Blog Post 4: Historical Marker – Laura Ratcliffe

Historical Markers bring attention to person, a site, a building, or an event in history.  I have chosen Historical Highway Marker C-24 Laura Ratcliffe.  The marker is near a family cemetery where Laura Ratcliffe is buried.  The location of the marked is – 38° 57.483′ N, 77° 24.133′ W.  The marker is located in Herndon, Virginia.   I chose this marked because it brings attention to a female in history during the civil war.  Not only that but she was a confederate spy.  The marked indicates she was acquainted with Major General JEB Stuart and Lt. John Mosby.  I am curious to explore the story behind this marker.  I am looking forward to making a trip to visit the marker personally.

I will use Trouillot’s methods from the book Silencing the Past by visiting the marker.  The point of a visit to the historical marker is to experience the location where Laura Ratcliffe was buried.  Perhaps, going to the location will give me a perspective or information I would not have been able to acquire by just reading and learning about her history.  That was part of Trouillot’s point that there is much in history that is silent and to get the full story we have to explore.

There is a second historical marker associated with Laura Ratcliffe that I would like to visit.  It is Mosby’s Rock, which is also located in Herndon, Virginia.  The marker is for a large boulder under which Laura Ratcliff would help Col. John S. Mosby conceal money and messages.  Laura Ratcliffe on one occasion saved Col. John S. Mosby’s life.  I am curious to learn about how that happened.   

I will also explorer the story behind Major General JEB Stuart and Lt. John Mosby.  I noticed that one marker says Col. John S. Mosby and other Lt. John Mosby, I would like to know why that is.  I also noticed that in one of the markers it says Major General JEB Stuart was an acquaintance of Laura Ratcliffe and in the other it indicates she was a friend.   By learning their stories and Laura Ratcliffe’s I can understand the history surrounding them.

I also noticed in the marker that it indicates that Laura Ratcliffe married in 1890 and she was born in 1836.  That would mean that she married at the age of 54.  The marked only mentions the name of her husband, Milton Hanna.  It doesn’t provide any further information.  I will be interested to see what I find out during my research.  There is much to learn from this historical marker.

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Tidy Data

What are the three principles of tidy data?

1. Each variable forms a column.

2. Each observation forms a row.

3. Each type of observational unit forms a table.

What are the best methods for organizing your research?

It depends on the data being “tidied” but the general rule of the three principles applies.

A way to implement both tidy data and organization research methods into my scholarly practice is to keep in mind while researching that data should be organized into a tidy table once it’s apparent that there will be multiple data sets.  Getting into the habit of organizing your research data from the beginning will make it easier to add additional data as more becomes available.  It will also make it easier to analyze the data points. 

Being able to analyze the data from your research has many advantages.  One advantage of having your information in an organized table from the start is the having the ability to manipulate the data.  Once the information is in an organized table it become easy to sort and filter the data.  Another advantage of having your data organized is that it will be easier to find the data that you are looking for.  For example, in the death certificates table we prepared in class we organized all the information we had in an excel spreadsheet.  If we later need to quickly remember who was from Prince Edward Island, we can simply look at our table and filter the place of birth.  If we didn’t have our organized table, we would have to instead looking through the five death certificates to find the one we are looking for.  This can get very burdensome when you are looking at large amounts of data collected.

Another advantage about having data organized, is that it can make consistencies in the data or inconsistencies in the data clearly visible when they won’t have been otherwise.  For example, in the death certificates table we prepared in class, it became very obvious that all the individuals had died at the same event.  It also was more visible that very little data was available for Charles Brown a waiter and a lot of data was available for lawyers like Patrick Henry Aylett and Nathaniel P. Howard.   This new way of looking at the data can give you a possible venue to research further or can confirm hypothesis you had about your research topic.

Organizing data is also helpful because it can be used in presenting your research or as a form of supporting your research article.  There are tools that can help you create visual representations of your data that can make it easier for readers to understanding.  Having your data organized in a tidy manner can make the data useful for these visualization tools.

