Digital History Projects
Under Connecticut Skies examines the history of astronomy at Van Vleck Observatory, located on the campus of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Since its dedication in June of 1916, Van Vleck has been an important site of astronomical research, teaching, and public outreach. Over a thousand visitors pass through the observatory each year, and regular public observing nights happen year-round in cooperation with the Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford. Our research team created a historical exhibition to help commemorate the observatory’s centennial that opened to the public in May 2016. We continue to collect, document, and interpret this history through objects, archival documents, oral histories, photographs, and more.
Our project explores the place-based nature of astronomical research, the scientific instruments, labor, and individuals that have connected places around the world in networks of observation, and the broader history of how observational astronomy has linked local people, amateur observers, professional astronomers, and the tools and objects that have facilitated their work under Connecticut’s skies over the past 100 years.
In the spring of 2015, my students in Digital History conceptualized, designed, and built a website interpreting the Wesleyan University campus through time. A Spatial History of Wesleyan University combines geographical and quantitative analysis with archival and oral history research to interpret the past in place. By studying the history of Wesleyan’s campus landscape and buildings alongside the university’s enrollment, tuition, and student body, we can see the connections between the cultural life of the university and its physical environment.
In the summer of 2013, I participated in One Week | One Tool, a digital humanities barn-raising held at the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. In a week, our plucky group of twelve people built a web-based tool, Serendip-o-matic. Unlike conventional search tools, this “serendipity engine” takes in your chosen text—such as an article, song lyrics, or a bibliography—then extracts key terms to deliver similar results from the vast online collections of the Digital Public Library of America, Europeana, and Flickr Commons. Because Serendip-o-matic asks sources to speak for themselves, users can step back and discover connections they never knew existed.
Web and Graphic Design
I have been designing and maintaining web sites since 1998. Over the years, I have worked as a web and graphic designer for MIT Web Communications Services, the New York State Senate, and the MIT Office of Admissions, as well as several groups and organizations at MIT and the University of Wisconsin.
I have collaborated on both web and print publications with several Boston- and Wisconsin-based designers and firms, including MIT’s now-defunct Publishing Services Bureau, Hecht Design, Myriad, Tim Blackburn, and Arketype.
I have also done more general site maintenance for a number of clients in academic and cultural circles, including the MIT Webmasters, the MIT Museum, the Tales from Planet Earth film festival, and the journal Environmental History.
I was a part of the team that helped redesign the MIT Admissions web site in 2004 to put blogs at the center of the office’s communications with students and families. The trend this sparked in college admissions was later written up in the New York Times.
Though its web location has changed over the years, I have been maintaining my personal weblog since 2003. I blog here at AmShazam on the historical life, at The Seasoned Skillet on cooking and recipes, and once upon a time with my fellow UW HoS kids on the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology.
Content Management and Creative Commons Publishing
I have experience with content management systems and databases, as well as web style guidelines, open-source standards, and the Creative Commons process. As a Department Liaison with MIT OpenCourseWare, I shepherded courses through the web publication process, navigating intellectual property concerns, working with faculty to prepare course materials for the web, and coming up with ideas on how to present content in new ways.
In 2007, I learned the elements of digital filmmaking in an environmental filmmaking workshop with Gregg Mitman and Judith Helfand. In addition to making a 30-second short about a place I call home, I produced a 5-minute trailer about the natural and cultural history of the Wisconsin Fish Fry and a 13-minute short film about my family and my sister’s adverse reaction to the DPT vaccine. My film, entitled I have a sister, was selected to screen as a part of the “Wisconsin’s Own” student films at the Tenth Annual Wisconsin Film Festival in 2008. In connection with that screening, I was also interviewed for an episode of Wisconsin Public Television’s series Director’s Cut about making the film. You can watch the episode online.
For more information about I have a sister, please contact me directly.