Photoshop and the Archives: Connie Kiosse and Female Poets

When it comes to photo manipulation, my greatest experience comes from using  photo editing apps on my iPhone like VSCO , Aviary, or Instagram. I consider myself pretty proficient at adding the perfect filters to a photo, using the tools to make slight changes to create an atmospheric effect. Of course, the predecessor to these instant photo manipulation apps is Photoshop. Photoshop makes it possible to edit photographs or scans to enhance the original, or alter the image to suit the purposes of the institution. Even with the proliferation of photo-manipulation apps like the ones I just mentioned, Photoshop remains relevant because of the sophisticated options for alteration available to its users.

Using Photoshop for the practice of public history may look a little different than traditional uses for the program. Instead of distorting an original image to alter the subject, it is better to use the program in public history work to enhance the image, showcasing the best qualities of the picture in order to portray a historical narrative. For a class assignment, we were asked to take pictures of artifacts, documents, or photos that would ultimately be used to create a digital exhibit for the institution that houses them. Ultimately, we would tinker with the images in Photoshop to upload to an exhibit later.

For the assignment I visited the Women & Leadership Archives to take photographs of various poetry books from the Connie Kiosse papers. Connie Kiosse was an original founder of the Feminist Voice Newspaper, an author, as well as an educator. Her papers

ConnieKiosse3

“Black Maria Cover” Loyola University Chicago.Women & Leadership Archives. Connie Kiosse Papers.

illustrate the feelings of radical feminist groups from the 1970s as they were depicted in independently published books and periodicals. Although my group members and I ultimately decided on a different topic for our project, the images I took could easily be improved using Photoshop software. Firstly, I would use a cropping tool (as shown in the image to the left) to draw the viewer’s eye to the subject of the photo without other distractions, like the surface I used to photograph the poetry books on. Then, I would use a paintbrush or inking tool to emphasize the lines of the artwork so the cover art is articulated more. The cover images from the original poetry books are faded with age and a bit blurry from the zoom feature on my phone’s camera.

 

 

The more damaged of the two covers, Child of Myself, needs more attention with a paintbrush tool to distinguish the original line art from the smudging that has occurred over the years.  However, I would not use an eraser to remove the water spotting at the top. Using Photoshop to remove the watermarks would diminish the original character of the document. When using photo manipulation software in public history work, it is more important to preserve the character of the original document than to make it visually appealing. I look forward to becoming more proficient with Photoshop so that I can heighten the future experience of the public I reach through digital media.

ConnieKiosse5

“Child of Myself Cover” Loyola University Chicago. Women & Leadership Archives. Connie Kiosse Papers

 

 

Advertisements

Professional Networking for the 21st Century

The business networking site LinkedIn works on a very simple premise: connect jobseekers with companies so that users can gain access to jobs and recruiters can hire the most qualified candidates. Unlike sites such as Monster or Indeed where companies post a job listings and in some cases provide career counseling, LinkedIn stresses the importance of professional networking. Subsequently, LinkedIn not only offers a venue for interested job hunters to search for available offerings, the website also fosters development and communication among professionals within a certain career field–not only allowing for the creation of more meaningful business contacts but also for the excha-

imagesnge of valuable ideas of best practice for peers and future business contacts. According to the site’s Wikipedia page and the technology publication TechRepublic, LinkedIn has become the “defacto tool for professional networking” in today’s job market.

LinkedIn was first founded in December of 2002 by Reid Hoffman, former PayPal COO, as well as other nine other founding PayPal and Socialnet members. Early funding for the website was provided by Sequoia Capital, a venture capital firm, in 2003. The website’s membership grew quickly; three years after its launch in 2003, LinkedIn reportedly boasted 20 million members. The site also expanded its influence abroad, opening an International Headquarters in Dublin, Ireland in 2010. Now, according to LinkedIn’s “About Us” page, the site has 400 million members from all around the world with offices in London, Dubai, Amsterdam, Milan, and 11 other cities across the globe. Additionally, the site is available in 24 languages. One of the sites more interesting features is the ability to advertise your profile in a language other than your native one, expanding your professional network onto a global scale. In more recent years, LinkedIn has been embroiled in controversy regarding the automatic access the site uses to connect users’ e-mails with their profiles in addition to a hacking scandal where 6.4 million users’ passwords were stolen and published online. The company went public in January of 2011.

