Author Archives: Christofer Gass
Heritage Reconstruction Group Update
Considering everything that is going on, Heritage Reconstructed has had a productive two weeks. Our site is live! Head on over to https://hreconstructed.github.io/ to check us out. In addition to our website, we are proud of the accounts we have for our project, so far. We are on Gmail – firstname.lastname@example.org, Omeka – https://hreconstructed.omeka.net/, GitHub – https://github.com/hreconstructed, and of course our most public media, Twitter – @HReconstructed. I love our name, and we took hours of discussion and debate on coming up with it together, and the transition to hreconstructed is totally logical. However, that was a side effect that we didn’t necessarily consider initially and due to this, there is not 100% continuity throughout our media names. My initial thought when I noticed this was, “let’s just change our email address to hreconstructed@gmail,” but we have already started outreach. So, that would possibly be counterproductive.
The website is a conglomeration of Ashley and I’s efforts, and we, and the team, are proud of it. The site went through a couple of editions before it became the site that is live today, and through that process, Ashley and I learned, as well as, tightened our HTML/CSS skills. We were also forced to home in on what we wanted to get out of it for the project, which we are for the most part done with.
The website is written in HTML and CSS with a link to our Omeka database. We initially, included the CSS for the page within the HTML code of each of the pages, but this became daunting to change repeatedly for all the pages. So, the CSS was broken into its own page. A major reason for the CSS to have its own page was the lengthy code for our footer.
The pages of the website have a color and font scheme that is meant to replicate that of Omeka’s database. Which is the main portion of our project, with the website acting as a landing page for details of our project. There are plugins for making pages in Omeka, but we are both past and current students of Patrick Smyth. So, to push our knowledge that began in Software Design Lab is a sensible move for us. At times, its been difficult to get parts of the page to work when they would be simply rendered on a pre-built website, but having to work out the code is not only rewarding, it is able to give our page a setting that is one of a kind.
In addition to code learned through Software Design Lab, we utilized https://www.w3schools.com/ and https://webdevtrick.com for the footer. An issue we were having with the footer was that it was not responsive. The menu and body of our pages shifted when the webpage minimalized, but the footer we were initially utilizing did not. When the page is minimalized, the menu starts to stack on top of each other and our Twitter blog on the right side of our page drops below the text of the page. We looked for a footer that did the same and were impressed with the footer by https://webdevtrick.com/. Now the three panels of our footer become a list when the page is collapsed to a certain width.
For the rest of this week, we are working on a draft email that will be sent out for outreach and working on our Omeka database – which we are very excited about.
Christofer Gass is a fulltime student in the Digital Humanities Masters Program at CUNY, The Graduate Center. His capstone project is a text-based game of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair. While an undergrad at Columbus State University he received his B.A. in Art History with a minor in Geography. While attending CSU, Christofer was deeply involved with the Arts in Columbus. As an intern, he worked with the Bo Bartlett Center, the Columbus Museum and CSU’s Illges Gallery. As an employee, he worked for Bo Bartlett Studios and Alan Rothschild’s Do Good Fund, a collection of Contemporary Photography of the American South. As a volunteer, Christofer directed Bartlett’s Home Is Where The Art Is: an art program for the homeless community and assisted Bartlett with Art in Jails: an art program for inmates in Muscogee County Jail. He was also on the board of the Historic District Preservation Society.
Christofer’s role within VRD: Virtual Reconstruction Database is developer and UX designer. In addition to these roles, Christofer will also assist with research and wherever else needed within the group.
NYCDH Week 2020
One of my favorite workshops from this years NYCDH Week was the Helen Keller Archive: A Fully Accessible Digital Archive at Pace University Tuesday afternoon. Four of the women who have been working on the project were present to discuss their work on the site and they were proud to state that the Helen Keller Archive was once only in one place, but now the archive is everywhere!
The road map to digitizing the archive focused on accessibility, then digitization and curriculum creation. Before explaining the accessibility aspect of the site, an important point one of the speakers made was that 1 in 5 American adults have a disability. So, accessibility is important if you want visitors to be able to view and read all the content your site has to offer. Also, Section 508 was brought up due to ADA compliance applying to the internet, but this is not necessarily a bad thing since this also helps with discoverability.
