Posts Tagged ‘digital tools’

The biggest challenge with technology is always learning to use it. Until digital tools become second nature we always find fault with the UX, complain about the process and eventually abandon it in search of something better. Good design creates a memorable user experience and keeps us coming back for more. It must look interesting and appealing and feel natural, not forced. Evernote doesn’t really feel natural, nor does it look great. But one could argue technology is also only as good as the user.

As most of my classmates have listed in their reviews, there are great aspects to Evernote. It helps gather information quickly and easily, clipping items or whole pages as you research. It allows for easy organization and recalling your notes but only if you put in the time to organize and create tabs. You have to want to make it work. You have to have found some kind of spark and want to use it everyday. Oddly, my program (Costume Studies) does not allow technology in classrooms of any kind—no computers, phones, etc. All notes must be written using pen and paper. If I could use Evernote ongoing, from class to class, it might make navigating and exploiting all its benefits that much easier. Using it in Creating Digital History has proven to make note taking a hundred times easier and the quality is infinitely better than using a pen and paper or trying to organize a notebook.

We want digital tools and technology to conform to our practices and preferences and function exactly as we do. We also want it to happen immediately, with little effort. As history has proven, mass-adopted technological developments are few and far between. Many have tried to create new ways to gather and share information but not many have succeeded for the long term. But they keep on trying. On the other hand, there are those platforms or devices that have changed our lives forever. These are the tools have helped change the way we learn, communicate, and think. Think iPhone (yay!) vs. Apple watch (boo!). Yet, every digital platform created is a small advancement and opportunity to create something better. It just takes time and practice.

In short, I am going to keep on working with Evernote and see where it goes. Would upgrading make it better? Perhaps. A very good friend of mine swears by Evernote for all aspects of her life. She uses it for recipes, personal organization and work. It gives a 360-degree view of her life, all of which she can access via her phone. That makes her happy and I find it inspiring. Evernote might, given some more time and patience,  help me to become the great note taker I have always wanted to be, or at least become a little bit better. I remain hopeful!

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The creative process for large fashion corporations, from design houses to fast-fashion behemoths, is breakneck, furious and often wasteful. Fashion companies on average deliver up to eight collections a year and mass companies can churn out up to 52 “micro-seasons” a year, with new trends hitting stores weekly.[1] Season after season, week after week, ideas are generated, textiles are developed, prints and patterns are drawn, stitches, patterns and techniques are developed and samples are created. All parts of the product development life cycle are carefully detailed and documented to share with manufacturing facilities around the world. This process utilizes thousands of people and continues non-stop, every day, all year long. In order to keep deliveries on time, and ultimately, customers coming back for more, this process requires working twelve months or more in advance. And once the process of garment creation is underway there is an immediate need to market these collections.

Industry giants dedicate tens of millions of dollars a year to launch massive advertising and public relation campaigns in order to keep fashion feeling new and exciting. Like the creation of apparel, marketing also follows a relentless life cycle creating new visuals and ideas of engagement season after season. Ideas are generated, photo shoots are executed, media is bought, pictures are printed, websites designed, stores are updated, packaging created, direct mailers are delivered and the excitement continues.

How many of these ideas are actually new? How many times are garments recreated? Is fashion ever original? How many unique and innovative images and campaigns can be created year after year? Or is repetition reinvention? Are familiar designs and a recognizable aesthetic the keys to a successful brand identity and, ultimately, longevity? Does recognizing a brand’s past help build a solid future? Or does it matter at all?

My thesis is rapidly approaching and the process of research has begun. These are the questions my I will attempt to answer by exploring the value and meaning of corporate archives in today’s fashion industry. It will also take a look at principles and practices—how to build them, what the benefits are and the cultural effects they may or may not.

Creating archives for non-fashion related corporations has been well documented, dissected and debated. There are countless journals and associations related to the research and development of business archives. Many of these journals, paper and articles are going to help serve as research for my thesis. Yet despite the growing interest in creating fashion-related archives, evidenced by the number of diverse brands that have existing archives, there remains a dearth of information on the development, utilization, management of these private libraries. In addition, business and historical archiving, as well as library science are void of fashion specific information technology.

Creating Digital History has served as a wellspring of information, rich in resources and platforms that will benefit my thesis and possibly the end use of creating a real archive for my current employer. The use of Omeka as an archival tool, while not the most fluid or advanced interface, is basic and solid in its straightforward and uncomplicated user experience. I can clearly see how this could translate into a similar system for a fashion company and the development of a corporate repository. All of the information combined in this course has given me hope and confidence that a universal, yet customizable, archiving system for fashion companies can easily be developed. Now bring on my thesis!


[1] Whitehead, Shannon. “5 Truths the Fast Fashion Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know.” Huffington Post. October 19, 2014. 

