My project began with the simple collection of Oral History Interviews. At the beginning of the summer ’18, I was required to identify individuals who I thought would give insight on the period of desegregation in 1966. Particularly my focus became on those African-American voices as their perspectives were seldom found in the University’s Special Collections. By collecting the histories of alumni, faculty and staff, I knew I could receive a wide range of thoughts and experiences regarding the period of my research.
Phase 1: I was trained to use the Zoom H2n audio recorder, stored the raw footage on a shared Box Folders with Professors Bufkin and Wilson and edited the sound on Audacity. Additionally, Mame Warren, Oral Historian and editor of “Come Cheer for Washington and Lee” visited in order to train me on her methods for Oral History Interview. I was required to read both “Come Cheer” and Blaine Brownell’s, “Washington and Lee University, 1930-2000: Tradition and Transformation” in order to receive context about the history of events that led to the first black student coming to campus in 1966. I gathered materials in Special Collections, reading through the Trustees and the President’s Papers. I also read through the Ring-tum Phi articles and looked through the Calyx yearbooks. There were huge gaps and silences especially in the formal papers especially regarding sensitive subjects such as integration.
Phase 2: I was trained to use the Omeka software platform. This software was easiest to use because I’d had no background in technology and aside from editing the code to reflect design choices, the software had all of the tools I would need as either plug-ins or automatically built into the site. Furthermore, websites that inspired my site as listed under my resources all generally used Omeka. I also thought about the sustainability of the project and considered that others might have varied experiences with technology and this might be the best option while thinking of the learning curve. If I add others as administrators to the site, they could quickly learn how to add items, edit the metadata and expand the site as necessary.
I taught myself how to use LogoMakr which was an online tool that provided free options while designing a logo. The microphone as the “T” worked because I needed the logo to be small in size and simple in design. I chose audio-waves coming out to demonstrate movement in the design, from talking comes listening. I thought a story should be told in the simple logo design. I also wanted the lettering to feel boxier and slimmer in order to improve readability.
My site aims for minimalism to reach all audiences and to not feel very overwhelming/busy. The theme that I chose as the basis for my website is “Berlin” an Omeka developed theme. For the site design, I chose a W&L blue that I’d color-dropped from the website. The color profiles found both in the website and the logo are as follows: 101e49 (W&L blue), 3315c, 806caf, 083856, 7c3f79. I changed the visited links in the code to #339. I also chose Muli, a downloadable google font, as my site font.
Issues: I have been facing issues with the code. Often, the code breaks down and the site reverts to Berlin. I am not quite sure why after a certain period of time the site forgets its reprogrammed font. I have been using the application Sublime Text to edit the css and Cyberduck to open the connection to my site and synchronize the data. The files are saved on my computer and on a flash-drive in the event that it crashes. After editing, resaving, and synchronizing the css, once I clear the cookies on my website, it normally reverts back to my changes.
Oral History Collection:
Interview Process: I generally research any interviewee before we meet. This includes searching to see if there have been any newspaper articles written about them in the W&L database, Ring-tum Phi articles, etc. This is important because most subjects tend to generalize their experience and the oral histories work best when they are as specific as possible. By generating news articles, music of the decade and events at W&L, they tend to recall and share stories. Generally, they will offer up names of individuals they surrounded themselves by or individuals whom they thought about more. Those conversations are most fruitful because the process is now shifting to storytelling and connectedness is key to that process. Additionally, I ask the interviewees some of the same question in order to weave together more connectedness.
Black General Website:
The summer of 2019 has mainly consisted on gathering items on the website for the purpose of conducting a more thorough analysis on the black student experience at Washington and Lee. For this reason, the project has mostly consisted of fully treating each item with as much information that can be collected while also offering up how the item is situated in the context of its collection, exhibit, or time frame. To do so, I conducted higher quality period research and implemented research on archival silences and gaps to ensure that inference from fact would be as truthful as possible. Additionally, this meant taking control of the narrative in ways that highly contrasted my initial goal (letting the facts stand on their own).
The exhibits that I have fleshed out using items from the Summer of 2018 and newly posted items from Summer of 2019 are Black Student Organizations at Washington and Lee and Desegregation at Washington and Lee. These both interrogate the past in order to come to a greater understanding of the period.