Digital Public History Project (4): Setbacks and Next Steps

One thing that I have come to learn in a very poignant way about digital projects is that they need time: time to develop, time to change, time to succeed. While this is true of virtually any project, digital projects sometimes have this appearance of mystic ease throughout all its stages (at least for those not accustomed to working on digital projects). Buy a server, slap together a website, find some content online, make it look presentable and bam—you’ve got a project. Deceptive this appearance truly is.

Challenges

As my previous posts have hopefully identified, I am deep into the research and construction phases of my project. I have a goal in mind and I have questions to answer. I have personas crafted and infrastructure to host content. As I began collecting materials for my gallery that would comprise the bulk of my online exhibit, I was setback by an unfortunate denial of use for images key to my project. One of the main methods for exploring my topic involved reviewing the press coverage of the Fort Lawton Takeover to map the public discourse taking place among the largely non-Native inhabitants of Seattle with the goal of painting the racial landscape. A previous digital project created a rich archive of images that provided exactly what I needed. I reached out to the project to obtain permission to rehost the content in my exhibit and while I awaited a reply, I began collecting the digital images from their archive and filling out the metadata necessary for each item. As I completed this process, I received the denial of my request.

While the denial from this project was one thing, it has also been difficult trying to find the desired material elsewhere in an online fashion. Many of the articles are locked behind profit-driven barriers (as is the custom in our world today) and parties with copyright ownership have been slow to respond when trying to ascertain the best way to access said materials. This leaves me with little choice to either shill out money to get the licenses for these images if I want to actualize the fullest extent of my project or going through much more arduous means to procure them from physical facilities.

Compounding this issue, I was planning on attending an event hosted by the United Indians of All Tribes organization that now occupies the Daybreak Star Indian Center in Discovery Park in Seattle. The event was to commemorate the 50th year anniversary of the takeover and I had plans to interview survivors of this time for audio content for my exhibit. Yet, due to the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in my state, the event was postponed until this summer. This has also made it difficult to get in contact with some of my desired interviewees for this project.

Suffice to say, there have been a number of challenges with the route I have committed myself to for this project.

Solutions and Steps

The benefit to doing this project in an educational setting is that I can garner advice from those much more experienced than myself. I contacted my professor for this course (Dr. Mills Kelly) and he provided some very useful guidance that gives me an alternative to the aforementioned ways of getting access to the desired material—along with some general feedback on my project and the appearance of my blog as is (don’t worry, I’m getting to it soon!). With his advice, I will be able to host the content I want for my intended outcomes, though it won’t be to the fullest extent that I had originally hoped for. Still, sacrifices need to be made when necessary if the project is to amount to anything.

So my next steps will involve readjusting my collection of items for my exhibit to avoid copyright infringement and work with the model I am going for with their presentation. I am currently engaged in doing this, but I have made my images private for now so as to work on them while taking care of my other assignments for this course.

I will also be reaching out to my potential interviewees in the coming days to see if I can schedule appropriate times to meet with them and record the conversation for the exhibit. As a number of them live in the impacted zones of the virus (King County and surrounding areas), I can only hope that it will be in a reasonable manner of time that I can conduct the interviews. This will require coordination and planning.

During these steps, I will also continue to flush out the infrastructure and design of my exhibit (and website overall) to accommodate the narrative-style I will be shooting for with the items. As I am currently lacking the items necessary for informing the construction of the exhibit, this step will be held up for a minute until I finish readjusting my collection of images and videos. Hopefully I will have more positive news on the project in the next update!

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Kyle

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