When someone first signs up for the site, they are asked to create a user profile that serves as their resume or CV for future employers or others to view. Using the profile, members can form professional connections that emulate the kind of business contacts one might establish in the real world. Users create these “connections” by sending requests to existing users or sending invites to non-members. LinkedIn also suggests connections by connecting the LinkedIn profile to an e-mail address book that is given when the account is created, or a Facebook profile. Users also have the opportunity to connect with their other social media platforms, affording the possibility of maintaining their professional brand across multiple websites including a professional blog or Twitter page. Users can also connect websites or upload digital samples of their work to be viewed on their profile.

Not only does LinkedIn provide a space for like-minded professionals to connect among one another, the media platform also serves as a forum for those same people to share ideas and newsworthy articles across the discipline. The LinkedIn Groups feature in particular  demonstrates this strength. Members can join groups as basic as alumni networks or as specific as ‘Genealogy Consultancy,’ a group where hobbyists and professional genealogical researchers can get together and talk shop. The genius of these groups is that they provide a low-stakes opportunity to better one’s professional practice through interaction with professionals of various experience levels. They also provide a forum for people to discuss the difficult questions that emerge through their work–allowing members of a particular group to provide support or healthy debate for issues of best practice. It also provides a platform to see how the same processes might work at another company, or even in another industry.

LinkedIn2

The National Council on Public History’s LinkedIn Group

The feature is particularly useful for the public historian. With a seemingly endless network of history hobbyists and professionals alike, LinkedIn Groups provides a unique opportunity for museum professionals and employees at cultural institutions to compare/contrast how things are done at their institutions versus the field at large. This feature might be particularly useful for smaller or newer institutions to network with large museum and museum networks to see how professionals at those museums handle certain scenarios. The American Alliance of Museums group on LinkedIn often poses essential yet difficult questions for the museum professional. The most recent queried, “Is taking time to make meaning just quibbling?” Similarly, the National Council on Public History’s group routinely posts articles of recent newsworthy events in the public history world, as well as posts requests for papers and academic work to be displayed at symposiums across the country. In this way LinkedIn not only allows for the immediate connectivity of public history professionals, but also fosters their professional development. This informal eduction helps enrich the field of public history further so that museum staff can provide better programming for the museum-going public and as a result increase meaningful outreach.

Important Considerations for Digitizing Collections

url

This past week we were asked to examine the digital offerings of a specific historical institution and weigh their effectiveness. However, before we can examine the effectiveness of digital collections, its important to contemplate the process of how those collections are made available to the public, and the potential struggles museums, archives, and other institutions encounter from inception to implementation.

Typically, one of the first considerations public historians creating digital collections explore is to choose the best format for the information they want to make available. Unfortunately, not every institution has access to the monetary resources or the technologically skilled workforce available to digitize collections in the same way. Museums and archives with more funding may have greater opportunity to make available more of their collections because of their access to resources; similarly, that access opens up the availability of certain formats. Nevertheless, monetary cost is not the most difficult barrier for institutions in creating digital access to collections. At the end of the day, if there is no staff or liaisons knowledgable enough to facilitate the projects, implementing any digitization becomes difficult. It is up to each institution to determine what projects are feasible or even advisable given the unique constraints of money, time, and expertise.

When planning for a digital project, many may be surprised to learn public historians are just as concerned with future access to their collections as they are with the thoughtful presentation of the history being portrayed in the present. The issue of sustainability is integral to the discussion of digital collections, as new technologies make media obsolete or undesirable with what seems like each passing day. This fact became even more apparent with out discussion of old media versus new media in Week One. Not only that, the maintenance of the existing collections, or  the necessity of upgrading those same collections to a new platform, is an important consideration for the development of digital collections. Take for example, the Historic New Orleans Collection (THNOC), an excellent museum, research center, and publisher from New Orleans, Louisiana.  Their digital offerings are quite impressive; yet, their platforms and formats seem dated and are not user friendly as new audiences become more acclimatized to current advances in technology. Their timeline feature of the sequence of events pertaining to the time preceding Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent years following the tragedy in particular is antiquated and difficult to interact with. Remembering to upgrade and maintain the collections and exhibits are just as important as the process of making them available online. Every museum and institution should consider this aspect in their plan when undergoing the digitization of their collections.

