Kellie's History Blog

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November 21, 2013

Critiquing Web Sites

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 12:09 am

When critiquing websites it is important to pay attention to the following features:   design elements–what works and what doesn’t; the information architecture–that is how the information is presented, how is the content categorized; and lastly, the points engagement on the site–are there commenting opps, can you contribute content, do these elements (or the lack thereof help or hinder the purpose of the site.

One of my favorite web sites that I use frequently is Barnes and Noble (  Some of the design elements that work for this site are the color scheme, green and white the Barnes and Noble brand colors and they add other colors and graphics based on the season.   The navigation buttons are numerous and it is broken down into understandable categories to help you find what you are looking for based on your interests.  At first glance it appears that all the site content can be accessed from this view, but there is a lot more content on this front page, you just have to scroll down to view it and a lot of viewers will not take the time to do this.  The search option is very prominent on the front page so if you know the name of the author or title or the book this is probably the easiest way to find what you’re looking for.  But if you want to spend more time browsing the site or if you are interested in a certain genre, then you can navigate using those options.  There is no place to comment or contribute to the design of the website but readers are offered the opportunity to provide a review on books they may have read once you have navigated to the book page of your choice.  Only most the most avid readers tend to use this option; most reviews are of the editorial variety.  Overall the 10 Principles of Effective Web Design are met the only negative is the amount of content may be overwhelming and time consuming

The other website I reviewed is that of Colonial Williamsburg (  This site is more dynamic than Barnes and Noble as on its homepage they use multiple pictures serving as links that loop showcasing the events and exhibits that they are currently highlighting.   Navigation buttons are prominent at top of page and easily identify the content of subpages.  Other navigation buttons showcase what is new on the site with many interactive features.  Site visitors can contribute to blogs on topics of interest and podcasts are available for those who would rather watch and listen to their history than read about on a website.  The content of the website is categorized for the average person interested in history , those in the educational arena, and professional interested in research.   This is a very effective website that uses all 10 of the Principles of Effective Web Design and actively engages the viewers.  In fact its interactive features will keep visitors entertained and eager to learn more about Colonial Williamsburg, so they will be more tempted to purchase one of the travel packages offered on the site.    

November 13, 2013

Many Eyes Visualization

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 7:04 pm

The visualization I chose to critique from Many Eyes was titled Survival on the Titanic.   I chose this visualization as it was one of the top rated and I am somewhat of a Titanic history buff.

The visualization is a bubble chart that shows the number of people, their sex, their age (adult/child) and their class who either survived or perished when the Titanic sank. .

Initial view is of non-survivors in first row and survivors in second then bubble for class with each bubble divided between sexes.  Sex color coded blue for men and pink for women (very easy to remember!).  You can scroll over either of the colors to get the actual number of men/women who make up total.  This visualization was very simplistic in its design and that made it easy to read and understand the data.

Upon further review I discovered that there were expert options available for selection that allowed the viewer to see different perspectives of the data.  For example, it could be viewed as a bar chart, the numbers of people could be displayed as totals or averages, and the size of the bubble could be based on percentage of row (this last was interesting to me because it showed me that there was a similarity in proportion of crew & third class passengers who perished. The numbers of 1st and 2nd class passengers who died were even more evenly proportioned).

Display options were also based on column data you were most interested in:  sex, class, age, or total numbers.   I was interested in the number of 1st & 2nd class children vs the 3rd class children who perished.  The data showed that only 52 3rd class children died and no 1dt or 2nd children.  I know this to be incorrect as there was one 1st class little girl who died as her mother refused to leave the ship until the whereabouts of the son could be determined (he had been saved by his nanny and was already on a lifeboat).

Only two negatives I would mention are:  When I first saw the row headings of No and Yes I was confused, but then I figured out that No meant Didn’t Survive and Yes meant Survived; for the headers I would have liked to seen this more clearly defined.   There was also no known data source available so the reliability of this data can be questioned.







November 6, 2013

Using Data – The Chicago Homicide Project

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 5:09 pm

Given the data Eugene Williams and July 27, 1919 I searched both the Chicago Homicide Project’s interactive database and Wikipedia.  Search results from both returned that Eugene Williams, a 17 year old African American was killed on July 27, 1919 in Chicago by a white man named Ges. Stauber on a segregated beach causing a race riot.

The data found in the Chicago Homicide Project’s interactive database for the homicide of Eugene Williams in Chicago on July 27, 1919 gives a succinct accounting of the who, what, where, and when of the crime and the why is even provided but the details surrounding the why are lacking and without this context researcher’s do not get a full understanding of the events surrounding the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.

