reading

Today at Church my new ward clerk told me that he’d read my blog. At least one professor reads my posts. He is my teacher and grades me on this. I never expected people to find this work outside of my niche group. So, I’m honored and at the same time know that I need to do good and better work.

It is not a betrayal of my family history background to candidly state that I see all of my fields “outside the box.” I like integration of all aspects of my life and prefer not seeing things in boxes with distinct edges. In a previous post, I mentioned that my philosophy sought to take the box, and look at it like a molten glass globe rather than as a bed-bug ridden cardboard box. There is nothing enlightening about limiting oneself outside of self-imposed laws or morals. And those are more like kite strings. A kite does not fly without a tether to the ground. Being grounded is literally the only way that a kite can soar. Wind is a tool, not the thing that keeps them afloat. I see that the same way in my life. I need the grounding and then I am a speck of magenta riding cirro-cumulus positivity.

The kite is a better analogy than balloons. Sure, balloons soar for a while, but then they lose their helium, their momentum dies, and they just float listlessly to the ground in a deserted effort at existence. Eventually spent, they are lucky if they get recycled into a completely separate form. More likely, they end up in a trash heap. Kites, on the other hand, must have the proper tether and balance in their tension for floating high. Without it, if there was no tether, they are less than balloons and do not hold themselves upright. Design matters as do the efforts of the being holding the string. Nice analogy. I see the kite string holder being wise and prudent in efforts. Instinctively knowing when to let rope out and when to pull down the kite so that it does not receive too much damage. Things like that. I’d prefer being on the ground versus getting wind-whipped far away where resisting the wind beats me up.

Because I know that people are watching and reading, it’s time to do as well as possible if it was not before, which it was then. Now there is not more pressure. There is more purpose. Academically, my work may or may not matter in the large scheme. I am uncertain how far the messages of this blog will go. However, I know there are faces that go along with readers. My work is not only reviewed by SPAMbots, but more particularly it has the review and criticism of people whose opinions matter in my life. I will be working with some of these people potentially for the rest of my life. I have high respect for the professor and I am expecting that I will have the same respect for those with whom I work in Church endeavors also. If any of my classroom colleagues read this work, their opinions matter and in many cases inspire these blogs whether they are of moral or ethical tone or whether they are in response to pages of notes that came as a response to a single question such as in the case of the Family History Basics series.

I am trying my hardest. Not to please everyone, per se, but to share whatever message comes out of these blogs in a positive manner. I cannot write stuffy monologues here, but I want to make clearer more concise messages. Blogs are journalism on spec with a voice that accompanies of who a person wants to become. Who a person is now may not be an accurate preview of the future self, but I theorize that whatever selectively intense experience befalls a person clarifies the personality as the written word develops for that particular person. As I write amid new allergic reactions this weekend, I am grateful for the good people and things in life and in learning that I have a new set of people upon whom I may find reliance.

I hope that we are all able to work together for goodness. That alone is the primary aim of this blog.

Best to all,

GenealogyDr

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Reviewing the West Point Foundry History and the Parrott Gun

This blog is part of examining the current literature concerning the West Point Foundry and the Parrott Gun. The last efforts of the author in attempted research, analysis, and cohesive conclusions on this story were back in 1999. As part of looking into a digital narrative for Digital Media class, it is the effort of this author to find what there is on the topic.

I already know the basic narrative: War of 1812 and the British burn the White House. This is not a good thing. American military efforts decide this will never happen again and choose to improve and increase the military technology and begin or improve production of American ordnance. In order to make sure that no one would try attacking the U.S. ever again, the war department sent emissaries to  the battle fields of the Crimean War and came up with new materials that hurt anyone who tried to attack us.

These efforts included the foundry at Cold Spring, illegally importing engineers from Scotland to make better munitions, and establishing ways of moving about ordnance following its development through New York Harbor.

Years later, the Civil War breaks out and production increases. Testing continues, and various people die in the efforts including a distant relative. Lincoln reviews the foundry during this time, although not concerning the explosion. During the war, the guns heat enough that they explode and there are complaints. Either during or after the war (I am a little fuzzy on this part because I have not looked at my research in a decade) a scandal comes out about the Parrott Gun and there are Congressional hearings on the matter.

Along with this is the economic depression that occurred at the end of the war when the government stopped buying munitions. The engineers formerly employed at high wages protest and the New York state governor unleashes Confederate POW’s on the townspeople. The results are that half the town burns down.