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Imagine having access to every textile with a simple click of your mouse.  In today’s, world accessibility is a must – correction, digital accessibility is a must.  Recently, I attended the “Fashion: Now & Then” Conference at LIM College.  During the conference, presenters and academics shared their research findings related to fashion studies and history.  Many of the topics were similar, but one in particular stood out to me based on its relevance to our course.


When beginning any research assignment an individual usually starts off with a general search.  This search could be in the physical campus library or at home via their laptop. I always begin at my laptop.  I brew a cup of hot tea; throw my hair into a messy bun, fire up my laptop and get down to business.  Unfortunately, some types of research need a hands-on approach. You must go out into the public to find and work with primary sources.  I am a bit of a research romantic.  I enjoy handling treasures from the past. I also find myself appreciating the “non-hassle” research style of the Internet.  I believe that for certain research is it necessary to work with materials in person.

Research data bases and Online Archives such as Textile Hive challenge this ideal.  Many fashion designers and researchers find inspiration from the past or world around them.  Textile Hive is an example of an integrated archival collection.  An integrated archival collection starts as a physical or digital collection and then makes a transition to encompass both the physical and digital collections characteristics.  The Textile Hive boasts that its interface provides clear search, discovery and exploration experiences for its users.  I find it difficult to believe a digital format can provide the same rich experience as visiting a physical archive. I do believe that Textile Hive fills a gap in making more textile collections accessible.  Also, sometimes a physical archive must shut its doors.  A digital archive provides a secondary outlet. It allows an archive or collection to continue.  It is important to keep collections connected to people and to other collections.


Textile Hive began in 2009 when Caleb Sayan digitized the contents of the Andrea Aranow Textile Design Collection with the hopes to reach a more extensive audience.  Textile Hive’s ultimate goal is “to find a permanent home for the physical and digital collection with an educational institution, cultural organization, or other partnership to ensure that the collection be utilized, built upon, and preserved for future generations” (http://textilehive.com/pages/the-project).  Since I am studying to become an archivist, I appreciate their goal. I appreciate their goal because it focuses both on the physical and digital collection.

One of my favorite features of Textile Hive is their search capabilities.  According to Sayan, there are over 18 different ways an individual can search their site.  As a former teacher, I like that this site caters to various learners and allows for different search techniques.  For example, you can search by: technique, material, condition, pattern, embellishment, and gender, object type, etc.  Another cool feature is that you can compare two searches on the same screen.  This feature would definitely come in handy for anyone pursuing an assignment about cultural studies.


Besides providing a digitized image, Textile Hive also provides the necessary metadata and various informational videos. The videos explore topics like the historical context of the textile.  I was impressed with the amount of visual exploration tools. Visual archiving will continue to grow as a means to promote the digital nature of today.

Fashion and textile studies can provide powerful insight into culture, gender, political studies and much more.  I found the “Fashion: Now & Then” conference to be inspirational as I continue to gather research about Mid 80s Fashion here in the East Village, NYC.  There is much more to fashion studies than meets the eye.

Please explore Textile Hive to learn more:  http://textilehive.com/

Images are from http://textilehive.com/ and my personal Instagram

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By now, a lot of people are aware of NYPL’s fantastic digital GIS tool, Mapwarper. It enables users to create overlays with any map in their digital collection. Mapwarper has made NYPL’s geographic resources available to the public in such a way that makes them more meaningful, but it’s not the only, free-of-charge, online GIS program of its kind. In my research, I’ve explored a few others that are equally user-friendly and give you slightly different abilities, allowing you to exploit a more diverse range of resources.


NYPL’s Beta version of the Mapwarper

Something that many people don’t know is that the Beta version of NYPL’s Mapwarper is actually still available and allows you to do one thing that the official version does not: upload and georectify maps and images that are not in the NYPL digital collection.


Downloadable Hi-Res map of New York Bay and Harbor (1903) from NOAA’s Historic Chart and Map Collection

While NYPL is a vast repository of geographic materials, there are other libraries and archives out there that house different and sometimes unique maps that a person may find more useful than what NYPL has to offer in their digital gallery. Some examples would be the Library of Congress’ Map Collection or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Historical Map and Chart Collection. These are two repositories that allow users to search for and download high resolution files of historic maps. By going to www.mapwarper.net, instead of http://maps.nypl.org/warper, you can  upload and georectify these files. And if you feel like getting creative, you can georectify literally any image file you upload, regardless of whether or not it is a map. Comme ca:


British Headquarters Map of Manhattan Island (1782) on The David Rumsey Map Collection Website.


Georectifying the Headquarters Map, using Georeferencer.org.