The Wikipedia results provide same data about the who, what, where, and when but in more limited fashion because they focus on the why and the resulting Chicago Race Riots of 1919.

The database gives cause of death as drowning because victim was too tired after dodging rocks that were being thrown at him by Stauber.  When one of these rocks did strike him, he panicked and drowned.  Stauber’s motive was race related, negroes swimming on segregated beach and Stauber was acquitted of the crime.  Wikipedia backs this data up and provides even more background material on what caused the friction between the two races to begin with and how this incident in particular and the police handling of it fueled the race riots in Chicago during the summer of 1919.  Wikipedia’s source material is made up of secondary sources including books, magazine articles, newspaper articles and even a commission report on Chicago’s race relations and these appear to be very reliable even though it does not include the police report of the homicide of Eugene Williams which is the basis of the data in the Chicago Homicide Project’s interactive database.

October 30, 2013

Using Daytum to Track Personal Statistics

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 8:31 pm

So I signed up for a Daytum account and started tracking things I do daily.  The most obvious thing that comes to mind when thinking of my daily activities is eating; so I tracked what I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner and included approximate times I ate each meal.  What jumps out at me on the breakfast chart is the lack of variety; I have coffee every morning but then it is either donuts or a bagel.  I vary my diet more with my lunch and dinner choices.

Another thing I do on a daily basis is take care of my three Boxers.  On a daily basis they eat three times a day and go on an average of three walks.  Playtime at the doggy park is not a daily occurance but I think I’ll start tracking how often I take them.

Other things I think I would like to track is the number of hours I spend reading and doing homework.  How often do I watch television or go shopping?  If I use the Feltron reports as a model I could determine how often I visit family and in what location.  I could also track the number of social outings I have with my daughter and what the outings consist of.

Not really sure to what end I would use this data but it would be interesting to see if any specific patterns emerge.

Daytum Charts display the data of my meals and dog walks.  I experimented with the chart types to show different options available.  (Sorry, I couldn’t get the visual embedment tools to work properly).






October 23, 2013

Creating Historical Maps

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 9:56 pm

Last week I learned how to create a map using Google Maps and view it through Google Earth. This week’s assignment was to create a historical map using these same tools. But I thought to myself, why recreate the wheel if there is already a map available? I was interested in the bombings in London during World War II known as the “Blitz”, so I conducted a search through Google and found a site culled “Bomb Sight, Mapping the WW2 Bomb Census”. This site had all the geological data and images that I learned about both this week and last. The initial map shows London in 1940 covered by a big red blob that indicates where the bombs fell; this blob totally obscures the map of London and its visual impact was huge on me; how could a city have survived such magnitude of bombings? When you zoom in on the map you start to see the individual bomb sites and there are pins that indicate what type of bomb was dropped, it gives you both the past and present day history of the site and often times pictures. Very powerful imagery, especially when seeing where the bombs fell on residential areas.

Front a historical research perspective this map provides all kinds of useful information such as the number of bombs dropped nightly, the type of bomb and its impact on the site, the number of casualties produced by the bombing, and the viewpoint that there doesn’t seem to be a specific target area or type. The objective seems to be to create as much damage as possible with little thought to destruction of military or industrial sites though these were part of the target area. The data on this maps is available in multiple formats; graphs, charts, spreadsheets, scanned photos as well as text which helps the researcher find what their looking for a assists with extracting the info for their own practical use.

So when thinking about creating a historical map, I would suggest searching the web to see if the data you might be trying to find is already available and save yourself I lot of time. If there is no map available, creating one give the researcher and any audience a powerful tool, using varied formats that can be quite impactful to his subject.

October 16, 2013

Map of Kellie’s Haunts

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 10:41 pm

This week’s assignment was focused on making maps with Google Maps and viewing them in Google Earth. We were asked to map out some of our favorite haunts and what this might tell us about ourselves.

I began by exploring all the links provided and following the steps in the tutorials. Steps went something like this: open Google Maps, select create map and it opens Google Map Engine Lite. I then used the search engine to find places I frequent and added them to my map; I started with my home and expanded outward from there. I tagged and color coded this addresses and can sort them by type for future reference. I then saved the map but chose not to share it via Facebook, Twitter, or Gmail; instead I opened it via the Google Earth program to get a real world 3D look at these locations. This was a cool experience as I was able to zoom it and see recognizable landmarks.

