Digital Humanties Internship #1: Beginnings

Disclaimer: The views and opinion shared in this post reflect the author’s personal thoughts and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of the Smithsonian Institute Archives.

I have recently begun an Internship working with the department of Web, New Media, & Outreach at the Smithsonian Institution Archives (SIA). The Smithsonian Institution Archives is a branch of the larger Smithsonian organization which is tasked with holding and preserving the institution’s history. This means that the Smithsonian Institution Archives hold records and images that document the people, places, events that have been a part of the Smithsonian’s history over the years. While I was not too familiar with this part of the Smithsonian before I started my internship, I have since discovered many of their numerous and very interesting holdings. Personally, I have really enjoyed searching through their online collections. I especially love looking at the images, as it really gives one a sense of how the Smithsonian has changed since its founding in 1846.

As part of the Web, New Media, & Outreach Department, I will be working on the Smithsonian History section of the Smithsonian Institution Archives’ website. Specifically, I will be working on migrating and enhancing approximately six of their previously created online exhibits so that they can be housed within the SIA’s current Drupal interface.

Originally going into this Internship, I was a bit nervous to work with Drupal. While the coursework for George Mason University’s Digital Public Humanities Certificate has given me ample experience working with a variety of digital tools like Omeka, WordPress, Voyant, CartoDB, Palladio, and various Social Media Platforms, I have no experience working with Drupal. I am also not much of a coder, so I hoped that Drupal would have a user-friendly interface. Although I have not gotten to spend that much time working with Drupal yet, I have been pleasantly surprised to find out that the interface is similar enough to other publishing interfaces I have used (like WordPress) that I think I will have no trouble picking up how to use it.

Starting this Internship has also given me a chance to reflect on how much I have learned and grown as a Digital Humanities scholar thorough the Certificate Program. Before the program, I knew nothing about basic coding and had little experience with online publishing platforms. Today I used Drupal to create a webpage and even wrote in a section of code to embed an image from the Smithsonian collections into the main body of my page. At the beginning of the Certificate Program, I was following line by line instructions and obtaining the correct end result, but having no idea why I was doing what I was doing. Today, I still needed the instructions to tell me where to go in the Drupal interface, but I more fully understood what I doing each step of the way.

That being said, I know that there is still a lot more that I need to learn about Drupal and especially how it functions specifically with the SIA website. I also need to remember to be patient with myself as I start my first project, because, as I have learned over the past three semesters, there is a learning curve with every new platform you use. Once I become more adept with using the Drupal interface, I know the work will seem faster and easier.

Despite these initial challenges, I am very optimistic and excited for the rest of the Internship. I am excited to be able to learn about Drupal and get real world experience working with a platform that is becoming an industry standard in the digital history field. I am also excited to potentially use my video editing skills to create some image montages that will enhance the the online exhibits. I am excited to get a taste of what Digital Humanities scholars do on a day to day basis. Finally, I am excited to have some real world experience with digital history to further my educational and professional goals while also being able to make a contribution to the ongoing work of the Smithsonian.

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