Goldrush Diaries Co-op Project
Cooperative learning opportunities have long been something I was interested in, but as a history major have always found difficult to actualize. When I overheard Jackie Couture and other employees of the EKU Special Collections and Archives mention that there were Gold Rush Diaries that “no one had ever done anything with” that would make for a good student project, I immediately volunteered. The prospect of getting college credit for doing something that I would in any other case do for free was something I was not willing to pass up.
At first, the task seemed rather unintimidating. I am a non-traditional student, and as such am a few years older than the average college students. This is pertinent because I learned how to read and write in cursive as a child, and have regularly done so throughout my life. This is a skill that is not considered highly valuable anymore, but proved integral to this project. The small ability to read cursive permitted me to transcribe Amos Bargdoll’s 1850 diary, and produce a searchable document for future researchers. This part of the project was enjoyable and easy, despite it being rather time-consuming.
The difficulty came when I was required to utilize skills that I had not previously practiced, namely, small-scale computer coding. I held absolutely no knowledge of how coding worked before this project, and the concept of going “behind the scenes” and inputting my own code to produce a visual was very daunting. I’ll admit, without the help of Jenny Holly, I may have never figured out how to format a map from the 1850’s into a digitally representative format that can be manipulated and examined in depth. Nonetheless, these ladies taught me skills that I believe will be invaluable as I move forward in this electronic age, and which are represented in what I believe to be a high-quality project.
After practicing these skills for a short time, I was able to confidently input information into HTML programming and other “behind the scenes” aspects of the page that permitted me to have links to other pages, interactive pieces of media (such as the Knightlab StoryMap created using Northwestern University’s technology), and visuals that allow the reader to see what is being written about in real-time. This would never have been a possibility for me before this Co-op. While I certainly enjoy the historical research aspect of the project to a higher degree, the electronic presentation of the project was such an enjoyable experience that I would recommend even the most computer-illiterate users to try to learn something of it. It may open whole new doors for users, as it did for me.
Now that the project is complete, I look on it with pride. I feel accomplished in having brought information to the world that was previously only available to those that physically came to EKU. There is an old quote, “You really die twice. Once when you stop breathing, and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” With this in mind, I feel that in some way or another, this project has brought Amos Bargdoll and William Murray back to life. This project allowed me to use skills I enjoy, learn new skills that I did not previously have, and get a deeper sense of fulfillment than anything else might have, the value of which is not quantifiable. For what I have learned, and what I have been allowed to take part in producing, I can only say thank you to the wonderful people of EKU and the Special Collections and Archives.
Explore the gold rush diaries and interactive map.