Call for Papers/Presentation: Civil War Studies and the Digital (R)Evolution at APUS, March 30, 2012

The onset of Web 2.0, Linked Open Data, the Semantic Web, and an ever-expanding universe of online applications and tools has forced historians – both scholarly and popular – to rethink, reinterpret, and refashion their approaches to large swaths of our nation’s history. Combined with the rapidly increasing digital availability of primary and secondary resources, as well as an unprecedented ability to share and analyze information, the digital revolution has enabled new understandings and debates to emerge in what was previously considered to be settled history. The field of Civil War Studies is particularly contentious, where, according to historian Stephen Berry, “the Civil War is no longer the province of a small set of Civil War historians but a large set of historians of the Civil War Era.” Clearly, further examination of how medium, message, and messenger converge in this new environment is in order to better grasp the evolutionary trends and revolutionary discoveries that drive our understanding of this complex historical event.

The University Archives and Special Collections at American Public University System (APUS) will host its second annual history colloquium on Saturday, March 30, 2013, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the APUS Finance Center Auditorium in Charles Town, West Virginia. The colloquium theme is Civil War Studies and the Digital (R)Evolution and APUS invites scholars of all disciplines and levels to discuss and present their research on the following topics within that broader context:

•Digital Humanities and Historiography
•Uncovering “hidden” sources through Linked Open Data
•Revisionism, Traditionalism, and Social Media
•Meta and Micro History in the age of Google
•Virtual public history and historical collections

Of course these are only suggestions; all proposals will be considered that set out to examine the implications of digital technologies and movements on the study of the Civil War-era.

To submit a proposal or for more information contact Brad Wiles at 304-724-2670 or bwiles@apus.edu.

Submissions should include the following:
•Name and contact information
•Affiliation or credentials
•Presentation/Paper topic or title with brief abstract (100 words)
•Audio-visual or other specifications

Proposals will be accepted until Friday January 18, 2013.

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WVGP presentation on Middleway Conservancy digitization project

A presentation and workshop on digitizing and maintaining papers and records from the founding of Middleway in 1795 to present times will be held on Friday, November 30. The event, a joint project by the Middleway Conservancy Association and the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission, will be at 7 p.m. in the Grace Church Parish Hall, 112 East Street, Middleway. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

The two organizations agreed in June that the archives of the Middleway Conservancy merited scanning and adding to the county’s historic documents data-base, known as the West Virginia GeoExplorer Project. These archives include Civil War-era correspondence, Middleway Town Council minute books, and records from local businesses as well as personal papers of residents. In September a grant was received from the WV Humanities Council for the project, and the project is underway under the direction of Bill Theriault and Brad Wiles. Completion of the project’s first phase is expected to be in March 2013.

The presentation will explain how the WV GeoExplorer Project database works, what is being done to digitize Middleway Conservancy’s records, and the forms of research and educational opportunities that the Project will make possible. Brad Wiles will demonstrate the computer digitization process and the research capabilities of the Project. Members of the public are invited to add any historic documents relating to Middleway and to share their knowledge of the community’s history. The original documents are copied and returned intact to their owners. One possible use of the data is to create a virtual Historic Middleway. This would show visually how the village changed through time with maps that link to photographs, Census records, newspaper articles and the archived records. This will require considerable work on the part of the Conservancy and the WV GeoExplorer Project.

For more information about the presentation and the project contact Bill Theriault, WV GeoExplorer Project (wmtheriault@myactv.net). For more information about the Middleway Conservancy Association, contact Peter Fricke (peter.fricke@frontiernet.net).

Harpers Ferry NHP Announces Partnership with WV GeoExplorer

From a National Park Service News Release (June 1, 2012):

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and Harpers Ferry Historical Association are formalizing a partnership with the West Virginia GeoExplorer Project.  The park is digitizing some microfilmed newspapers with funding provided by the association.  Many of these digitized collections are historic Virginia, now West Virginia, newspapers that are of interest to researchers and are not readily available in digital format.  These microfilmed papers are part of the non-circulating library located at the park and managed by the park’s Museum Management Program.  This new partnership will allow the park to have a location to post these valuable research tools for easy access.

The GeoExplorer Project created an innovative geographically-based web resource for exploring the history, culture, and architecture of West Virginia. Jefferson County has served as the starting point for project efforts, which will later be expanded to encompass the rest of the state.

“I am excited to be able to enter into this partnership,” says the park Museum Curator Michael Hosking. “We have many resources at the park including the museum collection and the park library and a small staff dedicated to preserving and providing access to it.  This partnership will enable us to have the digitization funded through a grant by our non-profit Historical Association and then utilize the volunteers and infrastructure of the West Virginia GeoExplorer Project to make these digital files available to anybody with interest on their website.”

As part of this partnership, the GeoExplorer Project is actively looking for other copies of the Harpers Ferry Free Press, the Constitutionalist, the Spirit of Jefferson, and the Virginia Free Press to help fill in missing, damaged, or poorly microfilmed copies, making a complete set of these newspapers.  They will eventually transcribe and link the original scans to these transcriptions for anybody to access through the web.

“This is a win-win situation for everybody” Hosking says, “the Association is fulfilling its mission by helping make these resources available to the public, the park is able to get these resources out of the drawers and make them readily available for all that are interested without appointments or formal requests, and the GeoExplorer Project is increasing their database of Jefferson County related documentation for its other partners.”

For additional information on the park and research policy please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/hafe and go to the collections page.  For more information about the Harpers Ferry Historical Association and their mission please visit http://www.harpersferryhistory.org.

Calling all Volunteers: Your Research and Transcription Skills are Needed!!!

The West Virginia GeoExplorer Program is looking for volunteers to help with transcribing the newspaper collection.  Professional transcribers and hobbyists alike are welcome; all that’s really required is that you have an eye for detail and interest in history. For more details and to get started, have a look at the Volunteer Page.  More opportunities to help make the West Virginia GeoExplorer a top-notch research tool will be forthcoming.

Blogging the WV GeoExplorer Project

Welcome to the West Virginia GeoExplorer Project Blog – a companion to the recently launched GIS-based resource on West Virginia history.  Information on the project can be found on the WV GeoExplorer homepage and the Jefferson County Historic Landmarks Commission website.

The purpose of this blog is to provide the following:

1. News and updates on the project, including additions to the existing stores of data, records, and publications, as well as enhancements to search functionality and site tools.

2. Selections from the materials contained within the project databases to help spark and sustain dialogue between contributors, researchers, project administrators and others interested in the history, culture, and geography of West Virginia.

3. A forum for volunteer support, outreach, and recruitment since the project is non-profit and entirely dependent on the work and expertise of volunteers.

In other words, this blog is part showcase and part tool – designed to build a community of practice and help inform the project as it continues to evolve.

Check back for updates on the WV GeoExplorer Project and please feel free to join in on the conversation.