Environmental Scan and Review of a Project

This week our class has strayed from our traditional readings and the students were given a chance to search for interesting and applicable projects to their research, something the National Endowment for the Humanities refers to as an “environmental scan.” From the classification list provided by the Organization of American Historians, I decided hat the project I would most likely pursue would be that of an Electronic Exhibit format. After speaking with classmates and other people in my cohort, I found that Story Maps offers and often produces the type of project I have envisioned. Kayla, Mary Beth, and I are currently seeking permission to use nearly one hundred letters from a World War I and II veteran, who’s parents lived here in Orlando, to map his life via his correspondences. The project is still in its infancy due to our primary source having yet to be acquired. This past week I studied and evaluated some Story Maps that were featured on their site, as well as ones I found on my own, to help myself gain a better understand of the potential of the application.

Here are a few project I chose to look at using Story Maps:

Other interesting projects I found:

The software I chose, Story Maps, simply use geography as a mean of organizing and presenting information for the viewer.The project I plan on creating will be the map of a single soldier’s life and service, with each location holding information about him and about the larger war or event itself. The Story Map interface looks like a relatively simple tool to work within, as long as the time is dedicated to learn it’s functions, but with multiple people working with the research I believe that it can be easily handled. The Story Map application will also allow us to showcase the letter that we are pulling information from side by side with the physical locations that he is mentioning and visiting.

The project I have chosen to review is the Story Map listed above, 100 Years of In Flanders Fields. Developed by the City of Guelph’s Information Technology Services in partnership with Guelph Museums, the project is a web-based multi-media experience that uses interactive, content-rich mapping to trace John McCrae’s life and the experiences that resulted in his writing of In Flanders Fields one hundred years ago. McCrae, a Guelph-born doctor, soldier, and poet, wrote In Flanders FIelds in May 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres. The poem, widely considered a classic of World War I, has been taught in history and literature classes around the world and has also inspired the use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance

The content of the project revolves around a single historical question: What events led to McCrae’s writing of In Flanders Fields? The project traces his life from birth, through medical school, the Second Battle of Ypres, and eventually his death to help the reader understand the significance of certain events in McCrae’s life that influenced his classic, In Flanders Fields. The story map utilizes primary source material, video, and sound in conjunction with the geographic data that the mapping software provides.

The form of the project is exceptionally clear, something I would contribute to Story Maps, and only secondarily to the creator. The application provide the user with a clear format and path of exploration through the project. In my opinion, this all works to make the project easy to understand. Due to the hosting of the project by Story Maps, and the mapping software being provided by ARCGIS, the project functions very smoothly, with no bugs or glitches appearing in the multiple times I have viewed it.

Due to the project being developed by a city museum, I believe the audience falls to a less academic crowd. The project fills any need that audience would require, as it clearly shows McCrae’s life and service, without filling the page with dense historical arguments or literary analysis. Ultimately, this project works as a supplementary teaching resource, something I aim my project to be as well.

The project does involve the use of new media, as Story Map allows for nearly all emerging medias to be combined on a single page. The project utilizes primary sources, secondary sources, geography and spatial data, song, photography, and film. In addition to this, all of these items can be followed back to where the author obtained them due to the citations provided.

In the end, I chose the project so i could review a possible template for my own project. I had seen and heard this application mentioned in both class and by classmates, but I had never inquired further about it.

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