Mapwarper Beta is great for manipulating and exploring those maps you are able to download. Some digital repositories however, will allow you to look at hi-res images on their site, but have included protections so that you can’t actually download them. Gallery sales and exhibition websites, like the David Rumsey Map Collection, frequently have zoom functions to get you right up close to examine map details, but only display a small portion of the hi-res image at a time. However, there is another online program called Georeferencer that enables people to use these maps without downloading/uploading the file, using only the map’s URL. Copy and paste the link to the map into the “Georeference” field on the homepage and click “Georeference.” The hi-res data that was only available in a small box on the Gallery site, is now available as an entire image on the Georeferencer site.


British Headquarters Map overlay created in Georeferencer.org. View is from approximately W. 3rd to W. 20th Streets.

The process of adding reference points to maps and creating overlays with either of these programs is so simple that any attempt to explain it here would likely be more complicated than it should be and probably result in unnecessary confusion. It’s really as easy as clicking on the same location on two maps. It’s best to just play around with it and explore it yourself. By incorporating these other GIS programs into your research, you are able to bring in a much wider variety of resources that may otherwise have been left unexplored, and you can see what the Village was before it was the Village.

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The Pastmapper project “Mapping 60 Years of Greenwich Village”, displays data from five federal censuses (1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940) onto a Google-based map.  While the Pastmapper website claims that the project “for West 9th Street features buildings, businesses, and neighborhood features through the years,” the only records transcribed by this class were census records and thus no information on businesses was transcribed.  The promise of this project is intriguing and the combination of information will allow for many research topics. Visual depiction of this information is an ideal format.  It would be great if this project eventually enables users to refine searches by every available census header, including building number, occupation, ancestry, etc.

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West 9th Street & Sixth Avenue

The 1930 Census Data from West 9th Street illustrates the great diversity of residents of Greenwich Village during that time.  Inhabitants were persons of all ages and education levels, from young Irish servants to New York-born male bankers age 50 and older.  From the occupation listing the researcher can see a high level of education with teachers, urologists, writers, editors, stenographers, designers, statisticians, and bookkeepers.  Artists and actors are also well represented, as one might expect from the neighborhood at that time.

As the Pastmapper website quotes from New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, West 9th Street boasted “an air of solid respectability, of tradition and culture.”  This respectability comes through in the predominantly white, Anglo Saxon demographic makeup of the neighborhood.  Even the servants were white.  The 1930s census records also revealed a mixture of people who lived in both boarding houses and upper class townhouses (upper class was inferred since several properties included people with the classification of “servant” under the relationship to the head of household).  It was striking by how many female heads of houses lived on the street in 1930, some of whom even owned their homes.  Yet, most women listed were single and lived with relatives.

1930 Census data for West 8th and West 9th Streets, Greenwich Village

1930 Census data for West 8th and West 9th Streets, Greenwich Village

From studying the decade of census records for this street, one could conclude there was a large population (approximately 43%) of first generation Americans whose parents emigrated mainly from Europe, especially Italy and Ireland. Many respondents not from the United States were servants, and those came primarily from Ireland.   It was also interesting to note that many families came from similar geographic areas, but since they had different last names it was not apparent if they had a family connection or if the families migrated together.  Additionally, though many respondents were born in the United States and had parents from the United States, many were not born in New York State and even fewer were second-generation New Yorkers.  Though a substantial number of respondents were born in New Jersey or Connecticut, many came from Midwestern states.  This is not surprising since even now New York City’s culture, industry and opportunities attract people from across the nation.

Once all data is viewable, it will be interesting to note how demographics (ancestry, residence type – home, boarding house, apartment, occupation, education, etc.) of the street changed with any trends or consistency.  Regarding education level, data as recorded on Pastmapper began to show a pattern in which children who grew up on this street were the only ones with educational backgrounds.  But that data is misleading and incomplete.  Closer examination of the actual census form reveals that education level records specifically whether respondents “Attended school or college any time since September 1, 1929.”  Many respondents, especially professionals, presumably attended school before that date.

When this Pastmapper project is finished, it would be interesting to include information from the last 2010 census to see how the neighborhood has changed over the past 70 years.

-Bonnie Gordon, Jackie Rider and Lynda Van Wart

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While still a work in progress, Pastmapper exploits the best aspect of digital history, its interactivity.  Because the platform was launched from San Francisco, most of its information now focuses on that city.  The Pastmapper Main Page states “Current available listings” as including 1852 San Francisco, 1960 Minneapolis, 1966 Boston, 1966 San Francisco, and 1967 Oakland but provides no links to any of those maps.

The 1853 San Francisco trial posted on the Pastmapper website uses transcribed information from the 1852 A.W. Morgan & Company’s San Francisco City Directory and takes the user to a San Francisco map with dozens of placemarkers.  Some placemarkers open photos and other images, other placemarkers do not.  Toggling between 1853 and 2012 Google maps of San Francisco creates an easy visual comparison.  When the user toggles between the two maps, streets and topographical features change, but data points remain the same, giving the user a unique view of how the city has evolved over the past century and a half.  Changes in the city’s land mass between 1853 and 2012 mirror other online geographic comparisons such as a recent one after Hurricane Sandy that contrasted an 18th-century map with a current one.


