The Archives Behind My Favorite Wikipedia Article

I love Wikipedia articles. The weirder and more specific, the better. “William Walker (filibuster),” “New Jersey Generals,” “Crumhorn.”

But my favorite Wikipedia article of all time tells the story of The Emu War. I will let the Wikipedia editors of the page, principally user Nick-D, tell the story.

“The Emu War, also known as the Great Emu War,[1] was a nuisance wildlife management military operation undertaken in Australia over the latter part of 1932 to address public concern over the number of emus said to be running amok in the Campion district of Western Australia. The unsuccessful attempts to curb the population of emus, a large flightless bird indigenous to Australia, employed soldiers armed with Lewis guns—leading the media to adopt the name “Emu War” when referring to the incident. While a number of the birds were killed, the emu population persisted and continued to cause crop destruction.”

Photo from The Land Newspaper via WIkipedia: By Unknown – The Land Newspaper, Public Domain,

Continue reading “The Archives Behind My Favorite Wikipedia Article”

Walking Tour of West Fairmount Park

Memorial Hall and surrounding area (HABS PA,51-PHILA,265B–34, Jack E. Boucher, Photographer, April 24, 2003)

Almost two months ago now I posted my proposal for my Digital History final project and I’ve finally wrapped it up. First of all, here it is!

I was steered toward StoryMap.js as an alternative to my original Omeka concept (for several reasons) and it was a really good decision. The StoryMap format is designed for a linear tour like this and works pretty smoothly on mobile devices. While I wasn’t able to incorporate the original map artwork as I had planned, I was still able to include an image for each stop and some text. One unexpected perk of using StoryMap was that it uses Open Street Map and several enterprising individuals have mapped lots of hidden Fairmount Park stuff (old trolley paths, hiking routes, etc) onto the map. So if you are the urban explorer type, use Open Street Map the next time you’re venturing around Fairmount Park!

I think the power of walking tours is that the act of walking triggers different types of sensory learning and spacial reasoning. For instance, I learned during an Irish Literature course at Goshen College that James Joyce’s Ulysses makes more sense if you’re walking while reading it. We accomplished this by having two walkers flank a reader, guiding them as they read aloud.

By connecting various sites in a linear path, the tour makes some sense of what might otherwise simply be scattered dots on a map.

While the original WPA walking tour is great–and I plan on following a couple of the tours myself–it is woefully out of date,  and includes relatively limited pictures. Plus one of my goals for this project was to get this sort of a tour in the hands of folks whose primary tool is the smartphone. StoryMap achieves that and allows me to draw from public image sources to craft what I think is a pretty good tour.

One of my favorite things about the final product is that there are a whole lot of things included in the 1937 tour that aren’t there anymore, despite their seeming timelessness. The number of sculptures that have been relocated out of Fairmount Park would put many other city parks to shame. We often think of bronze and concrete as permanent, but they aren’t, and this tour is a sharp reminder of that. I hope that people who embark on this tour find themselves mulling how quickly the built landscape (and at this point all of Fairmount Park is built) can change. There used to be a lake that’s no longer there!

Crowdsourcing, or Can I Be a Part of the Conversation?

We’ve been covering quite a lot of territory in Digital History, blitzing through topics in an attempt to get a little taste of most of the kinds of digital projects that are out there. Last week we did a high-speed drive-by of various humanities crowdsourcing projects and were asked to dip our toe into one of them. I used this assignment as a reason to return to the little corner of Wikipedia that I have contributed to: the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL).

I’ve followed the exploits of this league since its origin in 2012, and found myself frustrated by the lack of a centralized reference site for the teams and the league itself. The league has taken leaps and bounds in the last year and a half to host rosters, past seasons’ results, and various statistics, but I wanted to make some of that data available on Wikipedia. In the past I made significant improvements to the AUDL page as well as pages for each season.

This week, however, I turned my attention to one of the few teams without even a “stub”: the Nashville NightWatch. I copied several features of other AUDL team pages (such as a season schedule and a table of past seasons’ records) but added very little information overall.

Nashville Nightwatch Logo

One topic I did cover, however, was the real reason I chose to create a NightWatch page: this year Nashville became the first AUDL team to include a woman (Jesse Shofner) on their roster, which is a big deal. One of the complaints of the ultimate community about the pro league has been that it is exclusively* men and the broader community is committed to gender equity. Shofner’s inclusion is a huge step forward for professional ultimate.

