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Summary Form

Digital Story Title:

Saving Buckland: The Conflict Between Historic Preservation and Progress in Northern Virginia

Brief description:

This Digital Story will focus on my own experience learning about a village in Northern Virginia named Buckland.  This collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century structures has remained remarkably intact, but it is now being threatened by infrastructure expansion and suburban sprawl like so many other historic sites in Northern Virginia.  The story will chart the rise, fall, and preservation of Buckland, in addition to discussing its potential role for interpretation and education in the community.

Main goal(s):

The main goal of this Digital Story is to educate the public about Buckland’s existence and to educate members of the community about the threats to Buckland’s survival.  I want viewers of this digital story to understand that nineteenth century Buckland was not that remarkable.  It was one of hundreds of Virginian piedmont towns that grew up along turnpikes that were used for commerce, and waterways used to power a variety of mills.  What is remarkable, and what I hope viewers walk away with, is that a large portion of this town has survived to the twenty-first century and can now play an important role in educating the public about Virginia and its place in the early republic.

Who is your intended audience? (e.g., colleagues, historians, art historians, the general public, high school history students, middle school music students, art students. . . )

The intended audience of this digital story is the general public, but also members of the public who are interested in history and historic preservation in the hopes that others will work to save historic sites in Northern Virginia.

Category: Final Summary  Comments off
Copyright “Basics”

Part of me wishes that the topic of this week’s class had been addressed earlier in the semester.  I learned some copyright basics in an undergraduate course on music and film.  With this very elementary understanding of copyright, I knew that I wanted to make my own soundtrack with Garage Band to avoid any issues that might prevent me from eventually placing my DST on the Buckland Preservation Society’s website.  Yet knowing a small bit about copyright didn’t stop me from being shocked by the intricacies of copyright protection, and I became grateful that we did not delve into these intricacies until late in the semester so that I was not consumed with fears of litigation.

I had a great laugh reading through the article entitled “Copyright Basics,” because twelve pages highlighting the major points could not get any less basic!  The same went for the comic Tales from the Public Domain.  I took some video of traffic near Buckland a few days ago, and, when I first started reading the comic, all I could think about was how happy I was that I was not using the audio for fear of someone’s car stereo blaring a top-40 hit.  As I read further, I thought the authors did a great job of underlining the relative, albeit confusing, fluidity of copyright and fair use.

I also began to appreciate some of the copyright restrictions a bit more.  It would have been easier to drag and drop some music from iTunes into iMovie for a soundtrack and hope for the best, but restricting myself to what was in the public domain led me to create my own tracks in Garage Band.  I don’t claim to be the next Ennio Morricone, but the creative process was still fun and I don’t have to worry about cease and desist orders if my DST gets to the point where I’d like it to be on the society’s website.  All in all, I thought there were some very interesting readings this week that raise fascinating questions about creativity in this medium.

Category: W13: Copyright  Comments off
Project Progress

I still have a lot of work to do to bring this DST together, but I think the experience of storyboarding was extremely helpful last week.  Storyboarding exposed some elements of my script that could flow quite a bit better , and, along with comments from Dr. Schrum, helped me to realize that there needs to be more of a hook to draw viewers into the story.  The process of revising my script, in addition to thinking of different ways to make it more interesting for viewers, is something that I have been trying to focus on as I continue to compile video and images.

I also think it was very helpful to see the rubric for the first time.  I think that I have been obsessing about planning the technological aspects of the story I am telling.  While the images and videos I am gathering are going to be essential to telling my story in a digital format, the story itself is still key.  I still have a lot to do, and there are still scheduling challenges to address that may force me to scale back or remove an interview or two, but I feel as if my focus is where it should be as the story comes together in these final weeks.

Interactivity and Public History

Interactivity and storytelling are readily apparent in a variety of web 2.0 platforms, and I thought it was quite interesting to see how some of this week’s readings related to storytelling in an interactive environment.  The uses of storytelling in interactive environments was perhaps most obvious in the articles related to alternate reality gaming.  In these games participants are not only engaged in a story, they are active participants.  The elements of traditional narrative storytelling are certainly there, but the way these elements unfold is decidedly different.  Alternate reality gamers may have to solve puzzles involving the use of real world technology to unlock new chapters of the ARG.

