Weighing Accessibility vs. Sustainability

I think the concern of electronic sustainability is the greatest argument for maintaining print copies of history. Historical information preserved online brings with it the benefit of increased accessibility, but also the risk of loosing that history forever if a technological error were to occur.  The websites we visited this week that serve as archives of personal experiences of events are one of the great advantages of preserving historical moments online.  With the archive websites for hurricanes and Mason Basketball, people are able share their personal experiences and memories. This is a huge advantage exclusive to the internet.  To read testimonials such as these without the internet, one would have to compile such stories and publish them in a book that would be much less accessible than visiting a website. Directly uploading your story to one of these archived sites gives the reader a more intimate experience than if they were to read hand-picked stories that a publisher thought were worth sharing.  It gives the reader the opportunity to decide what is important to them.

In the article, Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in a Digital Era, Rozenweig addresses the concerns of having only digitized history.  Concerns include information overload, lost information due to glitches or  lack of life-span, and growing legal issues in the online world.

The biggest issue I have identified that lends itself well to the argument for keeping print copies of everything, is the short life-span of digital material and the distinct possibility that information can be lost without any way to recover it.  Rozenweig writes,

Many believe–incorrectly–the central problem to be that we are storing information on media with surprisingly short life spans. To be sure, acid-free paper and microfilm last a hundred to five hundred years, whereas digital and magnetic media deteriorate in ten to thirty years. But the medium is far from the weakest link in the digital preservation chain. Well before most digital media degrade, they are likely to become unreadable because of changes in hardware (the disk or tape drives become obsolete) or software (the data are organized in a format destined for an application program that no longer works). The life expectancy of digital media may be as little as ten years, but very few hardware platforms or software programs last that long. Indeed, Microsoft only supports its software for about five years.

As illustrated above, no matter how the technology becomes unreadable, it is inevitable, and will happen long before print text becomes unusable.

Throughout the semester, we have explored the many advantages of recording history digitally.  I think it is necessary to continue down this path if historians are going to compete in this ever-growing digital age.  While we try to grow our online presence and utilize such tools, it is also important to remember the flaws and risks of technology.  While utilizing the advantages of the internet, it is important to not disregard the enduring time of print history. 

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The Stark Reality of my Online Security

In reading about all the precautions that can be taken to secure one’s electronic devices and online accounts, I realize that I may have not taken all the extra steps necessary to ensure account security.  On my laptop, I have a timer set so that after 5 minutes of inactivity, I am logged out of my account, and a password is required to regain entry.  From my readings, I now realize that in order to really ensure that my computer cannot be accessed by the wrong person, I should have a “two-factor authentication” system in place.

In reflecting on all of my social media accounts, and the password protection I have, I am even more concerned about the privacy of these accounts. In addition to only having a one-step password requirement to gain access, many times I do not even have to do that.  Most of my accounts keep me logged-in until I intentionally log-out.  Certainly on my social media apps on my iPhone, I do not require a password to be used regularly.

Then for my iPhone itself, I have two different ways to unlock the phone, but they do not both have to be used concurrently.  I have finger print recognition set up and a four-digit pass code.  Last weekend on my way to Miami, my phone was stolen in Dulles airport.  Fortunately, I was able to contact Verizon immediately and have them disable my phone so that whomever had it could not access my personal information. Unfortunately, I had not backed up my pictures and data to the Cloud, so all of that was lost.  Now that I have a new phone, I intend on making sure my accounts are in-line and everything is set-up to back-up to the Cloud, so that in the event of my phone being lost or stolen again, I will not have to go through the burdensome process of re-establishing everything on my phone.  Since “cloud hacking” is in the news frequently (usually surrounding celebrities), I would need to ensure that my Cloud is also secure.  It’s convenient to have everything automatically backed-up to one place, until it is no longer safe.

After reading about all the dangers to our online life, and how easy it is to be hacked, I realize that I need to review my accounts and devices, and see where I can start establishing stricter password requirements to ensure my security.

