Preserving Family Artifacts

Converting and preserving a family’s history into digital formats is a complicated endeavor. One must consider the types of artifacts that needs to be converted into digital files, what types of digital files to convert to, where to save these files, and the costs associated with this type of preservation. As a novice in this type of work, the operations necessary to preserve my family’s history digitally, I would choose to trust professionals with much of the conversions. However, I would be very deliberate in deciding how my family’s artifacts will be converted, because these choices will affect where the digitally converted files will be saved and for what purpose.

Instead of scanning image files myself, or whatever other family artifact that is scannable, I would hire a company to scan the images for me. A quick google search shows many companies offering such services on the web for a reasonable price. The benefits in hiring a company to do this type of work is both economic and practical. For instance, will scan any items that can be cheaply scanned, as well as, correcting damaged images using image enhancement software (i.e. Adobe Photoshop). Hiring a company like will save me the cost of purchasing a high-quality scanner, and software to edit the images. Also, enlisting a professional will save me a lot of time in having to learn scanning techniques and image editing techniques which is indispensable.
Since this is a preservation project, I think it is imperative that the preservation of these images are done correctly, something that I would not guarantee myself being able to do. I would request the images in both TIFF and JPEG formats. TIFF will provide for me the highest quality of the image, which is ideal for preservation, and images saved in the JPEG format will help me hedge my bets in case TIFF somehow becomes an obsolete medium in the future. JPEG is so popular that it may have a longer shelf-life as a usable file type. It also requires less hard drive space which will be important in backing up my digital images.
I would treat video and audio artifacts that my family mostly in the same way as image files. I would hire a company like, Total Media, to convert any analog video to digital media. Again, hiring a company to do this work for me will save me money in purchasing the products I will need to convert files, such as a finding a working beta-max player and analog to digital video converter, and the time investment needed from me to do a good job converting the files from analog to digital. I would save the digital video and audio files, like my images, in two different file types.
Digital video will be saved in both a lossless codec and a lossy codec, such as huffyuv respectively and AVI. A lossless digital video file is large but pristine in its transfer, while a popular lossy codec like AVI, which is a Microsoft product, may stand the test of time in terms of use and will be smaller in size than a lossless transfer. A smaller file size is not only necessary for creating backups, but will make sharing these files much easier.

To save typed text or hand written text, I would hire a company that provides optical character recognition services. Optical character recognition (OCR) is software that recognizes scanned text and transfers it into digital format. For example, all my my great grandfathers journals can be scanned and his words will transferred into a digital format like a rich text file (RTF), which can be opened using any word processor software. This will save me a tremendous amount of time in transferring this information into a digital format, and save me the cost in purchasing the tools to do so. I would choose the RTF file type to save converted text because it is recognized universally by word processing software. I would also request image files of the texts, which can’t be read by word processing software, but can show the original text files through image file types like TIFF and JPEG.
To better ensure the preservation of my digital files I would save them in two different formats. The larger files like TIFF, lossless video, TIFFs of text files, and RTFs of converted texts will all be saved on hard drives. Hard drive space is so incredibly cheap now that I can’t imagine that my families entire video history exceeding an affordable hard drive to save them in. I think that even the $2,000 for an 8TB hard drive, which is most likely far larger than I will need, would be a reasonable price for saving my entire family’s history in its best form. Not only does a hard drive hold the most amount of information, but it also is a more reliable medium to save files in since hard drives are sturdy and will last much longer than DVD’s or blue ray discs.
I would save the smaller lossy conversions like the RTFs, JPEGS, and AVIs on a cloud server. Google provides hard drive space on their servers for a fee, but the benefits of this is that Google maintains my files for me, saving me money, stress, and since it is in the hands of google I would be a benefactor of any new technology they implement that extends the longevity of the files that they have stored. I could also allow other people in my family to have access to these files, which is important for me because access to this history should be easy. The smaller file types are more appropriate for this type of saving, for now, because of cost reasons as well as upload time.
To organize my files, I would comment or tag these files myself. I don’t know how or where I would begin to do such a thing. Maybe I could use an Excel spread sheet, a business program software produced by Microsoft, with the files names on them and then describe them through tags in different Excel cells. This Excels spread sheet would then be my master list, which describes all my digital data, which I could search through when trying to find particular artifacts. This would be a long tedious process, but one I could do on my own.
Converting my family’s history into digital media is a costly and time consuming task, however, the benefits of such an undertaking outweigh the negatives. One can have access to the entire of ones known family history, through a cloud server, by using any computer connected to the internet and then search through the archive with much greater ease than ever before. Proper consideration of what types of digital files you use, how you organize them, and what medium you save them in is a must if you wish to have an accessible, high-quality, and long-lived digital family history.

