Jenny Reeder


Thinking about audience…
November 29, 2006, 1:27 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

rs-tania-agnes2.jpgI used to think I wanted an acadmic, scholarly website for my project in this class. And I do want scholars to visit my website for information on Mormon women’s history. But I also want average, general population-types to find my website helpful and intriguing. I gave a short lecture on Mormon women’s history in Harlem last winter, and was amazed at how interested the women there were. I hope this website would be a place where they could find more information.

The concept of audience is certainly an important one as I plug through my own website ideas. I like what Rosenzweig and Cohen say about used and useful. I would add to that useable. In preparing my website on Mormon women’s history, I found a very similar one embedded in the BYU library’s website. However, that site is geared toward a particular BYU audience, requiring a BYU id and password to really access documents and certain databases. I want mine to be more open and accessible, used by a more general audience seeking more general information. Thus while their website focuses on providing library information, mine will focus on providing general information: biographies, a timeline, etc.

I think marketing is also valuable. I’ve been asked to sit on a committee that sort of explores Mormon women’s history, and through various actitivies (conferences, symposia, etc.) I think I can both promote the use of my site but also invite people to participate in my biography wiki. Links to other websites, such as BYU’s, will also promote traffic.

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With a Little Help from our Friends: Open Sourcing
November 20, 2006, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I am intrigued by John M. Unsworth’s borrowed phrase to describe the o-decade: with a little help from our friends we can utilize open sources, open systems, open standards, open access, open archives, open everything. I plan on combining several different programs to create my little website: CSS, a little Flash, and little Javascript, with a timeline borrowed from Simile, a wiki, and eventually, one day, several documents and images from various sources. It’s sort of a return of the patchwork quilt.

And yet with all this sharing, I am worried about copyright and fair use. While Cohen and Rosenzweig seem fairly optimistic about the stretches of fair use of images and such, suddenly I’m worried about being fair and appropriate as I pool items for my website. I have pirated images from the LDS Church Archives and BYU’s Special Collections from previous projects. I would love to use them, but I don’t want to get in any kind of trouble. My images are all pre-1923, which places them in open domain, but I recognize and understand the proprietary nature of repositories, and I respect both of these archives, especially because I consider their employees my friends and don’t want to take advantage of them in any way. I suppose to play it safe I should just email and get permission. I just want to be quick and easy and fair.

I’ve been made aware of a BYU website in creation which on the surface seems to be exactly what I wanted to do with my own. However, after careful scrutiny, I have found that I want to avoid a few of the issues raised with this one. First of all, the site is so embedded within the larger institutional site that a Google search will not easily find it. Secondly, it seems to be for a BYU audience as internal links to catalogs and online documents require a BYU student or employee ID. I want my site to be open access and easily found. Roy Rosenzweig raises some similar questions about the private and public web. One day I want to figure out how to bridge the gaps–to bring together information pertinent to my topic that can only be found on JSTOR or BYU’s website and make them accessible to a general public.

I question the ability to really be friends with the entire world in terms of true open sourcing. I think that both non-profit and commercial enterprises will retain proprietary ownership of their materials. While perhaps the Internet provides fairly open access, I think true open sourcing will require a lot more help from our friends.



Connecting the Public Past, Present and Future: A New History
November 14, 2006, 8:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Nauvoo Illinois TempleLast week I had an insightful phone conversation with my old boss who is now over exhibitions and publications for the LDS Church’s history division. She was delighted to hear about all the different things I’ve learned in Clio Wired, and she mentioned several exciting possibilities in her department for digital public history projects within the Mormon church, particularly with their museums, historic sites, and publications. They have developed some fascinating online exhibits and want to do more, particularly for an international audience (see www.josephsmith.net and http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/0,15478,4154-1,00.html#FlashPluginDetected). With this in mind, I read this week’s readings on museums and public history with a different perspective.

