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Introducing our latest project, Englestad and Associates is happy to announce the launch of their new website, Father Pierre Jean De Smet’s Mission Map. Due to copyright issues the exact map can not at this time be displayed.

In the modern digitial world, old disciplines such as history may have been perceived to be left in the proverbial “dust”. However, we at Englestad and Associates do not believe this to be the case. Using modern technology we have been able to take a map that is over one hundred and seventy years old, and place it on an interactive Google Maps platform.

Why , you ask, would someone want to engage in such an endeavor? The answer: Discovery.

As a professional historian our site can put into perspective the relationships between Native peoples and some of their first interactions with European culture tradition and religion. By including background information for the areas depicted on the map the historian can either confirm or question believes they hold about a location, or the group of individuals located there. Engage in discourse with other professionals, or even locals in the areas depicted, though use of user generated content, who have access to oral histories the historian may have never heard.

However, not only historians will find our site useful. Even those just interested in the great outdoors, will find our site fantastic. Get feedback on trails in the confines of this map by other users in the forums, as well as topographical maps and imagery to help you plan your route. You may even learn some history along the way.

Come and see what insight you can get today!

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           This week we were designed with creating a prototype of our project. This was actually, a little easier than I had expected. My first thoughts were to build a PowerPoint presentation to explain exactly what our project was designed to do. I figured with the amount of time and technical expertise, building a working prototype of this particular site would be technologically advanced beyond my own skillset.

            During lunch one day I was discussing this project with a friend of mine and he introduced me to a prototype platform that I could use to display what the project would look like and be aesthetically more pleasing than a boring PowerPoint presentation. The name of the site is Axure, and you can create interactive HTML prototypes with this software.  I of course used the free version, and there was some limitation but overall it was achieving the need for functionality and it was vastly more aesthetically pleasing than PowerPoint. But I kept having this feeling that I wanted to wow everyone with all this hard work I had been putting into my internship this semester, and with that I decided to use a remarkably more interesting and interactive platform. This platform is known as Neatline.

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             The first time I attempted to use this platform I became very frustrated as it seemed to be a little on the buggy side of things and at the very least temperamental. But after a second try things moved a little more smoothly. As I played more in their sandbox, I was able to figure more of the controls and was able to depict things a little better. In all actuality I was blown away by the amount of information I was able to depict. Not only could I use topography maps, but I could toggle to Google satellite imagery as well. To me this was like the Holy Grail of mapping platforms. 

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            I showed my partner this platform and he was instantly impressed. The site overall was very user friendly when put into the user mode, although when making edits, it could be a little frustrating, i.e. forty five minutes to make a like for a trail. But it turned out to be an amazing platform.

            Overall my experience on building this prototype was a very rewarding experience. Not only by using one of the best mapping platforms ever, but it was nice to work with my partner Ryan, who like me has a love for all things history. 

Creating an Audience

Posted: April 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

           This week’s assignment was to come up with a few personas that would likely be part of the audience of people who would use our website. We brainstormed and came up with three main reasons why someone would come to this particular website. These three reasons, academia, religion, and the outdoor interests helped us to come up with three personas. It was decided that my partner for this assignment would come up with two personas of his own, while I was tasked to come up with a third.

            Creating this persona was actually a little more complicated that I originally expected. My partner created two personas one of which was the persona of an interested college student, which covered academia. His second, a professor and a priest, covered academia again, but also covered the religious aspect of the website. With these two interests in the site covered that left me with only one other interest.

             I knew I had to do an experienced outdoor orientated person, who would be of a younger age, and who could use modern technology such as a hand held G.P.S. unit. So I decided to call a few friends of mine who are avid outdoorsmen. One said that he liked the idea, and although not a history buff, he would love the challenge of hiking the same trails that people one hundred and seventy years ago traveled on. Another one of my friends looked at it not from the challenge of the hike, or of the historical context, but from a view of the scenery in the area. And my last friend, a college student as well, looked at it from a combination of the scenery, a challenging hike, and the historical aspect of the hike. Regardless of the motivation for looking at the website, all three were very interested in the finished product. This enthusiasm showed me that I was on the right path for a persona that would be very interested in our website.  

Digital narrative. When I think of these words separately, it makes me think of two completely different worlds. Digital, this word to me conveys images of technology, the power of the World Wide Web with the speed and ease of a touch screen mobile device. Narrative, this word to me conveys the image of an old book, with yellowed pages being read by candlelight giving the gift of “old” knowledge to its reader. By combining these words I feel like a relationship between old and new is created that gives us a better understanding of not just past events, places and items, but things in our world as well. That, to me, is an effective digital narrative.

This week we were tasked with finding a digital narrative and to analyze it’s effectiveness. For this assignment I chose the Newberry channel on You Tube. This channel has a few videos I am specifically focusing on. In their segments also known as the “Newberry Minute”, curators from the museum take an artifact and give a two to three minute presentation of that particular item. This is a truly amazing digital way to tell the story of an artifact from an era gone by. A merger of an old historical artifact with a modern technological platform, in this case You Tube.

Another bonus to this segment is the overall length of each video. The longest is just over three minutes. During this timeframe an effective narrative about this object is completed, and in a short enough time that a person’s attention doesn’t wander. In a technology driven era where time is of the essence,  this is a very good example of a digital narrative that is very effective.

