Mired in Metadata


Two weeks ago, I reported that we reached a significant milestone by scanning the final JFA catalog for the Shared Shelf Project. There’s still much to be done, so this week we’ll look at the work of creating metadata: or the stuff that makes your digital images discoverable. Continue reading

The First Female Graduate

Antionette Pires

Antoinette Pires, ca. 1906.

The Provost asked me to find a photograph of the first female graduate from IC to set right a cluster of photos in her office featuring prominent white men. Illinois College first admitted women in the fall of 1903 when it merged with the Jacksonville Female Academy. Legend had it that Antoinette Pires graduated in 1904 as valedictorian. What a great story, a triumphant tale of women breaking barriers. Or is it? Last week I wrote about history vs. heritage. This week we’ll put that into practice.

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Emerging Experts

American Athena reached two important milestones today. First, at 1:30pm, Christian Flores ’18, finished digitizing the final artifact from the JFA collection for Shared Shelf. After months of setbacks and technical issues, we’ve digitized 72 original documents, consisting of more than 1,600 pages as part of our project with the Council of Independent Colleges’ Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research.

Then, around 3pm came an e-mail with the subject line: “Consummatum est,” or “It is finished.” It was summer intern Naomi Niemann ’19 writing to say that she had completed the transcription of Edward Beecher’s  650(ish)-page, unpublished novel, Cornelia (a tale of love and faith in the time of Marcus Aurelius). There is still much to be done, but even in my seventh summer overseeing student work, I am in awe of the their enthusiasm and dedication. Working with students changes the nature and speed of my research. It means slowing down a bit and taking time to teach new skills. But it is so worth it. There is real joy in witnessing the emergence of expertise.

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The Case for Local History

Academic historians need to reclaim “Local History,” and negate the unspoken understanding that we must never, ever identify our work as such. We somehow believe that doing so compromises our professional status and undermines our marketability with publishers. That’s not to say academic historians don’t do local history – they simply rebrand it as case studies of broader trends or by favoring the term “microhistory” (which is not confined to geographic locality). Yet by refusing to acknowledge the centrality of place in our work, historians miss important opportunities to contribute to ongoing conversations.

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