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Ngram Viewer and The Proceedings of the Old Bailey

The Cold War was a period of great unrest at home and abroad, as fears and concerns of potential nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union dominated world news.  The United States and Great Britain allied themselves in opposition to Soviet nuclear proliferation, while Gorbachev struggled at home with a failing economy and was unable to continue the pace of the current arms race.  The Cold War was in the forefront of world news for much of the 1980s and was a defining theme of the Reagan presidency.

Below is a Ngram comparing mentions between Cold War leaders Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Mikhail Gorbachev.  As the race to the end of the Cold War escalated in the 1980s, all three leaders mentions spike in an upward trend.   The peak for all three leaders came in 1988.  U.S. President Reagan was mentioned at a substantially higher rate than Soviet President Gorbachev and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

I did not experience any difficulty with producing a chart with the Ngram viewer.  It was very easy, once I picked my time period and what I wanted to compare, to produce a the Ngram line graph.  You can scroll over any part of the lines to see the progression of the number of hits tabulated for each leader.

Below is a bar chart from the Proceedings of the Old Bailey from 1776-1876.  The chart quantifies how many men aged 15-30 received the death penalty for murdering women of any age.  As you can see, 1860 saw the greatest number of men who were executed for the murder of women.

The Old Bailey chart makes deciphering the data a little more difficult, as it does not provide x and y axis data.  One must refer to the key below the chart to understand what the bar graph is demonstrating.





In summary, there are a variety of options available for graphing and charting data, and one must explore all options to determine which service will produce the most efficient way to display data and convey the intended message effectively.

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Text Analysis of Final Project Prompt (Utilizing Many Eyes)

I decided to do a text analysis of the summary of our final project. The words that stand out the most to me are: “parks,” “project,” “skills,” “final,” and “time.”

(Below the visualization is the final project prompt from the syllabus.)

The words skills, final, and time, stood out to me in the context of the prompt.
This project will require us to use all the skills we have learned in this class.  We will produce a final project, meaning we need to illustrate all of the skills acquired over the course of this semester. Because of the vast nature of the project, we will have to manage our time wisely.  In thinking about this being a final project, it reminds me to focus on displaying all the skills I have learned- producing charts and graphs, text visualizations, picture editing, and making maps.


“Final Project – The second half of the semester will focus on building the skills you need to complete the final project (see Appendix A below). This project will give you the opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of these skills and of some of the ways that historians think about thorny problems. Please note: The final project requires you to visit one of nine different national parks in the greater DC area, loosely defined. This means that you will have to organize your time to make such visits possible, including arranging transportation. I will be working with you to help make that happen, but not visiting one of these parks is not an option. If you have other commitments (job, athletic team, etc.), start organizing your time now.”

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Challenger Disaster Presentation

The explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in January 1986 was an iconic moment in space history.   Americans across the nation were crowded around their TV sets, including millions of school children, to watch the lift-off carrying the first teacher in space.  The moment at which the Challenger exploded marked the first loss of American astronauts in space. Many remember that as America mourned, President Ronald Reagan gave a speech that touched the hearts of a grieving nation. Much like the Kennedy assassination, most Americans remember how they learned of the shuttle disaster and its aftermath.

When looking for a presentation platform other than PowerPoint, I found Prezi.  It was described as an “anti-Powerpoint” solution, so I decided to take a look.

What I found with Prezi was an extremely facile presentation program that allowed for significantly greater creativity than PowerPoint.  In fact, after using Prezi, PowerPoint reveal itself to be a dinosaur amongst presentation platforms.  Prezi is much more dynamic it its use of colors, shapes, and movement, in contrast with PowerPoints standard slide format.

For my presentation on the Challenger disaster,  I was able to utilize the Prezi “origami birds in flight” template as a way to symbolize the movement of the shuttle into space.  On my first slide, I included a picture of the Challenger crew and their names.  My second slide is a fact sheet about the explosion, reviewing the significant details of the day.  My third and final slide is an embedded video of the iconic speech President Reagan gave to the nation after the explosion.

You can view my presentation here.

Screen shot 2015-04-04 at 7.28.16 PM


Visit prezi.com to explore and make your next presentation.