An important question that was brought up was, how do you know what to write for the description of the images on the site? One of the members of the audience noticed aspects for the descriptions of the photographs to be lacking in some of the features represented in the images. The speaker informed the audience member that she had a background in fashion, so she tended to focus more on the dress of the people in the photographs more than anything else. Another aspect of the site that was brought up was the transcription of the videos. The videos have a text transcription under the video as well as text transcription over the dialogue in the video and when something important on-screen happens that is not in the dialogue a voice-over informs of what is happening.
While utilizing the site the TAB key can be easily used to traverse through the site. Menus were placed in the same place throughout the site for easy maneuverability for people using screen readers. However, at one point, the developers tried something new with the display on a page and when someone with a screen reader ran into it, they questioned the process. The developers immediately changed the page to be in unison with the rest of the website. So, a major point that was made was consistency. If you have most of your pages in a similar design, continue to use that design because someone who can’t see the page and is used to a certain set up can become disoriented if things shift from page to page. It was also brought up that popups are evil! So, avoid whenever possible.
Christofer’s Skillset List
The following are a few traits close to my heart for the past few years. I have worked in many different positions within the Arts and have worked on multiple Geography related projects within the areas of Cultural Geography & GIS while at Columbus State University. My personal interests are documentation and digitization of historical objects, artifacts and events whether of personal interest or cultural significance for public use and long term accessibility.
GIS: ArcMap/ArcGIS Online/QGIS
Intro-Adv GIS courses as a Geography minor during my undergrad. Assisted with digital map projects for Cultural Geography projects and created digital maps of artist’s studios.
Worked on the archive and CV of realist painter Bo Bartlett with Excel and Omeka while an undergrad and in the course Archival Encounters in Spring of 2019 with Lisa Rhody.
Documentation and Digital Scan: Photographs/Documents/Objects
Work with the Warwick Historical Society to document and digitize collection by a flatbed scanner and digital camera. Scanned over 50 journals and sketchbooks for the Bartlett Center.
Data Analysis and Design: Tableau/Excel
Data Analysis and Design: Fundamentals course last semester with Michelle McSweeney. Created over 12 data visualizations with 12 different data sets to tell a specific story.
Outreach and Social Media: Program Director/Webmaster
Directed non-profit program Home is Where the Art is and assisted with Art in Jails for the Bo Bartlett Center and Bartlett Studios. Also, webmaster and social media creator for the Center.
Peace Through Understanding by Digital Design
The 1964-1965 World’s Fair was the largest and most expensive fair ever conceived and created, but only days after the last fairgoer passed through the turnstile to leave most of the many structures that brought joy to so many people were destroyed to leave a vast open space that is still relatively empty. Due to the mass annihilation of the fairgrounds, there is a sense of longing that remains and the proposed project is meant to help fill that void.
Once something is destroyed it is difficult to then piece it together in a meaningful manner, but with the assistance of computational technology and the internet new approaches can be disseminated for a larger audience to experience, enjoy and gain a better understanding. This significant event of the City’s history deserves current interpretation and through a text-based game, a new audience can learn about the 1964-1965 World’s Fair and the age it was created in as well as allow an older generation to delve into the digital realm.
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Michelle A. McSweeney, CUNY, The Graduate Center (advisor)
Matthew K. Gold, CUNY, The Graduate Center (advisor)
Lisa Rhody, CUNY, The Graduate Center (consultant)
Kimon Keramidas, NYU (consultant)
CUNY, The Graduate Center Digital Fellows (support)
Queens Museum Staff (support)
ENHANCING THE HUMANITIES THROUGH INNOVATION
Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was the location of not only the 1964-1965 World’s Fair but the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, as well. However, for those who venture into the Park today may find it as barren as when the land was used as a dump for ash and garbage before the Fairs were even conceived. But relics remain from the two Fairs in various locations around the Park. Some are easy to identify such as the New York State Pavilion as referenced in the movie Men in Black and can be seen from miles away, while some are as small as plaques and not as noticeable or easy to find.
There is currently work underway to renovate the New York State Pavilion and the Pool of Reflections, which is a sign of the significance of the structures to the local community and the city at large. But what is next for the Park? Will Robert Moses’ dream of making the Park more popular than Central Park ever come true? Only time will tell.
The proposed project is an attempt to recreate the 1964-1965 World’s Fair for a new audience as well as to rekindle memories of the Fair for those who visited over 50 years ago. The project will utilize code to create a modern approach to historical experience with text-based gameplay. The steps to create the program, along with the code and resources to create it, will be made accessible online.
