That Time When You Learn Something New and it Changes Your Life Completely

As many of my digital history classmates know, we learn new things everyday. Things I never knew were out there on the interwebs. This week we talked about social media and crowdsourcing.

For those who do not know, like myself, crowdsourcing solicits and combines data by users of the internet to help complete a project. Not the clearest definition, but in general terms, crowdsourcing takes data produced by everyone that has access to the internet to aid in some type of work. Jeff Howe, which we read in our class, provides a good explanation of crowdsourcing and its uses. Additionally, Tevor Owens also wrote about crowdsourcing that can help to understand what it is.

Here are some sites that are good examples of crowdsourcing: Old Weather and Operation War Diary. There are many other examples of this, but these are two we talked about in class.

And here is where the mind-blowing fact comes in.

Ever have to do a reCAPTCHA to prove you aren’t a robot? It’s one of those little boxes you have to fill that are unreadable numbers and letters. While it protects your information, it is also a crowdsourcing project. :O I know, right? I don’t even know what to think anymore.

How is this crowdsourcing you ask? Well, those little boxes that we fill out are actually of books that are being transcribed and digitized by no one other than internet users!

What. Is. Life.

What we do when we fill out the reCAPTCHA is transcribing text that is hard to read. The heads behind the project compare what responses were given to find the most accurate transcription of the text. This is insanity at the highest level! But this is also a great example of what we can learn by using the internet. History can be boring, but it can also bring many together to transcribe old text. We are all connected in some way or another.

Temple University panel: Preserving Ephemeral Activist Culture 11/7/15

Diversity in the Archives: Preserving Ephemeral Activist Culture

Please join Temple University Libraries for a panel on November 17th as we explore issues of diversity in archives and special collections.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2:003:30 p.m.

Paley Library, 1210 Polett Walk, Philadelphia PA 19122

Lecture Hall – Ground Floor

#Ferguson, #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName, #OccupyPhiladelphia are all recent social movements that have significant online presence. How can an archive preserve social media content that is fast-moving and transitory in order to best document the history of a social or counter-culture movement?

Bergis Jules (University of California Riverside Libraries), Meredith Evans (Washington University in St. Louis) and Ed Summers (Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities) will describe their experiences archiving and preserving tweets and social media documenting Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter. Margery Sly and Justin Hill of Temple Libraries will discuss their experiences collecting and preserving the history of the Occupy Philadelphia movement.

The panelists will discuss the challenges related to the acquisition, preservation, and accessibility of non-traditional records, such as born-digital materials and media-based materials that can easily be altered or lost. Using recent examples, such as the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri and the Occupy Wall Street protests that extended to other cities such as Philadelphia, panelists will use social media and digital initiatives as a prism through which to view archival records and documented history versus lived experiences. The speakers represent diverse archival, cultural, and technical backgrounds, and will share their experience collecting media and film records, human rights and government records, community-created records, and social media records.

For more information please contact Doreva Belfiore, Digital Projects Librarian, .

http://Temple University panel: Preserving Ephemeral Activist Culture 11/7/1

Creepy Curiosities and Cocktails!

On Thursday November 19 at 6:30 the Young Friends of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania will be hosting their first event at HSP! Join the board, members, and friends for some creepy Victorian history! There will also be a special ghost tour by my favorite historian and HSP staffer, Dan Rolph!

Check out HSP’s Facebook page for more information!

Here is the link to register!

This is a once in a lifetime chance to go behind the scenes of the Historical Society! Fall '15 Postcard front DRAFT

Don’s miss out! See you there!

Public History Symposium at HSP

On December 11, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania will be hosting a public history symposium. While information is still forthcoming, there will be representatives from NARA, CHF, HSP, and other organizations around the area. This is a great opportunity for everyone to meet historians in other fields and gain more knowledge about public history. Whether or not you are a public historian, this is great event for up and coming historians. If interested, let me know or leave a comment! Hope to see you there!

Lectures at the NCC!

