Adventures in Digital History – Final Thoughts

Fredericksburg National Cemetery

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We are finally done! This semester, six other class members and I worked on digitizing a 500 page register and creating an interactive map for National Park Service and the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. We created a website through Omeka that contains information about the register, the map, and history of the cemetery. This project was long and very irritating at times, but we got through it and our final product is an accomplishment few can be proud of. Before I came to the class, I thought it was going to be a history class about the development and use of digital tools. That was not the case as we dived into a project that took us the whole semester.

We had to do a lot. We first had to digitize the register and naming conventions were a bit tricky to figure out, but we finished digitizing ahead of schedule. We then had to add names to the corresponding grave rows the soldiers were in on the Google map, then create a Google spreadsheet for all the known and unknown soldiers and match their grave and running numbers. Sometimes we got delayed due to either conferring with the NPS or facing certain technical difficulties. 

Our project aligned well with our project because we started out by digitizing the register and naming the pages accordingly to the requirements of the NPS and they were saved as TIFF files. Everyone was able to have a chance at scanning the pages, which was one of the personal goals of the contract, that everyone participates at every step of the project, so we all understood what stage we were at in the project and that we gain a new experience. The TIFF files were then converted to JPEG files, but then they had to be resized in order to be uploaded onto our Omeka site. In addition, we created a Google map of the cemetery based on the original map provided by the NPS. The map was divide into sections based on the original map and we added known soldiers to each row they were located in and then put the number of unknown graves in as well. We then had to construct a spreadsheet with all 15,000 entries of the register, so that it could be uploaded to Omeka. Almost all of us had to put in 75 pages, some less because they were either in charge of the map or the index pages. Once everything was uploaded, we could link the Omeka pages to their corresponding graves on the Google map and work on making the site more presentable. We had a few stretch goals, such as dividing the cemetery by state or make the map more visually appealing, but we were not able to reach any of them. Sometimes communication got a little off, but we were able to get back on track.

While this project caused to me to have a few late nights and moments of stress, this was a fun and educational project and I am very happy to have had the peers I had while working on this project. We struggled, but we worked together to figure out a solution and I couldn’t be prouder with the final product.

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