Monthly Archives: November 2015

A scholarship stopgap

There was obviously a variety of scholarship communications covered in this week’s readings. The combination seemed to create a full circle of topics covered this semester. Early on in the course we recognized that no matter how much we claim a collection or archive is open or comprehensive choices are made to frame the site. In that same vein, William Cronan described online scholarship, “To some degree every reader is his or her own aggregator and curator by selecting the sources they read regularly and the links that they follow.” By creating RSS feeds and the like, people hone in on their regularly visited resources. More and more institution’s are creating selective feeds to consolidate sources and propagate them in a one stop shop. I loved that the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis dedicates a section of their homepage to art news from around the world. The fact that the Walker pursues their website as a publication with a considerate number of dedicated staff is a great model for other larger museums but would be problematic for smaller institutions like the 9 person staff of the Naval Academy Museum.

The dissertation publication debate seems pretty convoluted. A mash-up of hard-charging open source advocates, antiquated tenure processors, and university libraries and presses lost in a sea of institutional mandates. When I began reading into the debate, I realized that part of the thesis completion/graduation process for my masters program was to upload my thesis into the library’s Creative Commons site. I understand there is a whole other level of considerations for dissertations – as AHA aptly pointed out, but I never even considered fighting it. I’m not sure if the University of Nebraska mandates dissertations be digitally uploaded to get your PhD or not.

I definitely think that if people are not required to upload their work then for the good of the field some portion of their scholarship should be posted. A post-publication review site seems like a good first opportunity (before reaches paid journals) to see new scholarship. Not only will they kind of stake some level of claim to their subject but be able to receive constructive criticism to help solidify the scholarship. If what AHA claims is true then there does seem to be a catch 22 for new PhDs. But the AHA statement is way too heavy handed – only thinking about the academic or scholarly writer side who wants or needs to publish eventually. I agree it should be a right to choose versus a requirement to post online, it is their intellectual property. That being said, I find it hard to believe that most new PhDs won’t fall in line with the ideals of open access and getting their scholarship out there.

The root of this argument is not publishing but the monograph laden confines of reaching tenure. Until academia can truly recognize online scholarship as congruent to a book deal, there will continue to be this argument. This sort of thinking, Cohen wrote last fall, is representative of “a collective failure by historians who believe — contrary to the lessons of our own research — that today will be like yesterday, and tomorrow like today.” Dr Jennifer Guiliano’s observance that despite AHA being the head honcho for the history field they did not cite any of their claims is something a lot of people latched onto in the comments section. It seems that the publishers that took issue were the exception rather than the rule. Besides, it makes sense that the data received from online dissertations would be extremely helpful in showing interest in your subject matter.

Planned Obsolescence really touched on a lot of the overarching themes of this semester. The multimodal idea for instance, is just another way to recognize what we’ve learned – that the relationship between text and images/multimedia is changing. When print is the primary mode everything must be translated into text, but digital space allows for new interpretations using many different modes – many closer to the original format being studied.

The breakdown of the University press’s mission to disseminate their institution’s scholarship and instead be a revenue source is just another part of the tenure track puzzle. A Report of the AAUP Task Force on Economic Models for Scholarly Publishing agrees that the business model is antiquated and needs to become more collaborative to survive. Everyone seems to agree that models such as University of Michigan’s press/library partnership Digital Culture Books are a possible solution.

Everything we read for this week recognizes that academia’s current institutional procedures are broken and that the digital tools (including publication) presented this semester offer a challenge. The only solid answer I can hope for is to not hurt the readers and seekers of knowledge with an access stopgap. There has to be another way to protect intellectual property, scholar’s careers, and the dissemination of knowledge.

Understanding the Cuban Missile Crisis

For most students Cold War history includes some prior knowledge of the Cuban Missile Crisis as a flash point covered in high school history class. Thanks also in part to JFK’s legacy and the movie Thirteen Days cultural memories leave skewed versions of history. Much like David Jaffee’s section in Ways of Seeing, I want to “build the scaffolding” for students to see beyond the simple answer – to confront their prior knowledge and turn it on its head. I would start off by showing a clip of Thirteen Days.