 

Digital Brainstorm

Posted: March 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

My final project for Digital History is going to be a mapping project much like the one we critiqued for the “Digital Harlem” assignment. I think it would be awesome to be able to digitize a copy of Father Pierre Jean De Smet’s map that was drawn in the 1845-47 timeframe and modernize it. I could digitally depict actual locations of the Native American missions he created as well as possible routes he took. For this I would need to make overlays of the travels he undertook to the different missions and forts in the area. Not only will you be able to view the map as a whole but just as in Google Maps, you can zoom in and as the maps get closer and closer to the “ground” you could change the map type to include aerial images from Google Earth. Since I have been working on this project the entire semester most of the research is already done, so I would just need to focus on digitizing it, and any other technical issues that arise with it’s construction.

Using digital mapping platforms such as Google Earth, as well as unorthodox ones such as Falcon view, overlays can be created. Their appearance would appear mirror much of the appearance that was specifically created for the “Digitial Harlem” website.

The only real obstacle I see is the ability to digitize the original De Smet map and somehow turn it into the map data needed in order to create it into a digital map itself that can be manipulated. I am hoping that programs such as Mac PRO GPS, will be able to aid me in this endeavor. According to their website, if I can figure out the projection and datum, as well as identify at least two GPS coordinates, the program can take a JPG or TIF and turn it into a map. I am not sure if this will work exactly due to the fact the De Smet map is clearly not perfectly exact due to it’s construction, but if this were possible then this particular obstacle would be removed.

The last and final piece of this project, if possible due to time constraints, would be to add some of the letters Father De Smet wrote and indicate where he wrote them and who they were addressed to. This information may shed some light into why he was writing to these particular recipients at this particular time. This coupled with looking at the routes he took may create a new understanding of the situation in the Rocky Mountains in the 1840’s.

Our assignment for this week was to critique the website Digital Harlem. I particularly enjoy this site because of my interest in not only history, but also maps in general and how they can help understand relationships that would not be readily seen without them.

The first thing I noticed was the ease of use. This website seems very user friendly. By entering in simple information one can bring up a variety of different information such as events or places, and any information that they have on that particular situation. Also, you can bring up multiple points relating to a single person by typing their name into the search box. The use of Google maps I believe was a good choice. Most people today can operate and understand Google map applications, which makes this particular map more inviting. As well, there is a very informative “how to” box on the top of the page for those who might feel a little intimidated or confused by the usage of a map in this fashion.

However, the most important feature in my opinion is the ability to bring up multiple points from different search at once, in overlays. The use of overlays is what makes this website, and maps in general, particularly useful. Maps have the ability to illustrate things that can be missed by other mediums. By using maps relationships can be inferred through visualization, as mentioned earlier, and other questions can be raised as well.

I also rather enjoyed the color scheme and overall look of the page. The black and white aerial view of the city as a top border was a nice touch. The lettering isn’t too bright and doesn’t clash with the rest of the page. The color scheme is one of being warm and inviting instead of a cold feeling I would expect from an archive of information. Also, the way the information is laid out is very important. There isn’t a feeling where too much or too little information is presented right at once.

The only negative I have about this site would have to be in the people search itself. I do not really know any individual names from anyone in this time period from this particular area. So this feature is a little lost to me, but at the same time I could just chalk that up to my ignorance of a particular piece of history.

Overall I believe this site could be a very helpful resource, because an interactive database with the ability to compare information and place it on a map that can be visualized enhances our understanding of this particular area.

This weeks assignment was to look at pictures from the earlier part of the 19th century and compare them with pictures from the mid to end part of this century.

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I am partial to maps; so the first thing I compared was the maps of New York from 1763 shown above, and an 1817 map shown below. In these two maps you can see the development of some kind of urban planning or possibly the development of survey technology. In the 1763 map the roads were more crooked, and although they appear to be laid out in a somewhat rudimentary grid pattern, it seems like it was more clumsily put together.

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But as you see in the 1817 map above, as you move more northward, the layout of the streets becomes a more precise, a straight-line grid layout. This raises a question of why in my mind. Are the original roads more askew due to original survey lines of property, i.e. larger tracts of land that were surveyed out quickly using natural landmarks as way points such as long cut down trees, or removed rocks, etc.?

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Above is a more recent map (circa 1838) and you see as time went on and more and more people moved into the area, the lines become straighter as opposed to the 1763 map. Did the use of urban planning play a part in this? Did it make it easier to sell small tracts of land, based on straight lines? Regardless, as time progressed the organization of the city became more patterned, forming the modern city we know today.

Next, I looked at the pictures and the progression of them through time. It seems that in the beginning the city is depicted almost as a sleepy community. Take the picture below. Although there is activity occurring in the picture it seems almost dream like. The background in the picture shows clear, unpolluted air, as well as wide-open spaces.

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The same can be said for the picture below. Take notice of a shoreline with no buildings anywhere in the picture. As well, there are large trees and even Native Americans standing on the shore. To me it is hard to believe this picture depicts anything even remotely close to New York City.

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However this picture below comes from the same city. This picture depicts Broadway in 1834, and it seems worlds away from the earlier pictures. Notice the open space has disappeared and even the air seems to be more polluted. Also, the seems to be a lot more transportation technology. Look at the amount of horse drawn carriages in the streets moving people and goods to and fro. With an increase in population, there will also be an increased need for transportation technology. 

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Lastly, this bottom picture is from 1852. One can see how the pristine environment of the earlier pictures is completely lost. The air looks so polluted that it could possibly be poisonous. Not only has the open spaces disappeared; it looks as though the buildings themselves are melting back into the ground due to the filth emanating from every crevice. If the earlier pictures were dreamlike, this is no doubt a nightmare.

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