Summer Fellows Blog 8/26: Celia Naylor

It Takes a Village

I had not expected that working on my digital humanities project this summer would clarify some core elements of my larger Rose Hall project. I realize there are strategies that enhance learning processes, and there is no one monolithic way to teach a new concept or subject to everyone. Yet, I did not realize that visually mapping out what I envisioned for this project would enable me to conceptualize other dimensions of this project and to enhance my central purpose and related objectives.

Even though I have no previous knowledge or experience developing a website, I had a sense of what I wanted the website to look like and what I wanted to present about the Rose Hall plantation. Early on I set the goal for enslaved people to be the cornerstone of the project. Moreover, the purpose of the overall project was to provide historically-centered narratives about  the enslaved people at Rose Hall, which were sourced in primary documents and not in myths about the “White Witch of Rose Hall.” The June session on concept/vision mapping served as a critical guide as I made other decisions about this digital humanities project and the counter-narrative I wanted to present.

My vision, however, was only one part of moving this project forward. The actual segments of the digital project would require the integration of particular programs and tools to come to fruition. Fortunately, a number of experts (read: digital humanities midwives) in the Barnard-Columbia community provided the necessary guidance, suggestions, and assistance about ways I could utilize Excel (moving from Google Sheets) and JavaScript (specifically D3—Data Driven Documents) to visually and more effectively present the data I had teased out, organized, and analyzed from the archival sources. Our Digital Humanities group sessions and conversations this summer have provided a creative and supportive space for navigating around and through challenges and issues. Thanks to Miriam, Madiha, Sylvia, Corinth, Katherynn, Pam, Kimberly, Martha, and Shannon! The additional meetings/mini-workshops with Fatima Koli, Alex Gil, Alisa Rod, and Marko Krkeljas also have been extremely helpful and generative. I am grateful for all of this guidance, and these conversations and sessions have enabled me to hone my vision and to consider the possibilities for my digital project. And still, as we have now entered the month of August, there is much work to be done. I have, though, a clearer, informed sense of what needs to be done and the assistance I shall need. I also have a deeper appreciation of the time, effort, and energy required for the processes of creating such digital humanities projects. “Forward ever, backward never”!

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