Final Thoughts

Well, it’s time to bring this blog to a close —

This blog was created as a class project for two Emerging Media courses in Arts and Technology at the University of Texas at Dallas. Our assignment was to create a blog about a topic of interest to us. So I chose to write about examples of blogging and podcasting in the world of public history — the focus of my degree program. And about things I learned during the class projects. 

Instructor talking with students in classroom full of computers

UTD Prof Dan Langendorf with students.

Lessons Learned

  • Blogging helped me find a voice.  This has been a great learning experience for me — finding out how people are using technology to create their own history experiences. It’s forced me to focus, organize my thoughts, and improve my writing — giving me an opportunity to express myself that I rarely have at work. I’m also glad I took the emerging media courses when I did. In just the three years since I took the classes, the focus of these classes has shifted to twitter and other social media. I like the longer format of a blog post because it encourages a deeper exploration of  a topic.  
  • There is an endless variety of ways to use blogging software.  Because blogs are an easy way to get content on the Internet, they can be used in ways the developers probably never thought of. One classmate used her blog to communicate with her ‘Ultimate Frisbee’ team. Another to keep family and friends up-to-date about a friend in the hospital. Another to explore an interest in the history of Negro Leagues Baseball, and another to explore contemporary religious issues. Several classmates used their blog to spotlight their artwork.  Resulting in one of the things I like best about blogging …  (next bullet point please.)
  • The democratic (with a small “d”) nature of blogging. You do not have to be a programmer or Web designer.  Therefore, pretty much anyone can do it.  That way, you can focus on content — and exploring, discovering, and sharing ideas.  This means many more participants, more voices in the conversation, which is a great service to humankind. I am grateful to the developers of WordPress (my choice) and others for making this possible.  
  • Must decide on the tradeoff of control versus content. However, the ease of blogging software comes with a price. You don’t have ultimate control of how your blog looks unless you download and start tinkering with the code yourself.  So you must decide.  Do you want to go with the defaults and focus on content?  Or do you want to spend more time with the code, which may mean less time for exploring and writing? I purposely chose to go with defaults.  For the most part, that has worked out well.  However, just recently WordPress discontinued a theme I was using for another blog, so I’ve got to go back to the drawing board to set it up again.  
  • The beauty of permalinks. One of the side benefits of a blog is that it’s a great way to collect links to other blog posts, Web sites, articles, podcasts, etc. It’s nice to look back through the posts, be reminded of a great find, and link directly to it. The disadvantage, though, is that links change — pages are moved to another location in a site or removed altogether. So it is important to hunt for the permalink and, when possible, to build permalinks into our own content.
  • Biggest challenge for me was to avoid getting bogged down when writing a post.  Writing is not my strength, and I agonize over words and paragraphs. However, I’m trying to learn that if it conveys the thought, it’s good enough. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just effective. 

Going Forward

I am currently writing a family history blog — recording the stories and history of our family — for my extended family. I would provide a link to it, but alas, to provide the greatest freedom in writing and ensure the greatest privacy to family members, it is password protected. 


To my instructors, especially Dan Langendorf, who exposed me to a lot of new ideas and created an environment where every student could succeed. Dan is knowledgeable, encouraging, and inspiring.

To my classmates and friends, especially Judy, Andrea, and Cone, who actually read what I wrote, and provided an occasional comment, and/or “atta girl!”

August 27, 2010 at 8:58 pm 1 comment

Lewis Hine Photographs of Yocona Cotton Mill

In May 1911, photographer Lewis Hine, working for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), photographed employees of the Yocona Cotton Mill in Water Valley, Mississippi.  (See my previous post, Yocona Cotton Mill – A Brief History.)  

Lewis Hine photo showing Yocona Cotton Mill workers in Water Valley, Mississippi, including approximately eighteen children.

Lewis Hine photograph showing Yocona Cotton Mill workers, including approximately eighteen children. (1)

Lewis Hine’s caption: “Nearly the entire force, Yocona Mills, Water Valley, Miss.  Some of the smallest workers not in photo.  The three smallest ones in front row hang around and help some.  Baby doesn’t work, – yet.  The rest are steady workers.”  