Fast forwarding more than a hundred years later, and the foundry became a battery factory for Duracell and the environmental toxicity is such that the EPA requires Superfund Site cleaning and the archaeologists discover otherwise buried artifacts in the silt. All of the archaeologist’s findings go to his alma mater, Michigan State, because he did not know who else to give them to. Dependent upon what published during the past ten years, I want to revisit this project paper and flesh it out for a monograph to turn into a documentary.

It has been ten years, however, since my last work on the topic and the Internet stops for no one. I have no idea what is out there besides someone else’s paper on the topic and various articles from military blogs. I have inherent interest and there is basic mono-graphic evidence existing, but there is always room to flesh things out with more details. Until they make the movie of it, I want to research this place and its people.

Oh My, Omeka! v. Oh, My Omeka!

Omeka is a site whose intention is cataloging and displaying virtual museum exhibits. I love exploring museums, and learning about the back end of them makes me appreciate the process. I look forward to opportunities working with the companies that make programs for museums. I feel an inclination away from traditional interpretation and more towards administration, management, or programming the computer technology necessary to make museums run efficiently. Interpretation is fine, and the research is fun. That said, there is presently no one collection or exhibit that screaming at me that it needs my efforts at hosting for accessibility to the collection. I am sure that I am unaware of collections that need help, but nothing is obvious.

The intention of my Omeka site was originally showing the Bohemian National Cemetery. That will take up a portion of the site, but the more I consider the four necessary levels that layer within the Omeka site, the more I see it like a roving storage cabinet mixed with museum jargon for creating a different way of seeing museums. It is great for theoretical organization and for posting Pinterest-style images, but when adding slide shows or storing URLs, the software is less than intuitive.

I tried playing with it and seeing what it can do. Four exhibits later and time spent, my site is no where near where I want it to be, but the basics show.

The interconnections of modern museums is great. Creating spaces for telling stories to engage audiences is good. Non-contextualized case-bound items that otherwise turn into dust collectors without easy access to cleaning is ineffective. Omeka feels like option 2 at this point in my process systems, but it morphs toward one the more I organize my collections and items. Each piece is a stand-alone item, and then, as if a committee decided on the design elements, it goes into one of a different layouts. I do not want to say anything bad about the design layout. I also have the free version of Omeka, which may give about as many bells and whistles as a New Year’s Eve throw-away noise-maker compared to the full brass band that may come when a person pays for the software.

I just want this to work right and it’s not there yet.

GenealogyDr Omeka Site

That said, I am using it as the beginning of a public roving research cabinet of curiosities which envelops my present research hobbies and obsessions. The exhibits area houses the Bohemian National Cemetery project, which also takes in the Eastland Disaster and maybe St. Luke’s Cemetery across the street. After this is content on the historical mapping app otherwise developing on this blog in bits. From there is my pet project concerning the history of digital family history where I show progression from analog to digital elements in the LDS sphere. There there is my case study in social history concerning the West Point Foundry with its multiple stages and levels.

I want to do more with Omeka, and know that there will be more uses for this the more that I develop what I have. Instead of starting with the items and the collections as is the normal case for any museum, my present interpretation runs backwards. I know what the exhibits are in the broad schema. Portions of the exhibits end up as sections, and then pages as I assemble more information, bring the best pictures possible together to demonstrate Omeka’s capabilities, and then focus on a display-case of sorts that is my research.

For me, this is how Omeka works. I have pictures that I will continue assembling in various stages, but my Omeka is simply about self-expression. I do not prefer to make myself into a literal display, but I need feedback and this is the easiest way that I see of receiving it. I sincerely hope and wish for kind treatment, but once something is public, heaven help you.

Genealogical Research Logs: Integration of Google Calendars

The class project for Digital Media before Spring Break was working on the Glessner House Museum website. While the copy of the site is good and updated, the visual representations need a Web 2.0 or 3.0 streamlining face lift. That said, for GHM3, the group inserted calendar and Google Maps functionality. Apps and embedded code structures are not hard in WSWYG editors. That said, the first commentator said that it was too light and the duplicate event calendar cluttered. No one else had a calendar, and it is easy enough to further streamline. That said, I thought about other applications of the calendar, and using WordPress to embed documents along with calendars and to inter-link between the two. That brought me to the inter-linked reference blog.

