Tag Archives: King’s Log

Project Update -1

The past week I have worked on getting ready to interview a ninety-five-year-old WWII pilot who was an instructor at Mesa del Rey Flight School in King City during the war. Thus, I have been reading through all the material given to me by various people.  Copies of the History of Mesa del Rey have been given to me by people at the King City Airport from their collection, I received one from a private collection of a local couple, and one from Rava Ranches (currently occupying the old school grounds), however they were all low quality copies and difficult to read. After some additional reading of other articles and notes typed on a typewriter, I have discovered who wrote this history article and where I can find an official copy of it. Ultimately, this article, which was originally published in the local newspaper around 1943, helped me understand more about the construction and start of the flight school, so I could develop more meaningful questions for the interview. It also contained the names of many  officers and instructors, which could provide clues and inspire stories during the interview.

Along with the reading, I was also continuing to digitize the King’s Logs and through working with the content of the logs, I am beginning to see the plan of the website expand in new directions. I am also beginning to realize that I could use an assistant because I am uploading more and more items on the website (currently at 42), putting them in collections or exhibits, but neglecting to complete the metadata for them. So I am having to go back to tediously complete that too. In some cases I am still searching for names, places, or origins of the documents. I have also found out that the first two years there were no logs that document the lives of cadets, officers, and instructors at the school. In the meantime, I reconsidered the name of the site and added the specific name of the school to the original, “Pilot’s Log” title. I though it was too general and in order to attract the target audience, having the name of the place as part of the website’s title could make a difference.

As far as the class activities and readings, I jumped to Module 7, which gives background on oral history projects, OHMS, and in general the importance and application of it. I have found the OHMS interview annotating activity particularly useful, even before I did any practice of my own. Just to be able to listen to examples of collecting oral history helped me formulate my questions and most of all helped me understand the importance of letting the person tell his or her story, whichever story they prefer and the way they want to tell it, even if it does not answer the question I asked or leads into a completely new topic. I watched the interview with Steve Zahn and the skillful way Doug Boyd navigated it. I also peaked at the Irish American oral history because it features an older person and I wondered how else I might need to approach my pilot, Red Rider, who is nearly a hundred years old. The interview was a success, although unnerving since I’ve never attempted anything like this before and I felt that everyone (there were 10 people present during the interview)  looked to me as a professional in this field.

It seems to me at this point that I have an overabundance of material and need to focus my attention on the building of the site. I am still operating with the three basic plugins and need to download more. Also starting to think about maps, which will be another technical challenge. However, before all that, my goal is to have all items digitized, uploaded, and described.

Reading Response on Audiences

In the introduction to Generous Interfaces for Digital Cultural Collections, Whitelaw describes how organizing collections on a digital platform expands its viewership, especially if the interface of the site offers more than just a research box. He mentions that “a significant number of visitors do not have a specific goal: in a survey of the motivations of some 34,000 visitors to Dutch museum websites, 29% report seeking specific information, but 21% visit to “engage in casual browsing,” thus laying out the road for digital collection builders to follow. He goes on to elaborate that “browse features are valued highly by non-expert visitors to online art collections . Thus from the user’s perspective, search is an incomplete solution.” As I am frantically gathering and digitizing public history for my Pilot’s Log site, this is a good reminder not fall into the trap of building a collection without considering the audience. The interface should invite audiences a variety of ways considering multitudes of reasons for research. As Whitelaw adds, “The stakes here are high, because the interface plays an inescapable role in mediating digital heritage.”

The “browsable mosaic” interface of the Manly Images, an experimental web interface for a collection of historic images from the Manly Public Library, in Sydney, Australia creates an engaging entrance into a digital museum. It forces me to re-imagine my own ideas of organizing the collection of news articles, photos of pilots, yearbooks, places, and more. How do I present them? How do they connect? From what perspective will a visitor approach the information? Re-shuffling collections and projecting them onto various audiences can create an entirely new look or new take on presenting history. As “The Real Faces of White Australia” builders commented after using facial detection technology to find and extract the photographs from digital copies of the original certificates, they ended up with “a new way of seeing and understanding the records — not as the remnants of bureaucratic processes, but as windows onto the lives of people.” The more I interviewed people in connection to my project and the more I have heard people talk about the flight school during WWII, the faces of cadets and pilots were becoming more and more prominent. The “The Real Faces of White Australia” called facial detection a ” finding aid… that brings the people to the front.” Among all the available information and digitized items, it is crucial to remember to keep the focus on the faces of the flight school.

Then again, I also have to look at all of the pieces of the puzzle because as the “content discovery is only part of the story. Cross-linked and hierarchical displays emphasize context — complex, multi-dimensional relationships between items — as well as macro-scale patterns and structures within collections.” Thus, now that I have a good start with the initial framework developed for the Pilot’s Log digital history project, I must clarify its intent and audience. Since I hope to compile more photos, more stories, and ultimately complete the list of all cadets who had attended the Mesa Del Rey flight school, determining the degree of engagement will be necessary for the success of the project. I need to determine how the information will be organized, how the uploaded items will appear, and what exhibits I might want to create on Omeka. The first item that provided a path into the history of the Mesa Del Rey flight school was the few scattered yearbooks, King’s Logs, that list the cadets in each class, tell about their daily routines and lives before being sent off to the war, presumably to the Pacific. The goal of this digital history project is to create a site that will pull together the history of the flight school and explore the experiences of the young cadets in an attempt to find out what happened to them after they finished the training at Mesa Del Ray. To engage the public, not only the interface need to offer a convincing and inviting look into the project, but it should also provide a guide of some sort for the audience to contribute and comment. Visitors to the site then will be able to upload their own stories and digital artifacts. In this way, the core audience — descendants of the pilots in the King City community or elsewhere — will be able to shape the project and create a more accurate view of these experiences, moreover, connect the remaining surviving pilots.