This project was completed as part of a Digital History course at the University of North Carolina- Asheville. This course was essentially a three-fold task: we had to master archival research, hone our digital skills and build our knowledge of the digital world and the tools it had to offer, and work with two teams of our peers from the Computer Sciences department who would be creating an interactive game for the website that we would be creating. We would be using our archival research skills to interpret a specific piece of Western North Carolina history. The collection for the topic that we chose for our project is housed at the Western Regional Archives under the care of the Lead Archivist, Heather South. We want to give special thanks to Heather, who provided us with so much assistance that she might as well have been a fourth team member. The digital tools we would be using included WordPress, Timeline JS, TimeMap JS, StoryMap JS, and various plugins and widgets. The interactive game for our website was to be designed by two groups in a Game Programming course. The various components were then to be married into one master project: create an attractive digital history of our story, complete with a fun interactive that would contribute in some way to the story that we were telling.
As with any great project, we experienced successes and failures, insights and setbacks. For some of us working with digital tools was a very difficult task! Other members of the group had never conducted research in an archive, and so that proved to be a challenge. Ultimately, however, we were rewarded with a wonderful learning experience and a deeper knowledge about both the digital world as well as the topic we chose to research.
The topic of our project is Black Mountain College and World War II. Our mission was to tell the story of Black Mountain College in relation with World War II. Our goal was to explore the effects of the war on the college during the rise of the Nazi party, during the war, and after. The website focuses on three separate areas: the refugees who came to the college, the effects of the war on the college campus itself, and on the faculty and students who left the campus to join the war efforts. These individual subcategories are called “Those Who Came,” “Those Who Stayed,” and “Those Who Left,” respectively. We hoped our narrative would be useful to individuals interested in Black Mountain College, World War II, and local history. While we intended to make our site academic, we also wanted to appeal to a broader audience and to attract more people to the story of Black Mountain College.
Kristen Walden hails from Asheville, North Carolina. A senior in the UNCA History Department, Kristen has harbored a love of Black Mountain College for over a year. She stepped into the role of lead historical interpreter for this project with a wealth of experience in archival practices and research but could barely work her phone. By the end she even knew what a widget was (kind of), how to install a plugin, and how to Google-fix problems she has with WordPress. She has contributed multiple parts to this project, including creating the following pages: Home, John Evarts, Charles Lindsley, About, the “Those Who Stayed” section and all subsections, as well as contributing to the Additional Resources page. She was also instrumental in many of the modifications to the website, such as those darn plugins and widgets. Kristen is preparing to pursue a Master’s degree in Library Science, so this was a special and much-needed experience that she hopes will help her in her future endeavors. Kristen is currently working on her senior thesis–Black Mountain College and Communism–as well as another digital exhibit. Her upcoming website will focus on the role the Blue Ridge Parkway has played in migration through Western North Carolina.
Keira Roberson is a Junior from the UNCA History Department. She came from the eastern coast of North Carolina in Wilmington before attending UNCA. Prior to this project, she had little knowledge about Black Mountain College or the effect that the small college had on the Asheville area. But over the course of this project, Keira has gained valuable archival experience, teamwork experience, and was finally able to understand how to use the TimeMapper program. Keira has contributed to the project by creating the ‘Those Who Came’ section, all subsections under it (Josef Albers, Peter Bergmann, Heinrich Jalowetz, Fritz J. Hansgirg), establishing the line up of pictures on each section page that also act as links to their subpages, and acted as minor support for her other team members. This includes finishing the citations on the home page and some areas of the ‘Those Who Left’ section, acting as a consultant to the Lead Historian, and revamping the code in areas that require attention. Keira is currently attending her senior year of college in the 2017-2018 semester and will continue to pursue a Master’s Degree in History in the following her graduation. She is currently performing research on sexuality and gender at Black Mountain College for her senior thesis, and is constructing a website for a separate research project concerning Virginia Bryan. Keira is pursuing a career in history; she wishes to eventually earn a Ph.D and teach as a professor at a four-year university.
Joe Mitchell is new to the History Department this semester, although his college career dates back to 1996 when he attended courses at Davidson County Community College in the rural Piedmont of North Carolina. After originally attending the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where he studied Cultural Anthropology and Symbolic Logic, he joined the United States Marine Corps as an Aviation Electronic Micro/Miniature Component, Cabling and Instrument Technician. He achieved the rank of Sergeant over the course of a five year enlistment that included two tours in Iraq, where he supervised an Intermediate Maintenance Activity unit. Upon discharge from duty he moved to Asheville in order to attend UNCA, and while walking in the downtown area he came across the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center. That experience sparked a curiosity that made this project so much more fulfilling. As a former Computer Science major, archival research and historiography were entirely new concepts for him but WordPress and the underlying codebase were familiar. This project has been simultaneously challenging and fulfilling for him, and he is grateful to his teammates as well as the personnel at the Western Regional Archives who have been a constant source of knowledge and inspiration throughout.