The Fredericksburg: City of Hospitals digital history site was created to document the Civil War hospitals in city of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Following the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness, sick and wounded Union soldiers were evacuated through the city of Fredericksburg. During that time, public and private building were used to house soldiers, turning the city of Fredericksburg into a city of hospitals.
The Fredericksburg: City of Hospitals site is one of the oldest digital history projects the digital preservation team looked at this semester. First created in 2010 using Omeka to catalogue Fredericksburg’s history as a medical refuge during the Civil War, this site has held up remarkably well. At a glance it does look a little dated, but for the most part the site is functional, has a nice color scheme, and is easy to navigate.
Unfortunately, as a site ages that means things tend to break. As the digital preservation team looked at this site, we noticed one of the maps and the timeline were no longer functional. Usually we would not have considered this to be a big issue, but this site being so old means we ran into issues that were very different than those we had encountered with other WordPress and Omeka sites.
The first thing we attempted to tackle was the map. The students who created this project used a website called Map Library to create an interactive map displaying the hospitals. At some point over the twelve year period in which this site has been active, Map Library has become obsolete and is no longer updated. Any projects that were created using the service are now defunct. Unfortunately, with so little time to complete this project, we were not able to try and reconstruct this map for future use. Instead, we chose to delete the broken link from the Maps page. This means there is now only one map archived on this site, which is a map of the evacuation of Fredericksburg. Thankfully this map , which was created specifically for this site by students in a 400-level Geography seminar at UMW, is a still image that has been uploaded to the site instead of embedded media like Map Library. This means the we were able to keep one map providing context to the project rather than deactivating the page entirely.
The second thing we noticed was the timeline had no information on it. This site was created over two years before the first instance of TimelineJS, meaning we had to track down how it was created based off of code snippets in the HTML text editor. We soon discovered this site’s timeline was created with MIT’s Simile Timeline, which was another program that has become obsolete. Unlike with the map, we did not have an embed code to extract a link from. We were unable to recover anything related to this timeline and ultimately had to make the hard decision to deactivate the page containing the timeline information. The page containing the timeline still exists, it just is not available to view without admin access. Perhaps another digital history group could recreate this project in a future class, but our group could find no way to salvage this portion of the project.
The final issue we tried to fix on this site meant attempting to remove the login and register buttons from the site’s header. This task, much like all the others we tried to accomplish with this site, turned out to be impossible. This site uses a plugin called MyOmeka, which is the source of the login and register buttons. Unfortunately, the site is so old and it has been so long since either the theme or the plugins were updated that Omeka cannot tell what parts of the site were added by the plugins and what is basic Omeka. We attempted to deactivate the MyOmeka plugin in the hopes of simply removing the login and register buttons, only for all the site’s content, minus the site tagline, to disappear. Facing the possibility we may have broken the site, we quickly turned it back on and found it restored all the information that had previously disappeared. After some more careful investigation, it was determined nothing could be done about this issue and we were forced to leave the matter alone.
Here are some before and after shots of the site. To view the full-size screenshot, click on the image of your choosing and it will open in a new window. From there you can view the screenshot like you would a normal webpage.
If you would like to explore the Fredericksburg: City of Hospitals site for yourself, please click here or navigate to the site’s landing page from the dropdown menus at the top of this page.