The class over Digital Public History has been an engaging and thought-provoking journey where I have grown throughout the semester and obtained new skills to convey history to the public. The process of creating my Digital Public History prototype emerged from my interest in the Radical Republicans and the Fourteenth Amendment through the lens of my undergraduate thesis at William Jewell College during Fall 2017. Throughout spring 2021 I was forced to change my way of thinking and writing from scholarly academic prose to writing for the public. I believe that Omeka classic is the best medium to create a digital public history exhibit because of its capabilities with uploading and displaying primary sources as well as functional plugins to create data visualizations such as geolocation. The process of building the prototype began with installing 23 plugins to enhance the visitor experience and guide the reader through my exhibit. I continued with uploading 106 items sorted into 7 collections ranging from text-based sources, hyperlinks, and visual pictures to convey the history of Reconstruction to the public through current events such as the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage in 2015.
The work of doing Digital Public History involves a different mindset of patience, flexibility, and collaboration. I believe that there is a level of patience in doing Digital Public History beyond uploading sources and research. This is a new state of mind that revolves around serving the public and writing in such a way as to interest the public to keep reading as they explore your digital history prototype and my Omeka exhibit. The flexibility involved with doing Digital Public History consists of changing my mindset to write in such a way that will interest the reader and the broader public. Digital Public History is public-facing and intended for public consumption. There is a process involved with changing your academic mindset toward one that will encourage and interest the public to keep going through your site to learn about history. Digital Public History is a collaborative process. Its meaning and purpose are derived from collaboration with other people such as friends, family, students, and coworkers. Digital Public History is best when it is shared with a wide variety of individuals before the final project is finished. To this day I still prefer the collaborative group discussions and dialogues that inform the public.
I have grown, improved, and learned a lot about Digital Public History and about myself throughout this course. I have learned how to be more flexible with writing for a public audience as well as how to hook and engage my audience through digital media and technology. This class has further increased my interest in digital public history, writing for the public, and creating data visualizations to educate and inform the public. My prototype will serve as eventually a larger site depicting the comprehensive Reconstruction history from 1863 to 1877. An additional concept I learned was how to hook the audience. For example, Reconstruction history is very interesting to me but it may not interest the public or someone who has not studied history in many years. Therefore, I had to frame my Digital public history project through the lens of the recent United States Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges and the question, why Justice Kennedy came to his decision to write for the majority? The framework allowed me to give the public a taste of history while persuading them to keep reading and learning about history to the question. I look forward to applying the ideas, concepts, and skills behind this course toward my eventual goal of working within a museum or archive through the Federal Government. My finished Digital Public History Project is located at the link below.