The uses of this type of storytelling for public history could be very exciting.  Mount Vernon has an interesting kid’s game on its website that places the individual inside a virtual estate where you interact with individuals from the past as you search for various items that are important to George Washington.  While fun for children, this game is not nearly as interactive as ARGs, but perhaps it is a step in the right direction.  Historic sites could use ARGs as “national treasure” type detective stories  aimed at interacting and teaching individuals who may find these types of games more engaging than actual site visits.

These digital environments are also providing new ways in which academics can collaborate.  With web 2.0 platforms, collaboration can occur in real time, with real time feedback and critiques as well.  This question reminded me of that youtube video we watched in class showing the use of google docs to ask a girl on a date.  This same type of engaged discussion can translate to the world of academia in digital environments.

Category: W9: Interactivity  Comments off
Saving Buckland

My final project is going to focus on the conflict between progress and remembrance/historic preservation as it relates to the village of Buckland, a collection of 18th and 19th century homes 3 miles west of Gainesville that was also the site of a civil war cavalry engagement in 1863.

I began to think more about historic preservation in Northern Virginia when, after a few months in this area, my girlfriend and I settled into a wonderful Saturday morning routine involving breakfast at a little deli called Chutzpah in Fairfax Town Center.  Perhaps my brain was addled by corned beef hash, but it took several trips to our favorite haunt before I realized that a small portion of  a battlefield was preserved right across the street.  The Battle of Ox Hill was fought in the wake of the Second Battle of Manassas, and resulted in over 2,000 casualties that fell right where I kick off my weekend.  Now, several monuments, and a small park littered with beer bottles, are all that is left to remind us of this battle.  This discovery made me realize that Northern Virginia is littered with historic sites that are in a seemingly constant state of danger from suburban sprawl and expanding transportation networks.

This digital story will focus on the fight to preserve one of these threatened sites, the aforementioned village of Buckland.  Buckland is not unique in the eighteenth and nineteenth century.  Countless towns developed around gristmills in Virginia’s Piedmont as wheat production grew in importance.  Yet this collection of buildings has survived relatively intact, where others have been swallowed by condo developments and strip malls.  Buckland is in the process of being increasingly preserved, rehabilitated, and interpreted for public education, but it is now being threatened by the growth of both Gainesville and Warrenton in addition to the expansion of Rt. 29.  This story will recount the way I discovered Buckland after unknowingly driving past it numerous times on my way to outings in Shenandoah National Park, the actions that are currently being taken to save the site by the Buckland Preservation Society, and the ways in which the threats to Buckland represent a larger conflict between progress and historic preservation/education.

Murder at Harvard Revisited

I know I’m late…..but I missed the class where we watched Murder at Harvard, so here is my quick take on the film.

The film Murder at Harvard is an attempt to tell both the story of George Parkman’s murder and historian Simon Schama’s approach to this sensational event in Boston’s history.  Schama utilizes the documentary to explain the methodology behind his writing of Dead Certainties, which uses fictional narratives based in a historical context to bring past events to life in the minds of the reader.  I appreciated the literary and historical exercise in Dead Certainties, because it drew me in as a reader.  If I had been using this text to learn about class conflict in mid-nineteenth century Boston, I would be able to appreciate the intricacies of the social relationship between a janitor and chemist, but I could not simply read Schama’s prose and accept it as fact.  As a reader I would have to work to validate the interactions he constructed with the historical record, and I found this non-traditional format engaging.

Murder at Harvard did not captivate me in the same way, because Schama’s discussion of methodology turns into a detective story that he goes about solving on his own.  Instead of allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions based on inventive narratives grounded in historical context, the film ends with Schama solving the case and validating Webster’s guilt.  The sensational murder of George Parkman, and the trial surrounding it, can and should be used to investigate Boston society in the middle of the nineteenth century, but as the film concludes I felt as if I was watching a murder-mystery where all the sleuthing had been done for me.