A common theme weaved throughout the readings: people use history to connect to themselves, their multiple pasts, their families, and to their local and national communities. Rachel Coldicuatt, for example, discussed the importance of democratizing history by drawing on multiplicity. I think this is particularly relevant for the LDS Church as membership becomes increasingly international. Their exhibitions and publications need to portray that. In The Presence of the Past, Roy Rosenzweig ant David Thelen also talked about the connections that are made, particularly with family history, to draw people together.

This New History requires new methodologies and new possibilities to link professional and amateur historians. Rosenzweig poses the question: “Why not make use of the World Wide Web, which has emerged as a popular venue for amateur historians, to create virtual meeting grounds for professionals and nonprofessionals?” Kevin von Appen, Bryan Kennedy, and Jim Spadaccini discussed the trend to decentralize and democratize through “sociable technologies,” including blogs, podcasts, wikis, and open-source content management tools. I believe there is a wealth of possibility for Mormon history to utilize such interactivity and participation. I can only imagine podcasts being made available as Mormon families plan road trips to such Mormon meccas as Nauvoo, Illinois; Kirtland, Ohio; or Palmyra, New York or Sharon, Vermont. I love the idea of the Hill Cumorah Pageant being broadcast online, or of interactive maps highlighting the Mormon Overland trail.

However, I think the interactivity may also raise questions for an institution that seeks to present a faithful or sacred history. In a trend toward shared authority, I think a fear of lack of control will pose problems as people examine perhaps darker points in Mormon history, or question the white male perspective that seems to predominate. James B. Gardner raises the question, “How do we tell history as it really was rather than as we wish it had been?”

I think a greater strength will come from examining Carl Becker’s belief in “Everyman his own historian,” that an open and diverse Mormon history can also promote the personal connection and intimacy that Rosenzweig and Thelen pose in The Presence of the Past. As Gardner suggests, we can move beyond the need to sanitize or romanticize the past in order to deal with the present and, subsequently, the future. By opening new possibilities, new voices, new experiences, and new methodologies, we can reach a larger public and actually create a larger virtual community.

I’m meeting with Jill, my old boss, next week, and am eager to share with her from our readings and discussion. She asked if I would talk to her staff when I’m home for winter break. I would love your comments and suggestions.

 John Johnson Farm, Hiram, Ohio



E-history: Tailoring the Future to Meet our History
November 7, 2006, 3:08 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I am completely fascinated by the juxtaposition of e-books and graduate scholarship and preparation and training to enter the academic world. While I love the idea of an e-book for the possibility of easy access and quick searching, perhaps it is the old fogey historian in me that needs something tangible to touch and hold if I’m going to sit down and really read. I want to be able to mark something up, to feel the weight of how many pages are left, to thumb back through my scribbled margins, and to see the transitions of skilled writers between paragraphs and chapters.

That said, I also am attracted to hypertext, to the possibility of linking straight to a source (imagine–even a manuscript, a journal, a newspaper scan, a map). E-books feel more accessible, less constrained, and more connected… to other electronic sources. What have I lost by relying only on hypertext and not on good old-fashioned library searching? When will the gap be completed? When will everything be available at my fingertips? Or will it?
Patrick Manning adds another important level to this discussion–what implications does this have for academic history? What about graduate study? If the wave of history is electronic, how are graduate students being trained to meet the wave? He says, “doctoral programs need to go beyond producing research monographs, preparing in addition to guarantee the ‘generation succession’ of the discipline.” He makes some interesting points about the traditional “first book” by new PhDs to modify but not transform historical interpretation, that there is no room for innovation in the quest for tenure. He argues that in order to meet the present and future electronic wave, young scholars need to apply innovate strategies rather than maintain tradition.

As I explore my own possibilities for a dissertation, I find myself intrigued by Manning’s argument… and also guided by the need to find a job upon graduation. As so many of my PhD friends warn me, I need to keep job possibilities in mind as I explore dissertations.