In Defense of Finding Things in Archives

Uncategorized
Over the past several months, and probably before that, several historians have been flayed on social media for making claims like "I found this forgotten thing in the archive," and stories about their finds criticized for calling their work "discovery." Scholars have (rightly) called out these stories as erasing the work of the archivists in those archives. But these excoriations are often accompanied by calls for all researchers to stop saying they've discovered things in archives. I disagree. I work at the intersection of historians and archivists. I manage the development of software whose goal is, in part, to help researchers see and acknowledge the work done for them by archivists. I encourage researchers in every training session to increase their awareness of and gratitude for the work of those…
Read More

Parent-Friendly Professional Development

Life
Recently, I asked on Twitter how to make professional development opportunities such as conferences, seminars, and workshops more accessible to parents. I was thinking specifically about summertime development opportunities, which are more likely to be multi-day trips away from home. The responses to my Twitter query confirmed my suspicions: there are no easy answers. Let's face it---balancing parent life with professional life means compromises have to be made. Parents often forego professional development opportunities because the labor of finding childcare and organizing travel is just too much. It's not a requirement for professional development meetings to provide childcare. But acknowledging the need goes a long way toward telling parents that they are welcome and their contribution is desired. I fully recognize the struggles of funding professional development. It's expensive to…
Read More

Opening Day Radio

Life
Opening Day, no matter what the weather, is a signal that winter is truly over, and the joyous days of summer are on their way. For me, baseball is a sport meant to be imbibed in one particular way: radio. Don’t get me wrong—going to a ball game in person is a great experience. Everyone should go see a real MLB game in person at least once in their life. But listening to the Atlanta Braves on the radio is the pinnacle of sports. I love the Braves because of my mom. I don’t know how my mom became a Braves fan. But from the time I was pretty little, she tuned in to our local (Greenville, SC) station on the Braves radio network for almost every game in the…
Read More

Cheeseburger Pie: A Remembrance

Uncategorized
I don’t remember ever helping my mom make cheeseburger pie. They say that letting kids help in the kitchen encourages those kids to eat the food they helped to make, but I’m pretty sure my opinion of cheeseburger pie wouldn’t have changed whether I had helped or not. Cheeseburger pie was simply awful. I recently found the cheeseburger pie recipe while I was going through a family recipe book I had received as a wedding present. Seeing it written out brought back a cavalcade of memories. I could just taste the slightly gritty ground beef, the backbone of the dish. The beef bathed in a slime of ketchup (half a cup!) and evaporated milk. The recipe called for half a cup of diced onions, but we never—I mean not once…
Read More

A 21st Century Barbary War

Uncategorized
When Thomas Jefferson sent a small naval squadron to the Mediterranean in 1801, he intended to intimidate the Barbary regencies into backing down from their claims of tribute in exchange for commercial freedom in the Mediterranean. Negotiations with the Barbary states hadn’t worked over the previous 15 years of American attempts, and the newly built navy was meant to show the world that America would take its place in the world economy by force. Algiers was responsible for the capture of American ships that had stultified American commerce in the Mediterranean, and its fleet of corsairs was seen as the biggest threat. The Americans had negotiated many times with the dey, but he often changed the terms of the negotiations on a whim. In 1789, Richard O’Brien, then a captive…
Read More

Passing on the Scissors and the Quill

Digital Humanities, NULab, Viral Texts
Faithful readers of this blog (all one of you) will notice that I haven't posted in almost a year. It's not that I've had nothing interesting to say, but rather that I've been too busy with those interesting things to write about them for the blog. Here's a brief rundown. In the summer of 2014, my family moved to Fairfax, VA, when my husband was hired by George Mason University. For the 2014-2015 school year, I commuted to Boston from Virginia almost every week so I could finish my coursework at Northeastern University. In August 2015, I passed my comprehensive exams and defended my dissertation proposal, officially becoming a PhD candidate. For the past year, I've been researching and writing my dissertation, as well as continuing to work on the Viral…
Read More

Civil War Navies Bookworm

Digital Humanities, Naval History
If you read my last post, you know that this semester I engaged in building a Bookworm using a government document collection. My professor challenged me to try my system for parsing the documents on a different, larger collection of government documents. The collection I chose to work with is the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. My Barbary Bookworm took me all semester to build; this Civil War navies Bookworm took me less than a day. I learned things from making the first one! This collection is significantly larger than the Barbary Wars collection---26 volumes, as opposed to 6. It encompasses roughly the same time span, but 13 times as many words. Though it is still technically feasible to read through all 26 volumes, this collection is…
Read More

Text Analysis on the Documents of the Barbary Wars

Digital Humanities, Naval History
This past semester, I took a graduate seminar in Humanities Data Analysis, taught by Professor Ben Schmidt. This post describes my final project. Stay tuned for more fun Bookworm stuff in the next few days (part 2 on Civil War Navies Bookworm is here).   In the 1920s, the United States government decided to create document collections for several of its early naval wars: the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary Wars, and the Civil War (the War of 1812 did not come until much later, for some reason). These document collections, particularly for the Quasi-War and the Barbary Wars, have become the standard resource for any scholar doing work on these wars. My work on the Barbary Wars relies heavily on this document collection. The Barbary Wars collection includes correspondence,…
Read More