All year, the National Constitution Center hosts town halls, lectures by scholars, judges, and others relating to the Constitution. These events are very interesting with a wide range of themes and are highly attended. Check out the schedule to see if anything is interesting!

We are also hosting the Liberty Medal ceremony in October. This year the Dali Lama will be receiving the medal. There is so much to do in Old City Philadelphia.

Oh the Wonders You Can See

Everywhere you walk there is some sort of gem. Most of them are unseen, because people don’t pay attention to the small wonders. I happen to not be one of those people. This summer I interned at the Historical Society of PA in the communication and public programs departments. As part of my workload, I undertook researching Catholic churches to write posts about them in connection with the Papal visit. Needless to say, I don’t know a lot about Catholic history, nor did I have an interest in it, but it might have been the most rewarding experience I ever had. I found it interesting, but also explored different collections in-depth, something I never had the opportunity to do.

The main church I focused on, as well as wrote about, was St. Augustine’s Church. Also needless to say, there is a connection to Villanova University: Augustinian friars established the institution we know and love. While this much I knew, I did not know the church’s history, and it is absolutely fascinating!

St. Augustine is the fourth oldest church in Philadelphia, and the mother church of the Augustinian Friars. It was established in 1798, with assistance from the public one of these people was our very own George Washington! Little did I know the church was burned down during the Kensington Riots of 1844. The church was rebuilt and consecrated in 1847. Built on top of the ruins of the old church, St. Augustine continues to serve the Philadelphia community. While I love Independence Hall and our other historic attractions, St. Augustine represents a history of intolerance and persistence that other places cannot represent. Visiting and exploring St. Augustine can place us in the period to which it was destroyed and understand what happened in 1840.

Another little unknown fact, St. Augustine is home to the oldest fresco in the United States! This was announced late last month that this designation would be given to St. Augustine. Previously, it was thought the oldest fresco was in Washington D.C. The fresco is St. Augustine was similar to that of the Sistine Chapel! Who knew something so close was so historic! Being the nerd I am I took a trek to St. Augustine to look at my research subject and was blown away! It was peaceful and serene and everything the pictures I found at the Historical Society showed. It was a great experience to step inside this historic building and see the oldest fresco and the beauty of the church. It was also home to the sister of the Liberty Bell, which is now at Villanova!

St. Augustine is magnificent in and of itself, but not many people know it exists or what it is. We know it as “that church that’s by the Ben Franklin” and I’ll admit I’m guilty of it too. But I hope we can start to look at the other historic landmarks that make Philadelphia the wonderful city that it is.

Here are some pictures from my excursion!

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Bill of Rights Day

I moved to Philadelphia 6 months ago and needless to say I’ve enjoyed my time more than I thought. I’ve had some great opportunities at Villanova and beyond, one being my new job at the National Constitution center. If you haven’t been, I strongly recommend it. I’ve been working there for about a week and it’s been a blast. It is the only institution designed around the Constitution. And while we do not have the original Constitution in house we have the first public printing as well as Signer’s Hall, dedicated to the signers of the Constitution. In addition, we also have a live show called “Freedom Rising” that documents the creation of the Constitution and a feature exhibit called Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello.

On December 15, is Bill of Rights Day and tickets to get in are only $5! Stop by and see the show, exhibit and learn about the Bill of Rights! It’s a perfect place to do some touristy things if you’re new to the area or have been here for years. Plus Independence Hall is two blocks away! Just another reason why Philadelphia is a great place to live. There is so much history all around that needs to be explored.

The Lore Kephart ’86 Distinguished Historians Lecture Series Featuring Isabel Hull

Every year in honor of Lore Kephart, the history department hosts the Lore Kephart ’86 Distinguished Historians Lecture Series. This year the speaker was Isabel Hull, John Stambaugh Professor of History at Cornell University. Her talk was entitled “Reinterpreting the First World War Through the Lens of International Law”. Earlier in the day before Dr. Hull’s talk, several graduate students had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Hull and hear about her research. Sitting around a table with up and coming historians and an established historian whose work is well recognized was a fantastic and awe-inspiring experience. Being able to engage with historians of different fields puts into perspective how important the field of history is and the many different ways to study history there are.

