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Grant Proposal

Grant Proposal for Digital History Resource

Digital History 677

Wednesdays 5:30-8:00

Professor Jeremy Boggs

List of Participants

Contact Information:

Samantha L. Howell

Washington D.C., 20016

Institutional Affiliations:

American University, Washington D.C.

European/Public History MA Program

August 2009- Present

Shippensburg University, Shippensburg P.A.

History BA Degree – May 2009

Abstract

My online digital history resource entitled, “Women of Lodz: What Equipped Them for Survival,” centers on a research paper which I produced for an independent study during my undergraduate career. I relied on this previous research material in order to create an accessible website and academic resource. My target audience is fellow history students either of the undergraduate or graduate level. Additionally, this resource could appeal to those interested in Holocaust or genocide studies as well as women studies. Throughout the website, as I did in the paper version of this project, I refer to an extensive amount of secondary and primary sources including oral histories from the USHMM and online transcripts of survivors. Also, within these pages there will be personal profiles and primary source examples through oral histories and transcripts. I utilized links in order to connect readers from my resource to the original transcripts or online testimonials. This certainly adds a personal connection to the site and its argument, as well as provides additional resources and materials for the audience. Additionally, I used photos of Lodz Ghetto from archival and online resources in order to enhance the site and meet words with images. The web page is simplistic in terms of design so that it is more appropriately fitting for the content and intended audience. My intended and desired results for this project was to not only revisit my research paper but to bring new life to it in a more interactive and public form. My hope is that visitors will engage in dialogue and historical inquiry after looking at the site as well as increase their interest in this and related subjects through the links to additional resources. I included numerous resource and site links to USHMM, Shoah Foundation, and Yad Vashem’s websites, to name a few.

Narrative

Enhancing Humanities through Innovation

This digital history project is an informative, academic resource which is to raise questions and construct dialogue as well as to increase the interest of a general or academic audience. The website utilizes a wordpress format but it is constructed in a manner to resonate with and appropriately fit the subject matter. Throughout the site, I intentionally included several links to oral histories, testimonies, videos, transcripts, and photo archives. Doing this creates a connection from my site to the larger valuable sources; from specific area of Holocaust studies to more general or advanced areas of study. Because of this, I may link and situate my site in a greater historiography, bring different voices into the argument, and contribute to the field of Holocaust studies in a small but meaningful way. I hope that my site will contribute to an increased interest in oral histories and the acknowledgement of their importance in historical inquiries. Additionally, these resources as well as other sites of interest, may complement my site or provide an alternative argument, or fill in the blanks where my argument may not answer questions. Likewise, my digital history resources could do this for other sites pertaining to Holocaust studies and ultimately engage in conversation with other sources and historians.

Environmental Scan

Digital history resources and online open sources in the Holocaust studies field are vast and extensive. I am aware that my particular project is a very small project in comparison to these other resources due to the time in which it was created and because I am a relative novice to the tools of digital history. Additionally, many of the existing online resources in this field of study are produced by a large, public or federal institution such as the USHMM and Shoah Foundation. While I acknowledge this, I still believe my digital history resource contributes to the study and advances the field of research because it is so specific and concentrated in scope and content. The actual thesis and argument of my paper, which comprises the written portion of the site (although it differs drastically than the original because of the change in medium) is a relatively debated topic in the field of Holocaust studies. Examining victims’ survival skills and limiting that examination to a specific gender, while asserting that some pre-war experiences may have better equipped this selection of people during a time and place in the Holocaust, is certainly a debated subject.  Whether a person who visits this site agrees with my thesis and purpose in argument or not is not as important to me as whether or not the site raises debate and lifts this subject up for historical inquiry. I will consider the site useful so long as it increases interest in the subject and creates a dialogue for further research and contributions to the field.