Some of my favorite haunts are the Starbucks in the next subdivision over (my subdivsion doesn’t have a village center), the Fair Lakes Shopping Plaza (where I access pet store, shoe store, arts & craft store, and home goods store), Barnes and Noble Bookseller in Fairfax (which includes a Starbucks) and the Fair Oaks Mall (clothes shopping and yet another Starbucks!). What this map shows me is that I frequent places where I can get a quick caffeine fix and I enjoy both shopping and reading!

October 2, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Challenge #1

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 10:39 pm

So in starting this scavenger hunt I first tried using the Yahoo Search Engine. I typed in “Early 20th Century Coal Mines in Virginia” and the results that came up were primarily for coal mines in West Virginia (very frustrating)! I then went to Google and entered same search parameters; I received much better results. Entries for wikipedia were the ranked one, two, and three and were mainly about the history of the coal industry.

The fifth result was titled “A Guide to the Bond Coal Company Ledger, 1905-1913; #1097978” (‎) It is part of the Library of Virginia Collection and is found on the Virginia Heritage, Guide to Manuscript and Archival Collection in Virginia website. The scope and content of the this document per the website is “Ledger, 1905-1913, of Bond Coal Company records the individual accounts of customers and the company’s controlling accounts. Each account includes the name of customer and the name of city and state where the customer was located. The accounts list transactions in chronological order, amount owed, amount paid, and form of payment. Most entries contain the general term “by invoice.” The store’s controlling accounts include an expense account, construction account, repairs account, stable expense account, mine supplies account, etc. Numerous pages record transactions between Bond Coal and Company next hit and Bruce previous Coal and Coke Company next hit. The ledger includes an index that lists the names of customers in alphabetical order and the page number where their accounts can be found.”

Result number seven was for “Virginia Iron, Coal & Coke Company Records AC 001s” ( and is part of the McConnell Library Archives and Special Collections found on Radford Library page.

Scrolling through the next few pages of Google’s search results, I could not find a likely third coal company operating in Virginia during the early 20th Century. So I went back to the Virginia Heritage website and conducted a basic search on coal companies. I received 128 hits! As the scavenger hunt asked me to find records for early 20th century companies I chose “A GUIDE TO THE CLINCH RIVER COAL COMPANY PAYROLL LEDGER, 1910-1912. A COLLECTION IN THE LIBRARY OF VIRGINIA BARCODE NUMBER 1129986” (;query=coal%20companies;brand=default#scopecontent_1.1) Scope and content of the document as per the aformentioned webesite is “Payroll ledger, 1910-1912, of Clinch River previous Coal Company next hit records the daily earnings and deductions of employees. Entries record the name of employee; the number of hours worked or tons hauled per day; the number of deductions; totals for the month; rate of pay; total earnings; deductions for purchases at company store, rent, services of previous company physician, insurance, coal smithing, powder, and cash advances; total of worker’s earnings; total of deductions taken from employee’s pay; and balance due employee or to the company.”

I liked how this site listed the results much like Google: title, number of hits, etc. It was also remarkable too me how by using Google’s search engine it led me to a a website with its own search functions that resulted in 128 hits that I could parse through to find the detailed information I was looking for.

September 5, 2013

Three Potential History Topics to Research

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 8:14 pm

I’ve decided that the three potential history topics I would like to research this semester are: Civilian Reactions to Battle of Britain during World War II, the Evacuation of the Philippines to Corregidor during World War II or the heroic Battle of Bataan fought by the Marines in the Philippines during World War II.

The reasons for researching the topics listed above are as follows:

I would like to understand better how the civilian populace of London and surrounding country dealt with the nightly bombing of their homes by German bombers for months on end. How did this effect their daily lives, why didn’t they leave for safer environments, how did they deal with the after effects of rebuliding their homes, of losing family and friends? After all, they weren’t in the military and hadn’t signed up for the fight against Germamy, how did they feel about being part of the front lines, as it were?

The Evacuation of the Phillipines to Corregidor appeals to me for similar reasons as above; the people who evacuated the Phillippines to Corregidor were medical staff, patients, and embassy staff. Their suffering and deprivation for months with little hope of rescue and how they dealt with it are intriguing. They, too, weren’t soldiers who had signed up for war on the front lines (except for the injured, who were hoping to escape the trauma of the front lines). What was their thoughts and reactions to the approaching Japanes invasion?

The Battle of Baatan appeals to me because there were so few of these Marines and they had little hope of stopping the Japanese but they put of a brave fight. They felt they were alone and no one (read military leaders) cared; so why did they continue to fight? They knew the battle would end in Japanese victory with them either dead or prisoners of war.

The characteristics that the people of Britain, Corregidor, and Baatan have in common are what I find intriguing; the will the to survive no matter what, and pick up and better their lives; providing inspiration to future generations.

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