The History & Legacy of UMW

UMW Digital History Archive

Works in Progress and Broken Sites

The ultimate goal of this project was to restore, refresh, and rescue past projects of the Adventures in Digital History class while making them more accessible. From the onset of this project we were told it was highly ambitious while being the first of its kind. We were excited to take on the challenge and […]

The ultimate goal of this project was to restore, refresh, and rescue past projects of the Adventures in Digital History class while making them more accessible. From the onset of this project we were told it was highly ambitious while being the first of its kind. We were excited to take on the challenge and see how far we could get in a semester’s worth of time. We were given a list of over twenty sites that had been created by previous iterations of this class and told to make a central hub for those sites, while fixing any problems we could identify with them along the way.

With so many sites to look at, the digital preservation team divided up and each looked at certain sites. Everyone filled out an Excel Spreadsheet, identifying sites that did not need work, some that needed minor fixes, and others that might prove to be more problematic. Those that were fully functioning were slated to be added to the hub straight away, while a list of Work Orders were handed over to those capable of giving us admin access.

This sounds much simpler than the process actually was. Since a project like this has never been done before, we had to consult Dr. McClurken and the Digital Knowledge Center on almost a weekly basis. Shannon Hauser, who is the assistant director of the DKC, was a tremendous help in granting us admin access to these sites while making backups for us in case something went wrong.

Access to these sites came in waves. We were given access to the most recent sites first, before gradually being given access to older sites. One of the major issues we ran into had to do with UMWBlogs. UMWBlogs is a multi-site that houses over fifteen thousand WordPress blogs affiliated with the University of Mary Washington. Before UMW switched to Domain of One’s Own, UMWBlogs hosted all of their sites. However this comes with a major drawback: all of those sites are interconnected under the UMWBlogs multi-site. This means that individual sites are difficult to backup, and that if we accidently deleted or deactivated something it could potentially spell doom for every site on the platform.

Eight of the sites that needed major revisions were hosted on UMWBlogs, and we were not given access until the very end of March 2022. After some careful thought and long discussions with Dr. McClurken about the position we were put in, it was decided we would create a post that identifies and explains all of the sites we were not able to get to during this semester-long project.

Navigation This Post

The sites we were not able to get to are each listed down below, with detailed descriptions of known issues and our thoughts on how these issues might be resolved by a future class.

Mary Ball Washington

The James Farmer Project

The James Farmer Timeline

James Farmer Lectures

Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania Historical Markers

Southeastern Virginia Historical Markers

Virginia Historical Markers

Scrapbooks of the 1960s

The Alumni Project

Mary Ball Washington

This site focuses on the history of Mary Ball Washington, George Washington’s mother and the namesake of the University of Mary Washington. It includes information about her childhood, marriage, and life after children. This site also includes a timeline, family tree, and other rich resources on the “grandmother of our country.”

From the Mary Ball Washington overview.

Known Issues

Timeline

The timeline on this site is known to be created using MIT’s Simile Timeline, which is no longer in use and is incompatible with the current version of WordPress. Since 2010, all information related to the timeline has been lost.

Survey

The Mary Ball Washington site featured a survey conducted by the students in 2010. The survey was targeted at current students and alumni of the University of Mary Washington, and asked the following questions: (1) The Participant’s Graduation Year, (2) The Participant’s Major, (3)”Who was Mary Ball Washington?”, (4)”Where did you hear this?”, and (5)”Why was she significant?”. Results were organized by Graduation Year, Major, and Response. In 2022, the survey results are no longer accessible and cannot be recovered through WordPress.

Evaluation

It is likely this site will have to be recreated by a future class, or more work will need to be taken by a future Refresh, Restore, Rescue group to recover the missing information. However, given the original time frame of this site and measures our current team had to take regarding similar issues on other sites, it is likely the latter will not be possible.

The James Farmer Project

The James Farmer website is a biographical site dedicated to resources including photographs, videos, quotes, and resources for more information on the life and contributions of Dr. James Farmer.

From the James Farmer Project overview.

Known Issues

Formatting

This site was created in 2008 and is no longer user friendly. The color-palette is hard to look at, the text is small, and some of the images are no longer in-line with the rest of the page. The theme most likely needs to be updated to a more current one, and the site updated to be more accessible for all users.

Timeline

The timeline for the James Farmer Project was created separate from the original site. It encompasses its own website on UMWBlogs. More information can be found below, in the James Farmer Timeline entry.

Evaluation

The James Farmer Project is one of the few sites that has held up remarkably well over the years. As of 2022, the site is still accessible and easy to use. While the site does look dated, it is still functional enough that users can use it as a resource to learn about James Farmer. This site could potentially be updated by a future Refresh, Restore, Rescue group to make it operate smoother. The only major issue is with the timeline, which we will discuss more in-depth down below.