Peaks and Pitfalls: Twitter and Chicago’s Historic House Museums

Twitter-tweet-1140x641

Most (if not all) of the world’s top public history and cultural institutions maintain Twitter pages. The Smithsonian (@smithsonian) and its nineteen separate museums’ handles alone boast well over three million followers. Famous museums in Europe like the Louvre (@MuseeLouvre) in Paris and the British Museum in London (@britishmuseum) have followers numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Most museums, particularly smaller more local institutions, cannot realistically expect to achieve that kind of massive outreach; however, creative use of one’s Twitter page to publicize upcoming events, highlight unique collections, as well as connect the institution’s relevant programming to current events and social justice issues allows for these venues to engage with the public and attract visitors. Three separate historic house museums in Chicago characterize each of these traits.

The Driehaus Museum (@DriehausMuseum) uses its Twitter platform primarily as a venue to advertise its events and upcoming exhibitions. It appears that the Driehaus’ most popular collections, or at least the one’s that receive the most attention on their website and Twitter page, rely heavily on the topic of popular culture as it intersects with their area of expertise: the Gilded Age. Currently, the Driehaus Museum’s tweets comprise of various deviations on the theme of “Downton Abbey,” the hit period British drama that is now airing its final season. This is understandable given the topic of their upcoming exhibit, Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times. The barrage of Downton Abbey related content on their Twitter page and their website will undoubtedly draw large crowds of people to see the beautiful period costumes as seen on the very popular TV show. Unfortunately, their present obsession with Downton Abbey eclipses all other information about the museum’s permanent collections and other upcoming events. Although an excellent way of creating buzz about a certain collection, it would be beneficial for the Driehaus to diversify their future Twitter postings to draw attention to their lesser known collections, using the momentum from the web and foot traffic that the inevitably popular Downton Abbey exhibit will attract to engage more of the public with the rest of the house museum. Nevertheless, the Drieahaus shows one way house museums can use Twitter to draw in large audiences by advertising upcoming events.

DriehausMuseum

Downton Abbey fever at the Driehaus Museum 

Another Chicago house museum, Glessner House (@GlessnerHouse), uses twitter to create connections with their unique collections and larger “trending” hashtags on the social media site. For example they periodically employ the hashtags #OnThisDay to connect the current date with something that occurred on the same day during the nineteenth century. The creative use of these large trending hashtags on their social media outlets allows the Glessner to enter into a national discussion with users from all over the country while making the public aware of their various collections. The Glessner also uses this method to educate their followers on history relevant to the time period Glessner House was built. Rather than restricting their tweets to information about their collections, the Glessner opens up its postings to include lessons contextualizing the house into a larger historical narrative, making it more relevant to viewers.

Jane Addams Hull-House’s Twitter (@JAHHM) depicts the opportunities house museums have to intersect with issues of social justice visibly on a national (and international) stage. This is particularly relevant to the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum’s mission, as the museum’s staff works to not only preserve the memory of Jane Addam’s work, but also use the site itself as a venue to institute their own discussions of public policy and contemporary social issues.  As well as advertising the times for their free tours of the museum, Hull-House frequently updates their Twitter feed with re-tweets of partnered events that implemented socio-political themes. One recent post showcased a moderated discussion called “What is Protest For?” presented by Point Magazine at the museum. The marriage of Hull-House’s mission of facilitating important social discussions keeps the traditions of its founding alive and enriches the experience all the more for visitors and potential patrons on the internet alike. In this way the institution’s Twitter is a harmonious extension of the museum itself rather than a separate entity. The creation of a Twitter space that engages viewers and makes them feel compelled to visit should be the goal of all social media platforms used by museums and cultural institutions. Hull-House’s feed demonstrates a good example of how that goal can come to life.