Dr. Hull’s talk brilliantly looked at World War I through international law. Dan Gorman, a graduate student in the history department, describes the importance of Dr. Hull’s talk: “The Kephart lecture reiterated from a legal history perspective the collapse during World War One of an old world of elite European ethics and social rules. While the Allies perpetuated old arguments about the legality and careful regulation of warfare, the German military operated under a total war legal consciousness, showing a willingness to attack civilians and destroy neutral targets if those actions advanced military objectives. This mentality on the Germans’ part challenged and helped destroy Europe’s nineteenth-century legal framework for warfare. Certainly, the ideas of establishing rules of engagement and protecting noncombatants resurfaced in the League of Nations and the United Nations. Nonetheless, the legacy of the German military in World War One, with its shrewdly modern embrace of brutal tactics against nonbelligerents, is a reminder of war’s innate savagery, no matter how much one tries to hem that in with law. Dr. Hull’s book therefore has considerable ethical implications intertwined with its narrative.”

Having not studied World War I in great detail, Dr. Hull gave a capturing look at World War I that went beyond the war itself and looked at other factors in the war. In all, it was a great talk that opened my eyes to important factors in the war that are being studied. Interdisciplinary studies are fascinating ways to look at events and make the study of history that much more exciting. The outpouring of support from the history department from undergraduates, to graduates, and faculty was an amazing sight showing me as a new graduate student the great work Villanova and the department do.

While it happened a while ago, what were some of the things you learned from Dr. Hull’s talk?

Check out some of our grad students at the event!



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“Our Environmental Destiny” – An Afternoon with Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

I had the fortunate pleasure of hearing Robert F. Kennedy Jr. talk last weekend in Camden, New Jersey. And needless to say I was blown away. For those who may not know, Mr. Kennedy is an environmental activist, lawyer, and president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an organization that protects waters from pollution. He was such a passionate speaker about the environment and our inefficient use of resources. His talk was dedicated to thinking about different ways to use energy instead of oil. He talked a lot about river pollution and the Hudson not being a place to fish because of the pollution. There are dangerous amounts of mercury in fish today that make it completely unsafe to fish. He stated that 1 in 6 women today have high levels of mercury in their womb. Today, because of his efforts it is one of the richest waterways. Also, one of his focuses was turning resources to cash. According to Mr. Kennedy, environmental protection and economics should go hand-in-hand, but in the US this is not the case. Money is funneled to corporations and the rich therefore lowering the quality of life for poorer populations. Money that could be used for energy efficiency is used to line the pockets of big corporations. What this does is makes things cheaper but taxes astronomical. He made the point that gas should cost $12 dollars or so a gallon but it is so cheap because we pay for things that we shouldn’t have to. We are charged less to support those corporations but do not see any of the benefits. He additionally made the connection that the US and its members are essentially funding the war on terror and ISIS through our dependence on foreign oil. Instead of solar power or other energy efficient methods we use foreign oil that takes money from the tax payers and gives it to terrorist groups. This was shocking to hear because it is something that isn’t thought about when pumping gas. Some may not agree with his position on corporations but it is interesting to think about the way our environment is used for our benefit and the benefit of corporations. Mountaintops in West Virginia, and I believe in Pennsylvania, are being removed for the coal industry. I know little about this but this shows the commodification and destruction of the earth and its resources for the use of corporations. It is such an interesting topic because the destruction of the environment is not often thought of when doing everyday things. Why can’t we fish is certain places? Or why is the air in certain places so bad? More conversations of energy efficiency should be held and more measures should be taken to preserve and maintain our environment. So, when driving around or taking public transportation, or even walking think about how your environment came to be. Look at what you buy. What can we do to be more energy efficient and what is our impact on our environment?