Then, utilizing the Material Culture introductions for analyzing documents, have the class critically read a select set of primary documents, images, and audio clips from the NSA archive on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Much like the Historical Thinking Matters site, I want students to learn how to closely read, critique, and build historical narratives using primary documents. Throughout high school and college I wrote a lot about different films historical accuracy (or lack thereof). So many people today always swear the book is better than the movie, I want students to see that as well. However, in this instance we’re pushing beyond the history textbook and learning to look at the sources with a critical eye. The National Security Archive on the Cuban Missile Crisis has a treasure trove of recently unclassified materials, but I particularly love the audio clips. Being able to hear President Kennedy and his cabinet hash out potentially world altering decisions allows students to feel like part of the history. By comparing a (hopefully) familiar scene from Thirteen Days and contrasting it with the sources the US government had at the time, students have the opportunity to see if they would make similar decisions based on the information at hand. Working in small groups, they collaboratively construct their historical narrative and arguments then present their findings in class.

I think this assignment would be a great way to teach students to use their background knowledge, critical reading and analysis, and collaborative narrative construction. The breadth of materials high school and survey classes must cover all to often leave out the reasoning behind these historic decisions. Students will hopefully come out of this with a better understanding of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the huge amount of information weighed prior to making such decisions.

What’s the real story on the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Assignment: Watch the below clip of Thirteen Days. Is this an accurate portrayal of the Cuban Missile Crisis? Would you have made similar decisions? Use the primary sources provided and your own background knowledge to evaluate the clip.

Work in two to three man groups and create a succinct 5-10 minute presentation by the end of class detailing your argument and the primary sources that helped you reach that conclusion.

August 29, 1962: U-2 photograph of SA-2 surface-to-air missile (SAM) site under construction at La Coloma.

October 5, 1962: CIA chart of “reconnaissance objectives in Cuba.”

October 15, 1962: U-2 photograph of IL-28 bomber crates at San Julian airfield.

October 17, 1962: U-2 photograph of first IRBM site found under construction.

October 25, 1962: Low-level photograph of San Cristobal no. 1 showing extensive tracking from surging construction and possible missile readiness drills.


USSR, directive, TOP SECRET, Malinovsky’s Order to Pliyev, October 22, 1962.

Prime Minister Fidel Castro’s letter to Premier Khrushchev, October 26, 1962.

Chronology Compiled for The President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), “Chronology of Specific Events Relating to the Military Buildup in Cuba,” Undated [Excerpt].

U.S. blockade of Cuba in effect, UPI October 24, 1962.


Tuesday, October 16, 11:50 A.M., Cabinet Room, The White House.

Tuesday, October 16, 12:15 P.M., Cabinet Room, The White House.

Open Access, Rights, and Money

The Roy Rosenzweig Wikipedia article points out that historians and the history field are “deeply individualistic.” We must recognize other’s work (but not too much of it) within our own scholarship or risk all types of consequences. That is why Wikipedia is touted as this wonderful and surreal workaround. During my undergrad and masters programs I stayed away from Wikipedia like it was the plague. Nowadays people seem to be a bit more accepting, but only as a launch point for research-that is until professional historians feel a sense of obligation to contribute. I think the information created by the “collective” or “amateur” is decent enough, but some misinformation can slide through the cracks and then be propagated to a multitude of those websites that link/embed the article. I recognize the inflation of “now” topics and less than glorious prose, but I can get behind the notion that as long as people don’t take it all as comprehensive fact, any information accessibility is valuable compared to restricted access all be it higher quality scholarship. I added a small section to the US Naval Academy Wikipedia page referencing Preble Hall, but have yet to see the collective acknowledge or change the contribution.

The copyright overview in Digital History was enlightening. The work-for-hire rights seem incredibly frustrating. I feel like the individual should still have the rights but that there should be some sort of acknowledgement of the various funding entities. The specific characteristics of the digital history field interestingly enough increase the likelihood (capacity) for legal issues and offer the flexibility to change questionable space. In Lessig’s book Free Culture he says something along the lines that, “Technology means you can do amazing things easily but you can’t easily do them legally.” In other words, he recognizes technology’s potential, but so much content is barred that it is hard to not accomplish something without stepping on someone’s toes (work).


