“What’s a ‘Digital Humanities’?”

If you would have told me a couple months ago that I would be building a website, I would’ve probably laughed. I have the utmost respect for people who work in computer programming, software, web-design, etc., but I also know my place as a scholar and that’s as an essay-writing, theory-reading, English major whose most creative project was a non-fiction short story about her mom’s best friend.  A few months ago I would’ve probably asked you, “What’s a ‘digital humanities’?”

All this is to say, my experience on this project has definitely opened my eyes. While I still love traditional humanities methodology, there is something really compelling about the Digital Humanities–for me, probably the idea of projects rather than papers, and the possibility of sharing ideas at a level beyond you and your professor or you and your classmates.

My project is nowhere near being done, but considering what I started with–an empty page painted by a theme I didn’t really care for–I’ve come a long way. My main focus so far has been on appearance and functionality, involving heavy manipulation of codes I had never even heard of before. I’ve been working closely with my supervisors to change a lot of the elements that make me unhappy and I’ve learned a lot about what elements work for web design and which don’t. I’ve also been picking up on the coding language. Now, things that would’ve taken me several days to accomplish only take a couple of hours.

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This is an example of a page I’ve been working on. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have put much thought into what it takes to achieve this. I would have taken it for granted. To get to this point took hours of digitizing files, cropping and straightening images, transcribing captions, fiddling with the CSS, playing around with the PHP, and countless trials and errors. And then of course there was the occasional aggressive sip of water and the $1.50 investment in stress-relief chocolate from the library vending machine.

I think the biggest take away has been the realization that it’s one thing to want something for your website, but it’s another thing to actually get it; and getting it involves some frustration, but even more importantly, determination. Almost anything is possible so long as you’re put the work in.

For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be working on getting the website looking and functioning the way I want. I think the goal is to get the general container looking as good as possible, then once that’s finished, I can focus on actually filling it up. Another goal is to start building the map. As I upload more and more photos onto my website, I’m going to start connecting them to different points and locations so that by the end, I’ll have at least one exhibit completed.

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