While there are literally thousands of genealogical blogs out there, I haven’t seen how they record their information. It’s as if no one thinks about how the person actually does the research, or the process. Sure, there are millions of databases on some heavy-hitting sites like A.com (Ancestry), Heritage Quest, FamilySearch, what have you. There are databases for keeping families together: RootsMagic, FamilyTreeMaker, Brother’s Keeper, the Master Genealogist, Legacy, Ancestral Quest, just to name a few.

Keeping track of how a person knows something is more self-conscious than this. The resource itself has to survive the inter-linking between the different databases, and as of this writing (I have not yet tried RootsMagic 5 but plan to do so soon) none of the database programs do the field justice. There’s no such thing as “one stop shopping” where the database is good enough for the necessary citation models and can keep track of the document by date, etc. There is at least one toolkit that is all about being an electronic filing cabinet. That’s great, but Windows already does that.

Maybe that’s needed for Macs, but I wouldn’t know in that regard. I am a late adopter of Mac basic technologies having had my last atrocious experience with them in 1998 while working on the high school literary magazine. The annual awards ceremony had most commonly heard phrases in the newsroom. “I HATE MACS!” came from me. Considering that Windows isn’t keeping up, I’ll have to look into them more closely, or else break down and buy a Chrome Book soon since I need something that’s more portable and lighter than my work laptop.

All of that said, I want to embed the Gmail Calendar into a Genealogical blog. Add the ability and necessity of uploading pictures of documents and then the text to explain said document. Although the second theory for that sentence is basically standard blogging with a separate application, the next part may make it a bit more complicated, and I’m sure that I’m not the first person to think about it. Adding the Google Calendar with a dynamic interface which GPS records where a person checked in for research: National Archives, Chicago, or the Newberry Library, for example. That needs to automatically be added to the research log aspect of this as also every document and which families apply to the given situation. This doesn’t look hard from the outset, and it seems completely obvious to anyone who uses research tools regularly. I want to find this in a program available today, but maybe it’s not there yet.

It will add to the phenomena idea of “Big Brother is Watching You” but when ISN’T “Big Brother” watching somewhere? A few years ago a news article focused on how that the average person is on a camera seven times a day. I hope not, because it is creepy, but the idea of someone wanting to mess with my business? Why would they? What sort of benefit would it give them? I agree with the tongue-in-cheek analysis of my old History 482 professor from undergrad who said that he almost wanted to get hacked. He definitely didn’t have enough cash for attracting a hacker, but the hacker could have his debt.

So there you have it. Make the research log into a virtual calendar with “check in” abilities to remember what repository you found what thing at, and then anything scanned goes there. I think that I may need to put a portable scanner on my Christmas list. Just something small that I can bring in a backpack or a smaller bag since backpacks are becoming less and less acceptable at repositories as the moral fabric of society erodes and shreds to nothingness. I can’t leave my backpack anywhere in Chicago without locking it. Never realized how valuable lockers were. Hated them in high school. I don’t use them in college. Potentially interested in a rolling backpack, though I’m also learning to literally carry a lighter load where I go. And I’m not into messenger bags for myself. They simply don’t work for me.

Best of luck to the beginning researcher. More basic family history blog posts to follow.

Notes From Cataloging Class

While working on the RDA overview, I started thinking about bar codes on books and wondered why didn’t the bar code have embedded standardized cataloging in it? A quick scan and the information is all there. This is not to say that catalogers become extinct at libraries. Far from it, employ more of them in diverse media fields, like music and within publishing houses if they are not there already. There is usually one of maybe tops of three catalogers in any given institution. At larger institutions, I have only heard of a maximum of five.

Change the structure a bit and pre-catalog in AACR2 and RDA. When the books or similar materials get to a library, scan the book, and if institutions need to tweak an entry for individual use, that is the functional role of the staff cataloger. We do not lose catalogers that way, we add to them. I am not sure whether this is already being done, but I see no reason it is not. For union catalogs, it still works.

Adding catalogers to staff of book sellers, DVD processors, CD processors, and etc. Even iTunes needs cataloging standardization and methodology to help with making content more accessible. These thoughts do not seem new. I am a new GSLIS student, and I am all about not reinventing wheels when it is not necessary, but in finding the fastest and the best methods possible for a given task. They are not always mutually exclusive endeavors.