.     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

Master’s Thesis

Finding these photographs gave me my master’s thesis project — to tell the story of the men, women, and children in these photographs.   

Help Identify Workers

Please help me identify the people in these photos. The 1910 Yalobusha County, Mississippi census may help.  The census record is very light and therefore difficult to read, but I believe I have deciphered the following family names: Bilbro (?), Dugard (?), Eubanks, McDowell (?), Mason, Morgan, Murphy, Phillips, Ray, and Sanders. According to the census, Mr. Charles E. Romberger was superintendent of the mill, Mr. Gore was assistant superintendent, and Joe A. Hamby (?) was foreman.  

The census also listed the following jobs: spinner, spooler, thread twister, doffer, ballwinder, and picker. 

If you can identify any of the people in the Lewis Hine photograph above, please post a comment below by clicking on the “comments” link. 

Child Workers

Notice the row of children in front.  Despite their age, these children worked at the mill and they are the reason Lewis Hine came to Water Valley.  In 1908, the NCLC hired Lewis Hine to travel throughout the United States taking pictures of child workers in cotton mills, canneries, farms, and coal mines.  The NCLC used Hine’s photographs in magazine articles, newspapers, and traveling exhibits to increase public awareness of child labor and push for reform legislation. 

More Lewis Hine Photographs

Visit the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, enter “Water Valley Mississippi” in the search box, and click the Go button to view all five Lewis Hine photographs of the Yocona Cotton Mill.

September 30, 2008 at 9:47 pm 2 comments

Yocona Cotton Mill – A Brief History

The Yocona Cotton Mill — the subject of my master’s thesis — was also called Yocona Mills or Yocona Twine Mill and was located in Water Valley, Mississippi, from the 1880s until it burned in April, 1926.

Photo of Yocona Cotton Mill about 1897

Photograph of Yocona Cotton Mill appearing in Water Valley, Mississippi newspaper, 1897.

According to various descriptions in Water Valley newspapers and Sanborn insurance maps, the mill produced yarn, batts, mop cord, and twine.  It employed anywhere from 50 to 200 people.

The Yocona Cotton Mill was located in the north end of Water Valley – just north of North Court Street.  It was east of the Illinois Central Railroad tracks and just west of a street called College Street.  (Today College Street is the part of Jones Street that curves into North Court.)  It appears that the current street called Campus Drive and/or the houses along Campus Drive may have been built on top of the remnants of the mill.

The mill was started and owned by local investors, primarily the Wagner family, a prominent family in Water Valley.  Charles E. Romberger was the superintendent of the mill for many years.

I will soon post photographs of the mill taken by famed photographer Lewis Hine in May 1911.  Until then, check out A Young Workforce In 1911 Was Under Scrutiny by Jack Gurner, Jr., of the North Mississippi Herald newspaper.

If you have any information about the mill or the people who worked there, please respond by adding a comment.

September 26, 2008 at 7:27 pm 1 comment

Student Blogs

You can always tell a student blog because it ends the last day of class!  That’s what happened to this blog.

However, I’m going to restart this blog – to write about a project I’m currently working on – the Yocona Cotton Mill in Water Valley, Mississippi.

My degree program combines history and technology. For my final project, I will be creating a Web site about the Yocona Cotton Mill focusing on photographs of the mill taken May 1911, by documentary photographer Lewis Hine.

More about the Yocona Cotton Mill and Lewis Hine photographs coming soon!

September 25, 2008 at 9:31 pm Leave a comment

Including Transcripts With Oral History Podcasts

I think it is important to include transcripts with oral history podcasts.  Transcripts help everybody:

  • Listeners
  • Researchers
  • Deaf users

At the Oral History Association’s annual meeting in Little Rock (see previous post), Rebecca Wright emphasized this point in the “Introduction to Oral History” workshop.  She said words to the effect:

“Given a choice between audio and a transcript, researchers will choose a transcript.  Given a choice between audio and nothing, researchers will choose nothing.”

