Project Update – Keeping Up With the Details

This week has been a busy week for Weaving Our Story 2.0. In terms of adding to the archive, students are neck deep in the final stages of research.  Notable stories from this year include a connection to the U2 Incident and a Russian Jew who fled service in the czar’s army only to become a highly decorated soldier in the U.S. Army during both World Wars.  Another student is working on telling the story of Cambodians fleeing the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge.  Wrestling with the question of history, memory and commemoration, a young historian is unpacking her connection to a distant relative honored for her ‘bravery’ during King William’s War. Using the Raid on Deerfield resource has helped her to understand this time period from a variety of perspectives.   Finally, another student is solving a history mystery as she and her grandmother try to attach meaning to a disparate set of photographs and artifacts from German and American soldiers collected during her great-grandfather’s service in the 70th Infantry Division during World War II.

Students have been encouraged to bring in photographs, letters and other objects to photograph for use in the documentaries, and I plan to use them alongside the films as additional resources in the archive.  I also plan to use this material as part of a lesson on the concept of metadata and how their desire to constantly “search it up on Google” really works.

As far as the digital project goes, I have spent a good bit of time figuring out logistics.  I’ve adopted a new domain for the revised project to make the archive, blog and scalar site seem to work in a more unified fashion.  However, I need to migrate the items in the original Omeka archive into the new one. This week I cleaned up the metadata in the original archive and tried to mirror/tweak the set up for the item metadata in the new archive to be ready to receive the content.  I am aware that there is a plug-in to do a bulk upload into Omeka, but there doesn’t seem to be a simple way to export the data from one Omkea archive to another that I understand.  I’ve looked through several forums, but again, it seems to require more “back-end” know how than I have.  I decided it will be simpler and less time consuming in the long run to migrate the items and metadata one-at-a-time using the tried and true method of “copy-paste” while both the archives are open on linked monitors.

My biggest priority for the coming week is to finally concentrate on obtaining signed permissions statements from students whose work I used in creating the first archive and exhibit.  The school attorney was slow in getting on this so I secured verbal agreements first.  My second priority is to reach out to the Class of 2018 who will be graduating in only a few weeks.  I probably have the most chance of success of securing permissions from them since it is still a face-to face relationship.  I also need to reach out to parents and students of alumni in order to secure permissions from students who have already graduated; however, I realize this may be less fruitful and require more time.  Keeping track of contacts and permission form records in an organized system is also a priority.

While I feel hopeful that the structure and design of the digital project will work, I am also beginning to realize that project management is a huge issue.  The project is complex both in the resources that students are using to compile their films as well as in how the various platforms work together to present those assets.  They will need to create metadata for their items, and I need to design a streamlined, pre-populated Google form to help them keep the metadata “clean” for the archive.  The project is complex in the number of items and permissions I need to secure to build the digital project, and I need a system to manage all of these things on an ongoing basis.  I feel a bit like I’m with Harry Potter in the Gringott’s vault looking for the right horcrux, only to realize that each item replicates itself each time it’s touched.  I may be drowning in the details.

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