Stories in Sepia

‘History’ at High School bored me. Learning about old kings on the other side of the world felt so removed from my young life that I quickly grew to loathe history classes. The teacher did not help to bring life or relevance to the content….yawn!

But as an adult my interest in history has developed from reading books like: Into the blue: boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before by Tony Horwitz (also known as Blue Latitudes); Beethoven’s hair; an extraordinary historical odyssey and a scientific mystery solved by Russell Martin; and other books where historical stories and facts are given further relevance and detail through a contemporary lens.

Delving into my own family history over many years has drawn me in and I am now intrigued by the many lives that were lived before – people who are now dead and buried. A grim description; but yesterday I discovered a podcast titled Dead and Buried that “showcases underground history and true crime from the streets of Melbourne.” It is part of the Melbourne Ear Buds Network.

“Dead & Buried is a podcast about Melbourne history for people who don’t yet realise they like Melbourne history.”

This podcast series is well presented and edited by Lee Hooper, Phoebe Wilkens, Carly Godden, and Robin Waters. The additional comments by others provide credibility, depth and interest to the stories. I am really enjoying listening to these vignettes of days gone by and hope they release series two soon.

My own family history has grown in recent months with the help of the My Heritage software and the Ancestry Library Edition database. The My Heritage app is easy to use and free to a point. Putting in your own family tree is very easy and then ‘matches’ are found to link with others who have provided research in linking trees. Some of this requires payment, but the wealth of information that can be seen is amazing and has enriched my own research and legacy scrapbook.

Photos in particular can be seen and while it is important to make sure the photo is correctly assigned to the right person, these images are real treasure. Unfortunately I did find two photos of my paternal grandparents incorrectly assigned to others in the previous generation who happened to have the same first names. I tried to contact the person who placed the images into Ancestry but it went to a broken link. Most probably the person does not use the account anymore. It is a shame to see this kind of error published as fact, especially when I know it is incorrect. Once checked and validated though these sepia images are gorgeous and give beautiful illustration to my family history.

Smith_wedding_corrected

From left: Standing; Euphemia, Margaret, Alexander, Jeanie, Helen, Catherine. Seated; Lily, Jeanie (Granny), Daisy (possibly taken at Penshurst Victoria)

Some years ago I had been shown an enlarged photo of a family wedding in Penshurst Victoria. It is a beautiful scene, with the stern matriarch sitting centre surrounded by family, with the women wearing gorgeous ‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’ style dresses. I had always wanted a copy of this image but it eluded me, until recently. I found a labelled version amongst some old files of my parents. So I had it all this time without realising. The stern matriarch Jeanie Fleming Smith sitting in the centre is my great great grandmother if my family research is correct. Jeanie is my great grandmother I believe. I will need to refer back to my tree to confirm the details and find a date.

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Wiki wacky

Wiki software allows any dummy to create a website. No need to know html code, nor be able to use intricate web creation software like MS FrontPage or Dreamweaver. No need for access to servers. It’s all free online.

Wikipedia provides this definition of wiki and tells us that it is derived from a Hawaiian word meaning “fast”.

As a person who knows html code, takes pride in my use of website creation software, and works diligently to create webpages that are well designed both graphically and informatively, I find the wiki tools to be extremely restrictive. The wiki people control the look and feel of the finished wiki. Attempts to push these constraints to the limits are frustratingly awkward and never provide the desired result.

My job as the eLibrarian in the school though means that I have been using wiki tools to create wikis for the staff and students. So far this year I have created 30 wikis. There is no doubt that wikis provide an online platform that is perfect for collaborative projects; and the web-wise students take up these tools with ease and enthusiasm. So I create the wiki skeleton, invite the participants, provide the access points on the library website and in the library catalogue, and provide any training and assistance as it is required.

This week I presented at the SLAV Conference in Melbourne on the topic of wikis. My session was a joint effort between myself and work colleague and Web 2.0 convert Jenny Luca.

Typically as a Librarian I am an introvert and not a confident public speaker, however I know my topic and this helped. I could sense that the audience was keen to hear the practical how-to steps into the Web 2.0 world, so I concentrated on delivering that content to them. As I spoke I could see them taking notes in earnest. I gave the URL’s for the instructional information I have placed online and hopefully this will help others to take up this tool in a thoughtful way. How to create a wiki and How to create a wiki using pbwiki2

The keynote speaker was Will Richardson and his opening address was thought-provoking, informative, and rich with knowledge from an obvious expert in this field.

Inspirational videos

Like me, you would have seen some fantastic videos online.

 

Common Craft make simple and effective how-to videos telling us about web applications “in plain English”. Like this one: Social Networking in Plain English

 

Professor Michael Wesch conveys messages about how technology has impacted the way we learn and use our time. Here is one example of his clever efforts: A Vision of Students Today

 

The TED Talks offer top quality presentations by some interesting and influential people on a wide variety of topics. This talk by Sir Ken Robinson is great: Do schools kill creativity?

 

And there are a million other amusing and inspirational creations by some very talented people. Watch the Worlds by Robbie Dingo is awesome.

 

Providing links to these from either the school’s library website or library catalogue for the benefit of the teachers is not the best way to share these due to security firewalls and bandwidth. YouTube is blocked for the students as are many Web 2.0 applications. For the teachers it can sometimes take so long to start a video on YouTube that the lesson plan is totally impeded.

 

A solution is to use an online file converter to convert the YouTube URL to a FLV file. This file can then be saved to the hard drive, and with a free FLV player downloaded, these files open and play automatically. Access points are then added to the library catalogue that includes all the relevant bibliographic information such as author. This is what I’ve been working on this week and we now have a little collection of “inspirational videos”.

 

Copyright and intellectual property is always considered. This kind of format shifting could be a breach of copyright. The loophole for the school environment is that these resources are used for education. Since these issues are apparent it makes for timely discussions.

 

The combination of easy to use multimedia creation tools with awareness of intellectual property, has resulted in people now creating more of their own original work than ever before. YouTube provides assured publication and popularity is reflected by the number of views, usually through electronic distribution networks of online friends. Move over corporations. Frozen Grand Central Station by Improv Everywhere

 

What a fantastic and fun world we live in! How great for coming generations to have this freedom of expression! Our inner creativity is finally being called upon and appreciated. Pink Floyd’s Brick in the Wall is certainly a thing of the past, thankfully.