The James Farmer Timeline

This timeline of Dr. James Farmer’s life and service is part of the James Farmer Project website.

From the James Farmer Timeline overview.

This project is an extension of the James Farmer Project and can be accessed from the James Farmer Project’s Timeline page.

Known Issues

Timeline

The timeline on this site is known to be created using MIT’s Simile Timeline, which is no longer in use and is incompatible with the current version of WordPress. Since 2008, all information related to the timeline has been lost. However, an Annotated Bibliography still exists on this site, referencing the information that was presented on the timeline. While it is not possible to recover the timeline, information still exists that may enable a future group to recreate the project.

Event List

A tab for an Event List is featured on the site. No information is known about this event list, and the list itself can no longer be accessed. It once was hosted on Google Sheets, but between 2008 and 2022 it was deleted.

Evaluation

While The James Farmer Project itself is still in good condition, this timeline is not. Almost all information related to this timeline has been deleted over the years. It is likely a group will have to create a new timeline in the future to either supplement the original project site, or create an entirely new Jame Farmer Project to update all of the information related to this project.

James Farmer Lectures

James Farmer Lectures provides a digital archive of Dr. Farmer’s 13 Reflection Lectures where he reflects on his time in the Civil Rights movement. This site also allows viewers and listeners to download audio files of Dr. Farmer’s lectures.

From the James Farmer Lectures overview.

Known Issues

Formatting

The James Farmer Lectures homepage was generated using widgets instead of placing a normal page in WordPress. As a result of this odd formatting, the search bar on the homepage is placed behind the slider displaying relevant posts pages. One other issue on this site is that the slider contains links to the pages that they advertise. There are two versions of the “Selected Stories” page, an incomplete draft and a complete final page. The correct version of the “Selected Stories” page is linked in the site’s menu, however the incorrect page is linked on the homepage slider. The odd homepage format makes editing and correcting these issues difficult without accidently breaking something else on the site.

Evaluation

This site is still in working order and all information can be accessed like it is intended. The issues on the homepage are minor, but fixing them would make the site more accessible and reduce confusion. The digital preservation team was unable to get to this site because of time constraints, but we are confident a future Refresh, Restore, Rescue group could fix these issues now they have been identified.

Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania Historical Markers

Fred Markers works to document and provide more information on the historical marker signs scattered all over the Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Stafford areas. You can explore the various markers by category, by century, or by which county they are located in.

From the Fredericksburg Fred Markers overview.

Known Issues

Timeline

The timeline on this site is known to be created using MIT’s Simile Timeline, which is no longer in use and is incompatible with the current version of WordPress. Since 2008, all information related to the timeline has been lost to the wider public. One advantage of this site is that one of the students who worked on the Fred Markers project, Shannon Hauser, is now the assistant director of UMW’s Digital Knowledge Center. Both Shannon and Dr. McClurken have access to the old timeline made for this site, but since the program is outdated it is not a simple fix.

Formatting

The Fred Markers site is one of many that has been in service since the very first iteration of the Adventures in Digital History class. Since 2008, the site has moved servers and been automatically updated as new versions of WordPress became available. Some things on the site do not look as clean as they originally did, and the site itself looks completely different in 2022 from what it did in 2008. Some formatting looks odd, mainly due to the automatic updates changing the theme and breaking old features.

Image Gallery

The Fred Markers homepage features an image gallery that no longer works. The link to the original gallery can be found in the page’s source code, and it links to a Flickr image gallery. When trying to access the gallery, the URL attempts to download to your computer’s system files, and the member of our team who tried this reported the link was flagged as suspicious content. In 2008, this gallery used Adobe Flash Player to display images, but Flash was discontinued in 2020. An alternate means of displaying the gallery will have to be found, only if the gallery itself can be recovered without any potential malware.

Evaluation

Before going into further detail, it should be noted that this project is one part of the larger Virginia Historical Markers project, which combines this site with the Southeastern Historical Markers. Despite being from 2008, the Fred Markers site still works perfectly except for the issues mentioned above. Many of those issues are minor or can be worked around, so long as time is taken to work through them. The digital preservation team is confident a future Refresh, Restore, Rescue group could fix this site. Our team was not able to put appropriate effort into this site because of time constraints, but think these would all be relatively simple fixes.

Southeastern Virginia Historical Markers

Southeastern Virginia Historical Markers expands even further than the Fredericksburg Historical markers site above, documenting historical markers all across Southeastern Virginia. This site sports a similar organization style to its sister site, allowing you to browse by categories such as century, county, and specific interest topics.