I would love a systematic cataloging system utilizing Mills citations for sharing across the genealogical world. As of this writing, I am not aware of anything that comes close. Something inexpensive or free for home cataloging. And something that allows a Creative Commons use for archival uploads. Catalog an item once. Do it once (if possible) and do it right, no matter which institution it belongs to, whether NARA, a historical house, or a private collection. I want the Creative Commons ability for my crusade about digitizing as many documents as possible with keyword-search abilities to make searching easier, faster, and better. That said, cataloging should function in similar manner. Do it once and allow for downloads anywhere needed or the bibliographical information.

No future-proofing option exists now, but if the current motions for acceptance of RDA come true, and international standardizing bodies recognize it and start using it, then there is an obvious need to turn the AACR2 information into compatible work. Software with dual screen abilities, populated by OCLC Connexion or similar software should give current catalogers a chance to keep using their skills even as they merge over to the new fields. If someone has need to look up information backwards, they should also be able to do it. AACR/2 has been around for 30+years and all efforts in American academia up to this point revolve around this system, Dewey, Cutter, or a similar method with Library of Congress information. The idea is not to interrupt workflows, but to make for as seamless a transition as possible.

My class uses OCLC Connexion for double-checking basic bibliographical references and we do not add to the records. Seems like good reason as we do not know what we are doing, and wish not to disrupt the entries of those that do. AACR2 has a million rules to follow, also. Following the rules means that people get really good at proving their cases for things. Akin to lawyers’ court cases, or mathematicians’ proofs, or family historians’ Genealogical Proof Standard, everyone uses evidence as proof of things. In most places of life after introductory basics, a person is proving him or herself all the time. Very few people accept anything on face value unless tired, or the facts are not sufficient to alarm them.

Even God uses evidence, although there is a certain degree of faith attached. “Prove me now herewith saith the Lord of hosts” is part of a scripture asking for people to try out the promises that God gives. Try it, akin to trial, perhaps. Who’s trying whom? To be determined.

That aside, I want things to run efficiently. Let the para-professionals simply scan in books or other items as they come in. If there are back logs of previously cataloged items, then use the logs to help with populating the new material or union catalogs for distribution. There is always more cataloging to do. Whether it is new acquisitions, or archival items, or even simply cataloging Google images and items, it needs doing. Search terms help, but they’re not enough. An Advanced search on Google is almost impossible unless a person literally searches Google for it. And while there is a lot on Google, there isn’t everything there yet.

For those of us who did not grow up in the instant information-Fast Pass (thank you Disney) mentality of the Internet, there is still a lot of material left to cover and a lot not yet available online. Even for what is there, keyword searching does not always cover it, nevertheless cross-cultural information algorithms.

Hire more catalogers. Improve and increase software, and make sure that what is there is known.

Best to all from the Genealogy Doctor.

Do We Really Need Projectors?: Fiber Optics Fabric

I was half-asleep when this thought came to mind, but I think that it’s a good one:

Fiber optics fabric instead of projector screens. I was watching a lecture on cataloging after having only two hour’s sleep the night before while working on midterms and moving. Will continue moving, but the thought of “Why do we need a projector in the age of IPads?” came to mind. From there, I thought about how fiber optics are not new and why should we be confined to a hunk of metal whether or not it is delicately crafted? Why not have simply a large screen that does not need anything more than a power source and maybe a few hanger hooks or something similar? Make it of micro-thin fiber optics. According to this quickly googled MIT article, Snake Eyes, there is nothing that should keep anyone from making fiber optic fabric.

Essentially, the idea is to produce sheets of fiber optic fabric with embedded chips for producing the images and sounds needed to show, for example, video. This system would remove the basic procedures necessary in projection, and remove the cost associated as well. It could look either like a standard screen size, or make it as big or as small as needed.

My favorite thing for taking personal notes on are smaller spiral-bound journals. I do not want to have to pay $500 or something in that range for the metal idol of the IPad, but I also want the possibility of multiple screens at once. Make a product that moves with me, versus something where I have to adapt my thought processes to the machinations of the product. While the floppy pages could wipe out the industry associated with projectors, I see no reason for their removal as an industry. There are always more uses for any product. People just need to be creative in approaches for use.

End result is something thin, light, flexible, and if I had a few of them, why need an IPad? I could carry my portable floppy binder in my backpack and have all of my books and notes in one location without the metal associated. I like it. Any thoughts?