Jesse Shofner playing for the University of Oregon. Photo by Alex Fraser,

Plus, she’s incredible. Watch her highlight reel from a year ago:

Oh, and here’s the Wikipedia page: 

Omeka exhibit

This post is brought to you by my Digital History class and my determination to show my soft underbelly by putting early drafts of ideas on the internet. In class we’ve been tasked with assembling an Omeka-based exhibit, and I took the opportunity to think about my research paper from slightly different angles. My exhibit is essentially a collection of photos, old and new, of three of the villas in Fairmount Park, with brief histories of the sites and analysis of their preservation stories to this point. Check it out:

More Stuff in Fairmount Park

Bridge #704 in Fairmount Park. Photo by Bradley Maule of

The task: create a simple web map with at least eight points of interest. I elected to use this opportunity to work toward my Digital History final project, and picked eight spots in Fairmount Park that didn’t make the 1937 Philadelphia city guide walking tours of the park (or, in two cases, are used in substantially different ways than they were in 1937). I chose photos to accompany each point, historic photos except where the new use was what interested me. Here’s the map, but I’ll break down the points of interest below: Continue reading “More Stuff in Fairmount Park”

Digital History Project Proposal

I’ve reached the point in the semester where I need to have a good idea of what I’m going to attempt for my final projects and papers. So here is my (ambitious) proposal:

Belmont Mansion in stereo

I want to use the 1937 Federal Writers Project city guide to Philadelphia (or more likely simply the walking tours of Fairmount Park) as a jumping off point for a digital map similar to the Mall Histories project. Among the resources I hope to geolocate are Historic American Building Survey (HABS) images and drawings as well as stereoscopic views of Fairmount Park that are part of the New York Public Library’s online collections. I might also include contemporary photos to highlight attractions that weren’t present in 1937, such as public artworks and graffiti. The mansion called “The Cliffs” was not included in the 1937 guide, likely because it is off the beaten path, but its fire-damaged, graffiti’d shell is a major draw for urban explorer types, and before and after images could be really interesting. Continue reading “Digital History Project Proposal”

Visualizing Public History Participation in Gilmore Girls

This week in Digital History we were tasked with creating simple data visualizations to familiarize ourselves with free tools we’d learned about in class or found on our own. While we were pointed to many really interesting freely-accessible datasets, I wanted to work with something that connected to other things I’ve been working on. While I don’t have data to process on Chamounix Mansion, I do have a (very uneven, very flawed) spreadsheet of public history occurrences in ‘Gilmore Girls.’ And I needed to post something over at Stars Hollow Historical Society because I’d been letting the team down. So I made some charts about Gilmore Girls. My charts (one of which is above) and disclaimers and limited conclusions can be found here:

Digital Project Review: Clara Barton National Historic Site Interactive Experience

Clara Barton National Historic Site Interactive Experience. National Parks Service. No credit/about page exists. Accessed 27 January, 2017.

The Clara Barton National Historic Site Interactive Experience is a resource that allows elementary school students to experience Clara Barton’s home from a computer at school or home. Taking the form of a Flash presentation, the virtual tour allows users to pan their way around each room of the house and click on a few artifacts in order to see, read, and, in some cases, hear more about Barton’s home and life. There is also a section that provides activities (largely reading comprehension and multiple choice) for students to complete.

Screenshot of the interface, this is essentially full-size

Continue reading “Digital Project Review: Clara Barton National Historic Site Interactive Experience”

Introduction to Digital History

One of the courses I’m taking this semester is HIST 5152: Digital History and having looked over the syllabus and engaged with the first week’s readings, I’m both excited and a little intimidated. There are so many great resources and so many different digital tools, which is really invigorating, but there is also so much I don’t know how to do, which has the impostor syndrome rearing its head.

There are 4 blog entries required for this course, which will join this entry under the “Digital History” tag, as will any other posts I write on digital topics. You can quickly access all of the posts with that tag by clicking “Digital History” up on the top menu. I’ve made a link up there to access all of my blog posts for my “Managing History” class this past fall too.

Here are two examples of digital projects I admire:

Mapping Inequality is a powerful way to look at the legacy of redlining in American cities. It is interesting to see what has changed since 1937 in terms of various Philadelphia neighborhoods’ attractiveness but also to ruminate on the power of these “residential security maps” to shape the neighborhoods for generations to come, even as they described the reality before them.

Trump Syllabus 2.0 is not a flashy, visual resource, but connects users to a variety of resources–published texts, news articles, essays, films, podcasts, and even databases–within the format of a syllabus. The result is simple and yet provides windows into far wider paths of inquiry.