Researchers need to scan quickly to determine if an interview has relevant information and quotes.

To make scanning easy, there are two techniques:

  1. Index – which contains a timestamp and a brief description of what is being talked about.  This helps all listeners find the audio clip they are most interested in. 

  2. Transcript – which contains a word-by-word copy of what is being said.  This is very useful for researchers.

So far in my project, I’ve been doing a hybrid of these two techniques.  I started by listening to the raw audio (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours – broken down into more than one audio file.)  As I listened in Windows Media Player which displays a running timestamp, I created an index. 

Then, as I decided which parts of the interview to include in a 12 to 15 minute podcast, I found myself going back and transcribing some of the detailed conversation to make editing easier.  This was helpful because I sometimes selected audio out of sequence and needed exact words and phrases to make it sound plausible.  (For example, I frequently asked the person to expand on something they said earlier). 

I intend to upload either the index or my hybrid document with all of my podcasts.

April 25, 2007 at 12:16 am Leave a comment

Balancing Access and Privacy in Oral History

The good news about posting a podcast is that everyone can access it.  You can reach a very wide audience.

The bad news about posting a podcast is that everyone can access it. You might not want a completely unrestrained audience.  

So, the question is – how / where do you create a page for a podcast so that it’s easy to access and others can see it.  But, if you are doing oral history, it protects the privacy of those who were interviewed.

This is part of a bigger problem oral historians face as they move oral histories to the Internet — oral histories that were conducted decades ago, before the Internet was imagined. 

WordPress offers a couple of options:

  1. Password protect the entire blog.  The disadvantage is that each individual who wants to view the blog has to have an individual account with WordPress.  As the administrator, you have to enter each person’s Login ID to allow them to see the blog.  This can be time consuming, especially if you want a large audience to be able to view the page with the podcast.
  2. Password protect a single page using a single password.  With this approach, as the administrator, you send the same password to everyone you want to have access to the page.  Something you can probably accomplish with a mass email.

April 24, 2007 at 1:01 am Leave a comment

Test Run of Final Podcast Project

I played a test version of my final podcast in class last week to hear how the audio sounded.  I had conducted several one-on-one interviews using the Audio-Technica Pro 24 microphone.  All the interviews were done around a kitchen table (or smaller table).   (See previous post.)

My concerns were:

1. After uploading the audio files to my laptop, the audio sounded much softer that what I was used to when using the Sennheiser MD-46 mike.

2. The Audio-Technica Pro 24 is a double-cardioid mike which means that my voice sounded much louder in one speaker, while the interviewee sounded louder in the other speaker.

During editing (in Audacity):

1. I started by trying to use the “normalize” effect.  But it increased all the background noise, so I decided not to use that.

2. Instead, I used the “gain slider” to increase the volume to 9db, which sounded about right. 

3. I used the “noise removal” effect, which worked great.  It’s a two-step process.  I selected a portion of the audio that had background noise, but no voices.  I clicked the “Get Noise Profile” button.  Then I selected the entire track and clicked “Remove Noise”, after moving the slider about one-fourth of the way, so that it would only remove about 25% of the noise. 

The results:

1. Dan, the instructor, had to turn up the volume all the way.  However, after doing that, the audio sounded fine.  So, the next questions are:

– What impact will increasing the gain even more have?

– Dan suggested trying a compression filter (in place of gain?)

2. In regards to the stereo effect, Dan said not to worry about it, but that I could try to flatten the recording after I finish all the edits.  Not sure what feature that would be in Audacity.  He suggested listening to the podcast through speakers, rather than just through headphones.

3. Dan also suggested using the blog to clarify sections of the podcast that need more explanation.  For example, my interviewee talked about going to U.T. (meaning the University of Tennessee).  It’s not obvious from the interview, but the blog post could clarify that point.  That’s a great idea and will make editing much easier!  I won’t feel as compelled to cram in a snippet of voice that really doesn’t belong.

April 11, 2007 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

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