I am a Digitally Challenged Digital Humanist.
My Digital Humanities project, creating a Cork LGBT Digital Archive, is a truly multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary project – it requires me to understand and engage with a number of different fields and disciplines, including History, Social History, LGBT History, Archives, Community Archives, Digital Archives, as well as understanding the how of doing it digitally. Not a challenging task at all!!!!
A lot of the time it seems as if I am floundering in a land I don’t know, where people speak a language I do not understand. The Humanities side is fine, I speak that language, but I’m new to the Digital.
And yet I keep trying, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always learning through the process. As Samuel Beckett said: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’
And somehow within it all I make progress. With each step there is more than there was before. Starting from a place where, as Orla Murphy recently put it in a presentation on Research in the Digital Age in TCD, I was ‘allergic’ to all things digital when I first began the MA in Digital Arts and Humanities, I have begun to embrace the digital. And I do so even more as I begin my second year of the PhD in DAH.
I have been searching for some time for a tool to use to create the Cork LGBT Digital Archive. In an earlier post on this site I explored and compared WordPress and Omeka and their uses in the creation of digital archives. When I began this digital journey I didn’t even know what either of them were! Now my blog post on WordPress vs. Omeka appears third on the google search page.
I have become relatively comfortable in using WordPress and have created a number of sites, including this one and the corklgbthistory.com site where I have begun to trace a chronology of the development of the Cork LGBT Community.
I have been more reticent with Omeka but finally bit the bullet and set up an Omeka site on Reclaim Hosting. Reclaim Hosting was founded by Tim Owens and Jim Groom in 2013 to provide low cost hosting support for individuals and institutions. It costs just $25 for a student or individual and $45 for faculty and organisations. They claim to provide World Class Support: “Get help when you need it that will leave you amazed.” This claim is completely justified. The day that I signed up with Reclaim Hosting and installed Omeka I have a log of 99 email messages back and forth between myself and Tim and Jim – unbelievable support at any price.
Setting up the Omeka site coincided with finally getting access to a good quality scanner, an Epson Expression 11000XL. This enabled me to produce high quality scans and to upload these to the new Omeka site. Within a few weeks I had hit the 2 GB storage provided by Reclaim Hosting. This was hugely problematic as I had only digitised and uploaded a small fraction of the materials available in the collection. I clearly needed more storage space. Thus began another intense emailing session with Tim and Jim (only 75 emails this time – is that failing better?)
Tim / Jim suggested Amazon S3 storage as the cheapest solution (not pushing the option of buying additional storage from them, even though this is available!) Then began the joyful task of trying to link the Omeka site to the S3 storage, a considerable feat for this digitally challenged digital humanist. Reclaim Hosting provided enormous support, and simple step-by-step instructions, as we figured it out. I did a lot of deep breathing as we momentarily lost all the images I had uploaded over the past month!
In the end we got it sorted and we now have a seamless link between the Omeka site and the S3 storage. I still upload the files to Omeka on Reclaim Hosting, but they are stored on Amazon S3. Tim Owens has posted a blog about the process – I guess we both learned a lot by figuring it out!
Even writing this I realise how much of this new digital language I have learned!
Despite the fear of the previously unknown, I have journeyed in this new-to-me digital land and have created a new Cork LGBT Digital Archive. There is much work to be done, but already there is more than there was before. Already there is a huge amount of previously unavailable documents freely and widely available to anyone with an interest in the rich history of the Cork LGBT community. And there is much more to come! Watch this space!