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Christine’s Map

In approaching the map assignment, I created a map featuring places you would find me weekly in DC. I pinned items such as where I go to church, where I work, where I went to high school, and my favorite restaurants.

In creating the map, I utilized Google Maps and it’s pin functions to denote the locations. With each pin, I included a picture and provided a brief description of the location.

I have color-coded my pins to categorize by type.
Red: Museums and Memorials
Orange: Educational Sites
Yellow: Food and Entertainment

Here is a screen-shot of my map, including a list of my pins:

Screen shot 2015-04-19 at 12.39.15 PM


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Ich bin ein Berliner!

jfk donut

President Kennedy made the statement “Ich bin ein Berliner,” “I am a Berliner,” in West Berlin almost two years after the Soviets erected the Berlin Wall.  When emphasizing the “ein” in this statement,  it means “I am a jelly donut.”  In northern Germany, a donut is referred to as a “Berliner.”

Using two different programs, one for inserting images (the jelly donut) and one that allows for the addition of text bubbles, I was able to produce the above image.  I wasn’t sure what I would do at first since I have limited knowledge of photo editing, but I found that there are free websites out there that make photo editing easy for novices, like me!

Most likely, this story is a misconception, but I like to believe it is real.  It makes for a good story when people ask why you’re a history major.

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Copyright Laws in an Online Setting

I examined the website historichwy49.com for any potential ethical or legal problems.

According to the website:

Historichwy49.com was designed to preserve and share the heritage and rugged beauty of Hwy 49 and the Gold Country, one of California’s most precious resources, with everyone, everywhere.” 

The website consists of historical pictures, history of the area, and current attractions in Gold Country. Upon looking at this website, I immediately felt that the pictures could be problematic. 

After reading Owning the Past? and looking at the type of pictures on the website, I found that this wasn’t really an issue. Anything published before 1923 is fair game, without any copyright restrictions, meaning it is all under public domain. If the website was based on a different time, this would definitely be a problem, but due to the time period this site represents, it bypasses many potential copyright issues.

While there are no copyright laws applicable to these photos, the website only asks for recognition with a disclaimer upon use:

“Research: photos may be downloaded at no charge for use in non profit, educational research projects for students and teachers. Please email us with your name, educational affiliation, project name and a list of photos used. Please give credit under each photo: ‘Photo Credit historichwy49.com’”

Even with my limited legal knowledge, I feel that ethically/legally there shouldn’t be any issues with the use of the photos and information on historichwy49.com.

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Wikipedia Edit

I edited the Wikipedia page “Attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan” in the “Aftermath” section.  I noticed they only spoke in-depth on the current status of one of the men shot that day.  I searched for more information on the other two, aside from President Reagan, who were shot, and added a small paragraph, with citations, on their status after the shooting and where they are today.

Screen shot of my addition to the Wikipedia page:

Screen shot 2015-02-15 at 8.59.21 PM

(click to enlarge)

I was happily surprised at how easy and intuitive it is to add content and citations to a Wikipedia entry.


(Pictures from the Wikipedia page of the assassination attempt)




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Thesis Topic

I had difficulty finding sufficient sources for question based on my Boston Tea Party topic that I posed in my last blog post, so I decided to ask a question based on one of my other topics: The Cuban Missile Crisis. My question is: “How was the decision to impose a blockade on Cuba decided upon?”

Newspaper article or advertisement:

The United States — The Missiles of October: The Declassified Story of John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert Smith Thompson
Treverton, Gregory F. (Winter 1992): 205.

This source looks at the Cuban Missile Crisis from JFK’s point of view, which will hopefully give insight into his decision to blockade Cuba rather than go with another option, such as invading the island.

Archival Collection source:

Bundy, McGeorge. (1963-1987; (bulk 1963-1965))

McGeorge Bundy was the National Security Adviser to President Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This source will give insight to the decision process behind the blockade, and other pertinent decisions made during the time of the crisis.


My image source is a picture of JFK from his famous address to the nation on America’s involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis.



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