Researchers may appreciate the visual mapping of history and the clear color distinction between people and businesses.  The visual impact of information like this is easy to understand and is a great alternative to reading a listing or directory, a task which quickly becomes tedious and confusing.  Pastmapper enables users to switch between years to see how one specific section has changed over time.  Additionally, users can click on individual business types (15 in total) and gain an understanding of how many and where those business were located.  The Google map platform allows users to zoom in and out and move around, a great tool for street-level examination and quick navigation.

However, since only 35.6% of the 1852 directory was geotagged, Pastmapper is not yet ready for academic use.  Too much information is missing.  In addition, the business category “other” is not defined and offers no explanation why.  This website did not clearly define why some business types were classified together and others stood on their own.  While one can assume “dry goods, books, stationery and household items” were lumped together because a store may sell all four items, it is not clear who demarked the boundaries.  Was it the directory or the Pastmapper transcribers?  In addition, while the color coding distinctions were based on whether an entry was a “business” (blue) or “people” (green), it was not effective.   The “people” classification can be found in “boarding houses and hotels,” “saloons, restaurants, entertainment,”  “groceries and provisions, produce, butchers and bakeries” and others.  Moreover, business classifications that show green markers also show blue ones.  Therefore, the distinction between colors and business types becomes meaningless.

Finally, differences between the 1853 and 2011 maps are not readily apparent.  The difference is on the shoreline and not the information keyed in.  For example, Miss Bella Livingston is listed as living on Dupont Avenue, Miss Bella Livingston during both time periods.  Considering the 158 year difference, it is doubtful that this is the same person.

At the same time, the maps help users compare changes such as damage to businesses, homes, and cities in different natural disasters throughout a city’s history.  A business that may have stood near the water at an earlier point in time uses the same address but stands further offshore some 200 years later.

Overall, Pastmapper is a great tool but its usefulness for academic research will only be found once it amasses more information and classification of that information is clarified. Pastmapper contains a great deal of carefully entered metadata with few visuals.  Clicking on “Random Page” takes users to more metadata with links, none of which resulted in any images. Pastmapper has a lot of potential, but it also has a long way to go to engage online users.  It needs a more welcoming home or main page, visuals that draw in users and show them what Pastmapper has to offer if they set up an account, and simpler representations of metadata.  It also needs more information to make the trails more productive. Once it ingests more information, Pastmapper has the potential to organize that data and become a more effective research application.

-Bonnie Gordon, Jackie Rider and Lynda Van Wart

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In the early stages of research for my project on the Great Uprising of 20,000 in 1909, protesting the working conditions of garment workers in New York in the early nineteenth century, the Jewish Women’s Archives has been very helpful.

The Archive website has a lot of interesting features and the organization is interested in both the past and the present. The website features educational programs, research assistance and current event blogs. A number of the features on the site allow visitor contribution, such as the blog entitled Jewesses with Attitude, written by a number of contributors. There is a map of places where significant Jewish women lived or event significant to Jewish women have occurred and visitors are encouraged to add places and information. The site also contains several exhibits relating to Jewish women. The “Women of Valor” exhibit is little more than a collection of photographs of Jewish women with captions.


On the other hand, the “Feminism” exhibit is more dynamic; it features a timeline of feminist events, an exploration of different themes of feminism and the opportunity to search through the objects and stories of Jewish feminists. The JWA has also partnered with the Center for History and New Media to create an archive of information, photos and oral histories of Jewish women affected by Hurricane Katrina on the Katrina’s Jewish Voices Archive. The various online collections, features and information housed by the JWA are impressive and I could have spent hours exploring.

In the Research section of the Archive website, I was able to search for prominent Jewish women involved in the labor movement in the early twentieth century, such as Rose Schneiderman and Clara Lemlich. The biographies are well written and easy to understand. The bibliography of the bio entry was helpful for me because it has directed me to books and other articles on Clara Lemlich to continue my research. Like our own projects, the encyclopedia pages are tagged with broad keywords to find related entries. There are also links to find more information about the person on JWA.org. For example, Clara Lemlich also appears in other sections of the archive and there are links to other features. From her Biography, I can find photos of her in the “Feminism” exhibit or news articles that mention her. The search results also told me where I could find collections relating to these women, For example, Clara Lemlich’s papers are in the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is a helpful feature for researchers looking for the papers and ephemera of a well known Jewish woman.

The JWA site also features a “share” bar that follows users as you scroll up and down the page to allow easy posts to Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus and email. Although this is kind of annoying, because you can’t get away from it, the easy share buttons help users promote the site and the information they find. At the top of the page, there are also links to the JWA Facebook, Twitter, GooglePlus and YouTube accounts.

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