The platform will be free and open to the public to explore, play and learn. The player will be asked to choose from one of four avatars to utilize while they traverse through the 1964-1965 World’s Fair experience. The avatars will be a representation of individuals from archival footage and materials distributed by the Fair, which could possibly be a kid from the neighborhood who sneaked in through the fence to avoid the $1 fee, a young international couple, a family of four or five from the Midwest, and grandparents with their two grandchildren from Manhattan. The avatars will begin with different monetary values and with the time at 12:00 PM. As the avatar is navigated through the platform the money amount and the time diminishes. The game ends when the avatar is out of money or the time reaches 6:00 PM. The individual in control of the avatar will learn aspects of the Fair’s many pavilions, their exhibits, events that took place at the Fair and around that time, and other relevant information about the pavilion if it still exists within the Park or elsewhere after the Fair.
The game will be hosted on either a public URL or through the Queens Museum website. The Queens Museum is significant for this project due to the building’s history within the Park and as an established art museum and educational center. The structure was first built for the 1939-1940 World’s Fair as the New York City Pavilion, after the Fair, the building was temporarily used as the home of United Nations General Assembly from 1946-1950, before renovated for the 1964-1965 World’s Fair to be the New York City Pavilion, again. The building has been used as a museum since 1972.
The text-based game will be created with a combination of software platforms and procedures. Important dimensions of the game are the time and money aspect. The time could possibly run twice as fast or faster, so the gameplay is at a reasonable length – 30 to 45 minutes. The financial aspect will be different for each avatar and will only be a few dollars. Most of the pavilions were free to access during the Fair. Another aspect that may be out of the scope of the project is an ‘experience’ outcome or a simple point structure. This, again, maybe out of the scope of the project, but would be an important aspect due to the creation of a leaderboard among friends, family, coworkers or classmates.
ENVIRONMENTAL SCAN/DH CONTEXT
The project will consist of three main phases: research, prototype design, and development.
The team will conduct research on important aspects of the Fair they wish to include in the game as well as technical and pedagogical approaches to text-based games already in use. In regards to the research component of the Fair, there are several valuable resources available to students within the City. The most important records of the Fair are the New York World’s Fair 1964-1965 Corporation records at the NYPL. The collection consists of 1523 boxes of materials dated from before and after the Fair, with the bulk from 1963-1965. The collection is broken down in a description and a container list that can be found at the following URL: http://archives.nypl.org/uploads/collection/pdf_finding_aid/nywf64.pdf. In addition to the collection at the Manuscripts and Archive Division, The Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division have a small collection of maps of the Fair. One map that is of significance to the creation of the game is its Shell map. It informs of the average time the pavilions took to visit their exhibits and the average time it took to go from anywhere throughout the Fair. Newspaper and magazine articles written during the Fair’s two seasons will also be of importance. Other sources available to students are the numerous journals and books available on JSTOR, such as “The End of Innocence: The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair” by Lawrence R. Samuel. Also, a physical book at the Mina Rees Library that has been a valuable resource is “The 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair” by Bill Cotter and Bill Young. Another valuable source by Bill Young is the website he created of the Fair. The URL is http://www.nywf64.com/.
The design phase will include the implementation and organization of the storyline. The player will utilize an avatar to pass through various pavilions at the Fair. Due to the differences in avatars, gameplay will be unique for each of them. Important dimensions of the game are the time and money aspect. Additionally, some avatars will go through the game at a faster or slower length of time than others. Also, the avatars will have different monetary values established to them at the start of the game. Lastly, although this may be out of the scope of the project, to have a reward system in place to award the player at the end of the game. This addition to the project would allow for a leaderboard among friends, family, coworkers or classmates who play together or against one another. The points could be derived from each of the pavilions the avatar visits.
The development of the game will entail code and weaving the stories together in a meaningful and concise manner that would be logically accurate to the site and time of the Fair. The software program Twine could be very helpful in this regard.
Outreach & Administration – create and maintain an online presence for the project and upkeep documentation online through GitHub or some other public repository of the steps, code, and resources.
Storyboard & Logo – create and maintain continuity of the story throughout the process and the creator of the logo.
Research & Design – maintain the historical accuracy of the Fair and work with storyboarder to work out aspects of the game to be coded.
Code & Distribution – create the code to run the game and ensure public accessibility after its creation.