From the Fredericksburg Southeastern Historical Markers overview.

Known Issues

Formatting

This site was created in 2012 and uses a very confusing and hard to look at WordPress theme to present information. The site lacks a navigation menu and instead relies on post categories on the site’s sidebar. The most glaring issue with formatting is the site’s header, which does not fit in the designated border.

Timeline

The timeline on this site is known to be created using MIT’s Simile Timeline, which is no longer in use and is incompatible with the current version of WordPress. Since 2012, all information related to the timeline has been lost to the wider public.

Map

Google Maps was used to create an interactive map of the historical marker documented on the site. Since 2012, the map has been deleted, along with any information related to it.

Image Gallery

The Southeastern Historical Markers site features a Flickr image gallery that no long works. In 2012, this gallery used Adobe Flash Player to display images, but Flash was discontinued in 2020. When trying to access the link to the Flickr gallery in the site’s source code, we get an error message. This leads us to believe the gallery was deleted, and therefore cannot be recovered.

Evaluation

Before going into further detail, it should be noted that this project is one part of the larger Virginia Historical Markers project, which combines this site with the Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania Historical Markers. Despite being newer than its predecessor, Fred Markers, this site has aged much worse. The site is hard to navigate, it is not pleasant to look at, and almost all of the interactive features have broken over the years. It may be possible for a future Refresh, Restore, Rescue group to fix these issues, but the digital preservation team believe this site needs a complete overhaul that may be better resolved by having another group complete this project from a different angle.

Virginia Historical Markers

This site is a parent site for both the Southeastern Virginia Historical Markers project from 2012 and the Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania Historical Markers project from 2008.

From the Virginia Historical Markers overview.

Known Issues

Formatting

The Virginia Historical Markers site is the central homepage that links the Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania Historical Markers and Southeastern Historical Markers digital history projects together. The Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania Historical Markers site was created in 2008, while the Southeastern Historical Markers site was created in 2012. Ironically, the site made in 2012 looks more dated than the site made in 2008. This site has the same theme as the 2012 Southeastern Historical Markers site. This theme has high contrast errors, making it hard to look at, and smaller than normal text. The site is also confusing to navigate, because it lacks a clear navigation menu directing viewers to the other two sites.

Evaluation

This site is the overarching mother site for Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania Historical Markers and Southeastern Historical Markers. It was created in 2012 alongside the Southeastern Historical Markers site to link the two projects together. This site shared the same formatting and issues as the Southeastern Historical Markers site. The digital preservation team believes that this site should get the same treatment as the Southeastern Historical Markers site, and be completely overhauled.

Scrapbooks of the 1960s

The Scrapbooks of the 1960s Project houses a collection of Mary Washington College’s Young Republicans club and Home Economics club scrapbooks from 1961-69. This archive provides a look into campus history and campus life through the lens of different student organizations on campus.

From the Scrapbooks of the 1960s overview.

Known Issues

Collections

This site was created in 2014 using Omeka to to create a catalogue of two digitized scrapbooks from the 1960s. However, since 2014, there has been a critical error in the collection page, and the content can no longer be viewed. The site is still navigable, but the collections page has been lost.

Evaluation

This site can still be used to view most of the information contained within it, however the digital preservation team was unable to recover the collection page due to time constraints. We believe a future Refresh, Restore, Rescue group might be able to consult others on campus to recover the page.

The Alumni Project

The Alumni Project was created in 2008 to celebrate the University of Mary Washington’s Centennial Anniversary and creates a digital record of the history of UMW from the perspective of the alumni. This site contains seventeen interviews with past alumni in video and transcript form.

From The Alumni Project overview.

Known Issues

Interface & Adobe

This site was created in 2008 to celebrate the University of Mary Washington’s Centennial Anniversary and creates a digital record of the history of UMW from the perspective of the alumni. The site uses custom HTML code to link everything together, however the code has since broken and makes navigating the site difficult. Some of the known HTML issues include being unable to link back to the home page once the profiles are accessed, and the timeline being inoperable. This site also used Adobe Flash Player to display all images and videos, and has since caused all media to disappear. Despite a large amount of the information being missing, alumni profiles and transcripts are still available to view.

Evaluation

This site can still be used, but the user should be cautious since some of the links are inoperable. The HTML coding issues need to be fixed to make the site more accessible. The digital preservation team did not have the time or experience with HTML website coding to fix these issues, however we believe a future Refresh, Restore, Rescue group might be able to consult others on campus to fix this site.

Honorable Mentions

There are sites that were were unable to gain access to due to critical website errors. These sites cannot be viewed normally, and were excluded from this site to avoid confusion. We will provide links to them, however no information can be obtained from them and are not considered viable resources like other projects found on this site.

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