That being said, the basic justification for copyright is protecting people’s intellectual property. The process of creating that information is by no means free – everyone from the graduate student, professor, or institution has a stake in the work. As much as I would like to get behind the idea that publically funded scholarship should belong to the public, unfortunately like most things in the world, copyrights, open access and open-source comes down to money. Multiple readings touched on the need to get scholarship out of the restrictive grasps of groups like JStor, but only offered alternatives that included scholars (or more likely their institutions) fitting the bill. Which not only still leaves universities in the red, but highlights possible ethical issues by accepting less than stellar articles for decent money. I agree with Wallinsky (and others) that there needs to be a balance between the interests of authors (or the copyright owner) and public, but how to reach it alludes me. The right to know is inherent and as much as the cultural constraints Lessig lists (market, architecture, norms and laws) cause access problems, the same technology we use enforces those rights. It seems we can’t have one without the other.

In the museum world we face myriad issues by controlling culturally significant property. Visitor’s photographing displays used to be seen as a huge faux pas, but is now a welcomed way to expand the visitor experience and market the museum. Before the switch, all loan agreements had to recognize the policy shift to include approval for the natural redistribution of images. Museums can then cite quantitative proof of extended engagement based on number of posts etc. on social media.

I chose a Creative Commons License that only necessitated attribution and plugged in the museum website as the source work URL for the digital project. I was not able to figure out a way, short from creating a plugin (which I do not have the confidence or skill) for Omeka, to put my license on my project. Please let me know if you found an easier way.

Text and Network Visualizations

I came into this week’s activities with trepidation, but am really excited at the prospect for text and network visualizations in my project.

Gelphi: It took me a while to get Gelphi to open. Initially, I had an error message about Java, but after checking forums I learned I was not alone. I downloaded Java Oracle kit 8 (then learned that was too new) and downloaded kit 7, then Gelphi opened right up. After changing column headers name-source and hometown-target as Brian Sarnaki’s blog detailed I imported my data set. I wanted to show each graduate’s involvement in conflicts so I used the merge column button to combine 7 conflicts. What my graph shows is an iteration of conflicts by graduate, but I would like to figure out how to show each conflict as a base node and branch off graduates – connecting them to multiple conflicts.


Palladio: I tried to map/graph the hometowns, ranks, and conflicts of the graduates using the data set from the past couple of weeks. The video made the mapping look so simplistic, yet for some reason I could not successfully create a map. I compared my data formatting and could not find any major differences, so I would love some help getting my map off the ground. I was able to graph a few things: the graduates by rank and by conflict. I separated the conflicts by column in my .csv file, but would like to find a way to have all the conflicts listed in 1 column for comparison. I’m sure it just comes down to formatting – something I would love to figure out!

Graduates Ranks:
Graduates in Spanish-American War:

To build a corpus for text mining I searched “United States Naval Academy” in the Internet Archive and found a treasure trove of Annual registers from the 1860s to the 1960s. I thought it would be interesting to see what terminology changed over the years. I spread out the years: 1869, 1885, 1895, 1902, 1911, 1928, 1933, 1942, 1955, 1965. Below is findings of the 1869, 1902, and 1955 Annual Registers.

1869 Annual Register of the United States Naval Academy:

1902 Annual Register of the United States Naval Academy:

1955 Annual Register of the United States Naval Academy:

The stop words list was super helpful to weed out unwanted words and transcription issues. The registers had a lot of tables did not transcribe. After retyping the list a couple of times I created a standardized list on word to cut and paste. A couple of interesting things I noticed based on word frequency is that at the turn of the century terminology changed for a short period of time between midshipmen and cadets. By the 1911 Register midshipmen was readopted. Also intriguing is the exponential increase in males with the suffix Jr. While accounting for the continual increase in class size from 60 in 1869 to 500 in the 1950s, it still boggles my mind at the increase.

As of Saturday night I was not able to download Mallet, but I look forward to learning how to work with the platform.