Category: W4: Murder at Harvard  Comments off
Learning About Slavery at Mount Vernon

As one of the historic interpreters at Mount Vernon, I constantly come into contact with students (usually middle schoolers) who find the history they are learning in their classrooms incredibly boring.  These same students can’t seem to get enough of some of the features of the estate, particularly the first person interpreters who often staff the reconstructed slave cabin.  Here, students can see and hear first-hand what life would have been like for one of George Washington’s slaves.  Students find these interactions much more rewarding than lessons from dry textbooks.  Now, the rise of digital media  and digital storytelling is making these first person interpretations available to an increasing number of Fairfax County students.

This first time, amateur attempt at Animoto was chance to highlight these learning styles and chart the change from textbooks to digital media in the classroom.  I definitely found the text limits frustrating, but the program’s user-friendly approach clearly shows that it does have potential for educational use.

Here it is

Category: W5: Animoto  2 Comments
DST Definiton

Based upon the many posts already up on this site, definitions on other websites, and the definitions that can be gleaned from examples of digital stories that we have watched thus far in class, digital storytelling can be explained or defined in a variety of different ways.  I wish I could provide something more groundbreaking or profound, but my overly simplistic definition would state that a digital story is a narrative, either linear or non-linear, which is told with still images and/or videos that have been paired with narration, and is often supplemented by a soundtrack.  While this description may be simple, it does underline the fact that many different stories can fit within a framework as broad as this one.

Even though this description is broad and perhaps a bit too vague, it should not take anything away from the powerful messages these digital stories can convey.  In fact, because these stories can be as simple as a collection of photographs used to enhance a narration they can be utilized by a growing number of individuals eager to share and preserve their most precious memories.  Although we have already been exposed to a variety of visually stunning and well-produced digital stories, I continue to find myself drawn to stories like those contained in the BBC’s Telling Lives project.  Projects such as this give ordinary individuals with access to a computer an opportunity to document their own personal stories.  Whether these stories are recollections of the London Blitz or a cherished childhood remembrance, Telling Lives ensures that they are preserved and disseminated for people all over the world to see.  The fact that I can share these experiences a half a world away highlights the value of the digital stories that I have so poorly defined.

Category: W3: What is Digital Storytelling?  Comments off
Adoption Day

Category: W3: 5 Photos  3 Comments
The Mountain

I found this story while exploring the Center for Digital Storytelling’s website.  While several different stories proved excellent examples of digital storytelling, I found myself coming back to “The Mountain” by Amy Johns.  This digital story was very simple in that it consisted of still images paired with music and narration by the author, but something about this simplicity was very powerful.

“The Mountain” recounts the author’s experience growing up on a mountaintop in Pennsylvania where generations of her family had lived.  Johns recounts tales of playing in a springhouse that her great, great-grandfather had built, and running wild with her brother through forests their grandfather told them had been the playground of giants.  Yet the mountain that Johns so fondly remembers soon vanished.  The author’s grandparents sold the mining rights to the mountain in order to fund the building of their retirement home, because they believed the coal beneath the property was too deep and too dirty to be valuable to the coal companies.  They were sadly mistaken, and the mountaintop Johns loved was removed in order to access the coal seam below.  She goes on to recount the differences within the family regarding the stripping of the land, and her current struggle to prevent this destruction from continuing, while lamenting the fact that her niece will never be able to experience the mountain the way that she had in her youth.

The impact this mining venture had on Johns is related to the audience through her own photographs that document the mountain’s demise.  While these pictures may not be the work of a professional photographer, the way they are used to build a narrative arc are powerful because they allow the viewer to experience the changing landscape firsthand.  This digital story reminded me that no amount of editing or visual effects is able to substitute for a good story, and I found myself encouraged because it showed me that my own technological inexperience does not prevent me from telling a powerful story in this digital medium.