History and Duration of the Project

The research process and the production of the actual content which is the basis of this site actually began over two years ago during my undergraduate career. In the spring semester of 2008 at Shippensburg University, I was enrolled in an Independent Study course under the supervision of European historian, Dr. Mark Spicka. The private course began with a reading list, topic choice, and culminated in additional research on the specific topic of women and their survival skills in Lodz Ghetto. After research, I produced a thesis and twenty-five page paper to support that assertion. This paper was later adapted during my senior year of my undergraduate career at Shippensburg as I reduced the work to fifteen pages in order to submit it to a Phi Alpha Theta conference at Millersville University. This gave new life to a project and created a new opportunity to learn and advance my research and work. I was able to share this paper at the conference as I delivered an oral presentation of my reduced work. This version of the paper received a paper of distinction award at the conference. There is no financial aspect or areas of support for this project during any parts of the research or digitizing process.

Currently I am moving from producing the content to digitizing the content. My project once again was revived this semester in graduate coursework at American University under Prof. Jeremy Boggs. This work became the subject of a digital history resource website which was a final requirement for a Digital History course which is my tool in research. The process of learning HTML, the importance of and debates surrounding the digital history field, and the technical aspects of creating a website, has been a semester long journey. The creation of the digital history resource itself took about a month and a half to create. This includes planning stages, development, revisions, and final product. This was all to meet a deadline for a course requirement, but I foresee future work, additions, and changes to the website to maintain its relevancy, accuracy, and navigation.

Work Plan

During this grant application process, I will continue to make corrections, alterations, and act on any feedback I receive, as I hope visitors will utilize the areas of my site where they can comment on the site’s content and design. This feedback will be vital to me and the project’s effectiveness and dissemination as it will help me to see if the site is meeting the goals and objectives I laid out during its creation or meeting the needs of the intended audience. I may find that certain aspects of the site are effective and work better than others and can adjust the site accordingly.

Staff

This project and the creation of a digital history resource was a project requirement for a graduate Digital History course taught by Jeremy Boggs at American University. While we certainly had the option of working in groups to create this resource, I chose to work on this project individually because it was based on my own previous research. Therefore, I was responsible for all of the planning stages for the development of the site, its creation, and the completion of the final project. I must note, however, that I was provided with valuable feedback and advice for adjustments to the site by my professor, Jeremy Boggs, as well as from fellow students and acquaintances.

Final Product and Dissemination

Besides the presentation at the Phi Alpha Theta conference, I will present the final digital product to American University’s Digital History class and colleagues. Additionally, my wordpress blog provides a link to this site and I will continue to find ways in which to let people know this resource is available. There will always be room for technical updates and modifications to ease navigation, to include more links, or to add additional resources and findings.

My intended and desired results for this project was to not only revisit my research paper but to bring new life to it in a more interactive and public form. My hope is that visitors will engage in dialogue and historical inquiry after looking at the site as well as increase their interest in this and related subjects through the links to additional resources.

Biographies

I am currently working on my MA in European/Public History at American University. Presently, I live in Washington DC but I am originally from Pennsylvania. Last year I received a BA degree in History with minors in International Studies and Spanish from Shippensburg University. Throughout my undergraduate career I was involved in numerous internships and activities with the History program at Shippensburg. I was an active member and the historian of Phi Alpha Theta and served a summer internship at the Shippensburg Historical Society. I was also privileged to be able to complete an independent study under Dr. Mark Spicka. My independent study culminated in the research paper which is the focus and content for my digital history resource website. This paper received a Paper of Distinction award in European History at the spring 2009 Phi Alpha Theta conference at Millersville University. My particular area of interest in history is in Holocaust and genocide studies. I hope that upon graduation, or at some point during my career, I will be able to obtain a position at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In the mean time, I look forward to my internship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum scheduled for summer 2010. In my short time here at American University I have been able to take advantage of wonderful academic opportunities including service projects at the National Law Enforcement Museum during the fall 2009 semester. In the spring 2010 semester a fellow graduate student and I served at Arlington House in order to complete a service project, in conjunction with Arlington National Cemetery, to develop interpretive wayside signs. After research, we each produced three wayside signs to memorialize a particular event or group of people throughout the shared landscape of Arlington House and cemetery.