Evaluating the Copyright Practices of Historic Hwy 49

The website Historic Hwy 49 makes no qualms about using history to further tourism and commerce. Its historical focus is the “gold rush” period that occurred after 1848 in California, and the majority of the site is dedicated to providing information to tourists about activities that are adjacent to historical sites from period. After a brief evaluation, the content on Historic Hwy 49 seems to avoid violating copyright law, but some of the directives of the site about its content seems based on questionable ethical grounds.

The content on Historic Hwy 49 is comprised of original graphical artwork, images that were created before 1923, and some that were taken after. All published works before 1923 are free to be used by anyone without concern over copyright because it is in the public domain. This means that much of the historical content (scanned photos, drawings of old buildings, and scanned drawings from the goldrush period) found in Historic Hwy 49 would be free from scrutiny. Disappointing for a history site, however, is that Historic Hwy 49 does not site where any of its historic pictures were found. As a visitor to the site, you have no idea who took the images or in what collection they were discovered. It would be much easier to know if the content is truly in the public domain if this information was available.

The content on Historic Hwy 49 that was made post 1923 is obvious to discern. Post 1923 content can be found in both the tourism centered pages on the site and in the historical pages on the site. For instance, the pages that shows the historical churches that line highway 49, is filled with modern images of Churches. The origination of these images is again unknown, but its use by the website is most likely protected from copyright law under “fair use” exemptions. While Historic Hwy 49 does sell historical reproductions of items that predate 1923, it does not make any commercial profit from images that were taken after 1923. These images therefore are being used for non-commercial educational purposes which would fall into the realm of “fair use”.

Seeing how the creators of Historic Hwy 49 are able to navigate copyright laws, we may reasonably think that they have an understanding of such laws, which makes the websites directives to viewers who wish to take images found on the site for their own use strange. For all of the historic images, which are in the public domain, the website says:

“Research: photos may be downloaded at no charge for use in non profit, educational research projects for students and teachers. Please email us with your name, educational affiliation, project name and a list of photos used. Please give credit under each photo: “Photo Credit””

I don’t believe that Historic Hwy 49, has any right to control how these images are used at all, seeing how they fall into the public domain. Legally, I could take everyone of those photos and sell them on a deck of cards without mentioning Historic Hwy 49 at all. It seems like Historic Hwy 49, wishes to rebrand itself as the owner of these images without having the legal right to do so.

A Research Question

Why has the Midwest been a hotbed for house music in the past three decades?

I am curious to uncover what factors occurred that allowed house music to originate and then sustain itself in the Midwest. To research this topic I would like to look at the music scene in the Midwest prior to the advent of house music. Was the Midwest somehow predisposed to create and then foster electronic music? Who were the major personalities that were and are involved in the Midwest house music scene and how they affected the longevity of house. What economic influences helped sustain house music in the Midwest. There are many digital sources for this topic to research because much of early to contemporary house music and newspaper coverage can be found on-line. The following is a newspaper article I found using GMU’s electronic catalog.

House Music: The Blues for Dance: The new sound pumps up the volume and eyes a move from R &Q B underground to the pop mainstream
Snowden, Don. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 28 May 1989: K65.

House music didn’t stop in Chicago. The sound is now the latest contender to move into the pop mainstream from the R&B underground. The style was initially developed and dominated by deejays and/or producers in Chicago releasing 12-inch singles that made a strong mark on the East Coast and…

Snowden, D. (1989, May 28). House music: The blues for dance. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File). Retrieved from

A primary source image is found in that article.


What to Choose?

Taking into consideration some of Cohen’s thoughts on web design for historical websites, I have limited topic choices for the final project to subjects that will be enhanced by presentation on the web, subjects in which I have an interest, and amongst those subjects choosing one that I think will be researchable. Two topics I was especially sad to eliminate were a history of french house music and a history of virtual synthesizer technology (VST). My french is non-existent outside of the chef’s song from Disney’s “A Little Mermaid” and cursory research into VST’s provided data that went far beyond my understanding of engineering and sound synthesis.

I would love to learn more about the history of electronic music, specifically the thoughts of the primary character involved in making electronic music, and if their ideas about what electronic music could be carried through or not. I think the narrative one could write about electronic music through the perspective of its originators could be interesting and involve many different people, places and ideas. The website could include pictures, sounds, and even movies which would be a better way to receive this sort of history than in a book.

Carrying on this theme, another subject that I am very interested in is the Chicago house scene and then the later Detriot acid house scene. I love this type of music and their origins may have influenced each other. I would like to see if I can uncover links if any.

The subject that I would enjoy doing, albeit the least, would be a history of the D.C. punk scene in the 80’s. I am fond enough of this kind of music, its local so I may be able to get first hand sources, and punk is such a visual genre that the website could be very stylized and aesthetically interesting.