Final reflection & contract defense

The Farmer at Mary Washington project is up; while there’s still edits to complete, all of its core structures and materials are in place. I’ve deeply appreciated working on this project. Our original goal was to provide a very wide variety of resources: a space to collect and display Farmer materials, some previously available and some not; a space to link back to previous Farmer materials completed by UMW students, a space that honored and emphasized the impact and legacy Farmer had at UMW, and a digital history site that used exhibits to guide visitors through these materials.

Despite the fact that our normal semester was cut-off midway through by the COVID-19 outbreak, our group managed to keep to the details of that original contract to an impressive degree. Our interviews were exclusively online now, our timeline got moved around, and, most significantly, we had to switch digitizing his awards to compiling and displaying already-digitized materials from Special Collections.

I’ve been awed by my group’s dedication to working with one another. Under circumstances we couldn’t have imagined a semester ago, we’ve come up with a project that fulfils our original goal. Our three exhibits cover all of the major themes we wanted to emphasize, our materials are diverse and well-chosen, and our site pays homage to those that have come before it. I applaud our dedication to biweekly meetings, our willingness to help one other, and our dedication to challenging each other’s assumptions and ideas, so as not to settle for easy options at the expense of our collective pride in the project.  

For my end of the project, my failing was a delay on the designated upload times for the Farmer lectures; while I finished the subtitles on time, I decided on the post-COVID upload date without a real plan in mind for how I’d adjust to lacking access to the HCC’s video editing software. With that said, I got it done and I didn’t let these delays get in the way of the other parts of the project I completed. It’s also been a valuable lesson for digital projects in the future: don’t underestimate the degree to which technological resources impact your plans. 

As a collective, one part of our contract that I think we can’t currently argue to have kept is advertising. Our original plan – factoring in other classes’ projects, the Multicultural Center, and the Farmer Legacy project – was entirely caught off-guard by the fact that nobody operates from campus anymore. The back-up plan – departmental social media – was a weaker approach in the first place, and was never actualized. My hope is that there might be space for us to brainstorm some form of outreach while we revise our site throughout May.

As I’ve said before, immersing myself in this material for a semester has made me fully, permanently internalize the amount of impact and importance that Dr. Farmer had for our school and for our country. This is, how I’ve come to understand the importance of digital history as a whole. To access historical documents is to understand history in more than an abstract sense; to display them digitally is to broaden access to them, and to use new kinds of tools to create new kinds of historical narratives. I hope that, with our coming revisions, the project will have the same effect for past, present, and future UMW students that it did for me.

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