Decisions, Decisions: Update from Last Time

I took an “I” in the class. I fell down in that class and could not get back up again during the semester. At least, not for my personal projects. Moving during Spring Break was catastrophic for my assignment course load for that class even if it was extremely beneficial for me emotionally.

It took forever to choose the right project, but my West Point Foundry paper from 2000 is the right thing for this. Between Omeka- ouch, painful, painful, to creating a 3 minute movie using iMovie, I need to finish this class and get on with my life. Especially since it feels like my life is getting on without me lately.

I work for one of my universities and am looking for a second job to make sure that I hit 40 hours a week. Can’t live on less, honestly. When fall semester comes around, I will be starting a new program also, Digital Humanities in a new program at one of my schools. It’s one school’s answer to the need of programming in humanities work and follows in the steps of the great pioneers of GMU, NYU, University of Nebraska, and basically anyone who is trying to keep up over the past fifteen years.

Personal thought process after attending AHA in January is THATCamp is literally the only way that history survives. Although traditional monographs are good and they establish a doctoral student as a true candidate starting on the way to tenure, I sit at this moment in a Barnes and Noble in my town roughly five feet away from a shelf of monographs with historical leanings.  When something that anyone writes hits this shelf it is a privilege, but a person does not need a PhD to do it. David McCullough is not Dr. He’s just plain good and he writes excellent material. Reading The Johnstown Flood got me first interested in public history way back when. Now, I am more interested in defining the wheel rather than re-inventing it.

The likelihood that there of a nuclear war that takes out all electricity really is not that high. People, no matter how psychotic, typically want to live when it comes down to it. That defined, there is a reason that two rows over from United States History, Military History, and World War II there are Graphics & Web Design, Apple & Everyday Computing, Windows & Office Applications, and Programming. There are not enough monographs on family history for people’s consumption. However, monographs are not where many people look for this sort of information. Online or die. Hence, Economics and Accounting & Economics are the next shelf.

I feel like I am part of a very small little niche that encompasses the whole world. I know that there is hunger for the topic. Family is the basis for society when it’s not completely blown to bits. So many people want to know the answers to who they are, why they are here, and where they are going in this world or have similar thoughts in contemplating the meaning of life. That is what I want to do. Answer that question in a practical, uniquely-applicable approach, one person at a time. We’ll see what happens.

First, however, back to West Point and getting the basic archive, storyboard, and otherwise movie trailer made. Wish me luck.




Flickr Makes Cemetery Research Easier

I will admit to a bias against Flickr until recently. Considering Yahoo a part of the old Internet regime of the middle 1990’s, I fought joining or using it and never cared that much about anything to do with it. I joined Pinterest, another photo-sharing site, before joining Flickr.  As usual in my media biases dealing with Internet applications of late (meaning Twitter), I was wrong. Dead wrong, literally.

My recent research brings me to looking into a cemetery dealing with the Eastland Disaster.

eastland disaster picture

Eastland Disaster picture from 1915

Most of the people interned from this disaster are at Bohemian National Cemetery off Foster near Jefferson Park. Although I pass by the cemetery semi-regularly, I have no relatives from the Midwest that I know about and thus have absolutely no idea why this cemetery draws me in. I can think of theories on the topic, but until I physically get there and try to make sense of it, I’m not postulating here yet.

Besides this interest, I happen to love cemeteries. I’m not a goth, and I have no funky-odd intentions towards cemeteries. I’m a librarian by current training. All that I’d ever want to do with them is to write information, make sure that it was accessible to everybody, make sure that the gravestones didn’t sink so far that they aren’t read-able (difference between readability and legibility) and leave the dead alone. Pretty harmless stuff dealing with organization of information and sharing it. That, and cemetery artwork is just plain cool. For my intentions, there is nothing bad about it.

I get to Flickr due to a school assignment. Fine, I’ll do it. Previous to this, I read articles on how others used Flickr in annotating historical pictures. While this was an intriguing read, the catalog was in French. Sorry, I don’t read French. I can speak/read  Spanish, and very basic Russian, Japanese, Korean, and some Portuguese pronunciation, and can read Latin and basic Hungarian-Latinized script. I’m learning German while writing this in English, but French… not there yet. So while interesting and sounding like a great idea, I did not want to look up the project even though I had heard of it and the Library of Congress’s Commons is very well-known and reputed.

With this background in mind, I got on Flickr being an overly late adopter. The first group that I see on the home page is Graves and Tombstones. Now we’re talking. A few searches later, and presto: Eastland Disaster victims and Bohemian National Cemetery pictures arrive with beauty and sadness. A few flashes of Dr. Who’s Weeping Angels also went through my mind while looking at the pictures. Who are these people? What were their lives like? Prior to this, I already looked up the Disaster and found books on the subject, the Society which deals with this, and that there will be a Broadway-style play coming out on the disaster in June. It is a Chicago Disaster, like the Iroquois Theater fire, which led to changes in safety laws for the better. That said, it is hard to make beauty from disaster, but that is the best way of celebrating the deceased. And now to find out why that cemetery pulls on me. Mysteries continue.

The Book That Started It All: My Impetus into Public History

Recently, a professor asked what book we would recommend/ what got us started in the Public History field. Here’s my story:

The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough, available on

The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough, available on

My book was The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough.

During undergrad, I kept asking the teacher of my open-paper topic History 200 class for more ideas of where to find resources, direction, etc. on a paper I wrote about West Point, NY. He finally told me that if I didn’t read The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough that he would fail me for the class. Although it was not required reading, he thought that it was a similar book to what I was researching for the topic and essential to my learning. Reading that book changed my life. Originally written in 1968, The Johnstown Flood was McCullough’s first book. I have noticed that writers put their whole hearts into their first book depending upon the topic/nature of the book.

While learning about the people involved in this major national unnatural disaster, I felt like I was watching a movie. Although the “movie effect” normally happens when reading good books, nothing had been so clear in my mind and dug into my soul and brain as this book had. I could see the wall of brackish water rolling down through the valleys in Pennsylvania and I was scared for these people even though they already died more than a hundred years before my time. In my mind, I was there, but I was the lucky one who did not have to live through it directly.

That’s a big part of why I chose to go into Public History as part of my career aspirations. Sure, I’m in love with historical house tours, and I am an experienced family historian. Honestly, I can’t get enough of this field. But reading McCullough made me change perspectives. I related to it due to the project, the nature of the text, and its similarities in flow and demeanor to a favored ecclesiastical text. I fell in love with a tragedy that left me awed and motivated, perhaps for life.