Review: Mapping Marriage Project

Last week my teammates and I finally finished our Mapping Marriage Project! After a semester of work, we created a finished piece, presenting our work in an ArcGIS StoryMap and a video presentation. We submitted these materials to Concordia College’s Celebration of Student Scholarship to share our project with the rest of the campus community. It was really satisfying to finally finish.

For my last blog post related to Mapping Marriage I will be reviewing our project using digital history review guidelines published by The Journal of American History.

The review process covers five main areas: content, design, audience, digital media, and creators.

Content: Content looks at the scholarship, interpretation, and communication found within the project. Because we worked with primary sources — marriage licenses, census records, military records — the data we compiled is sound.

Our interpretation of the data is adequate, though lacks subsequent contextual research that would bolster our arguments. It’s difficult to say whether we communicated our information clearly because I think we were a bit lost ourselves. The main thing we wanted to convey were the distances between couples and the age difference between them, and I think we accomplished that with our StoryMap. Whether we conveyed any additional contextual information that would place our data in a larger picture is less concrete.

Design: This section examines the structure, accessibility, and aesthetics of the project. The structure of the StoryMap is simple: you scroll through. There are no additional hyperlinks or pages, no offshoots to get lost in. It’s a very straightforward presentation of information — if not a little plain.

The site is accessible from desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, though other accessibility options for hearing, sight, and elsewise is not apparent.

In the realm of aesthetics the StoryMap is just as simple as its structure. It’s monochrome and interspersed with black and white photos.

Audience: Audience criteria is concerned with whether the project has a clear audience, and if the project meets that audience’s needs.

As far as a clear audience goes, our project is aimed primarily at those interested in the Celebration of Student Scholarship. We also talked about perhaps linking the StoryMap to the Heritage and Cultural Society of Clay County website to expand our audience to the constituents we were primarily thinking about: people interested in the history of Clay County. However, it’s unclear whether we’ll be able to do this.

For needs, Mapping Marriage satisfies curious people in the campus community who are interested in marriage and history in Clay County.

Digital Media: This examines how effective the use of digital media was, and for us I think a digital presentation was the best way we could have presented the project. A smaller exhibit might have been doable, but with the amount of information we had it would have been difficult to fill anything larger than a small space.

However, a physical space would also allow for some interesting use of space, like using a large map linked together by strings rather than a digital map connected by lines. A physical space also allows more flexibility in audience participation; but it does restrict the number of people able to see it.

Using a StoryMap was an effective way to present our information in an easy-to-navigate, accessible format. It also allowed us to present text, pictures, maps, and other graphics.

Creators: Finally, creators looks at who worked on this project and how. The primary creators was the HIST 325: Doing Digital History class of spring 2020. We also had help from our professor, Dr. Joy Lintelman, and senior archivist with the Heritage and Cultural Society of Clay County, Mark Peihl.

Mr. Peihl provided us with materials and our research question: “How did courting change in Clay County in the early 20th century?” Dr. Lintelman assisted us in our research and provided additional guidance in using research tools.

We all worked on finding the addresses of couples, splitting up between 1901 and 1921. We then divided up responsibilities for the StoryMap, using each other for bouncing ideas and editing materials. Overall, it was a very holistically balanced collaboration.

Based on all of this, I believe we created a successful project as amateur digital historians. It’s obviously not a professional presentation, and it wasn’t a yearlong, heavily funded study. But considering our time and experience, it was a solid first foray into digital history.

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