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Academic Literacies

The way the literacies affect my research and scholarship as a historian or scholar are as follows. 

The way ethics affects my research is that I will have to take an ethical position on my writing.  Not only as far as my ethical responsibility as a writer but an ethic responsibility with the material I am presenting.  I need to take into consideration the audience, the individuals in my writing and how I am representing them.  I need to always consider causality, knowledge, and choice.  Writing carries with it a great responsibility.  Part of this responsibility is also ensuring I am using the most relevant resources to make sure I am creditable as a scholar.  

The way privacy effects my research is that as I come across material, I will have to take into consideration what is crossing the line on someone’s privacy.  Even if it there are no protocols set up for the treatment of certain resource, that doesn’t mean some protocols should be applied.

I think copyright is the most familiar of the four literacies.  This literacy affects me as a scholar because I need to make sure to give credit to the sources I am using for my writing.  Another consideration is that copyright does not only able to writing.  There are other medias that may be used (such as art, pictures, videos) and these need to have their source cited as well.

The way licenses affect my research is that my knowledge is limited by the licenses that are available to me.  I didn’t fully understand the meaning of this until I started my academic studies again.  I naively thought that everything was available on the internet if you just did your research.  That is clearly not the case.  While conducting research for a previous class last semester on a subject I am familiar with, I came to the realization that not having access to scholar articles can limit your knowledge.  There is a sentence in From Human Rights to Feminist Ethics: Radical Empathy in the Archives by Michelle Caswell and Marika Cifor that really put it into perspective for me.

 “When asked if survivors of the human rights abuse being documented or local members from those refugee and immigrant communities affected by the described abuse use the records, the administrator giving the tour responded that they are not really the “target audience.”

The need for licenses to access a vast number of articles written my experts in their fields really limits the knowledge of the collective even those who the archives are about.

The literacies that surprised me the most were ethics, privacy, and licenses. These three items are unconsciously part of my everyday life in the legal field.  They are so important in what I do, that they are normal processes that run in the background. I can understand how these important literacies transfer to the research of a scholar.  Ethics in any writing is crucial to be credible.  Privacy must always be respected and great care taken to protect it.  Licenses are essentials for legal research just like in scholar research to ensure proper, current, and relevant resources are being used. 

Some important considerations to think about before beginning a digital humanities project is making sure that the licenses you have cover the material you are writing about.  This is important so that you can be confident you have a well-researched selection of articles and references.  A well-researched topic is essential in order to be credible.  As you write ethics, privacy, and copyright should always be considered.   

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Current Digital Presence

For this first blog post assignment, I ran a few internet searches on Google and Bing to see what my digital presence looks like.  Here are my findings:

Using Google and searching Patricia Laura, my work profile in the second item that comes up.  There’s also an Instagram profile with a similar name.  The Instagram account seems to belong to a model in the “urban niche” or “sensuous photography” category (as google identifies it).  Under images there’s nothing associated with me, it’s mostly pictures from that Instagram account.

Using Google and searching Patty Laura, my work profile is the first item that comes up.  There are no images that are associated with me.

Using Bing and searching Patricia Laura, my work profile is the fifth item that comes up.  My work image is not in the top search results but can be found further down.

Using Bing and searching Patty Laura, does not bring up anything related to me, not even my work profile.  Under images it does bring up my work image in the first row. 

The digital presence that I found does reflect what I want my digital presence to me.  Obviously, there is a lot that is not related to me that comes up, but I can’t control that.  It did not surprise me that my work profile and my work image are the only results that come up. 

Over the years, I have been very careful in making sure my digital presence is private.  I’ve even set up a Google alert for my name.  I know that digital privacy in reality is not entirely possible, if someone really wanted information about me, they can find it.  There truly is no digital privacy. 

A few years ago, the firm I work for decided to revamp their digital presence.  Part of that was making sure that the Paralegals had their own profiles on our firm website and personal LinkedIn accounts.  They had realized that part of marketing themselves is marketing their employees.  I was a bit worried about having a public work profile but I understood the importance and the idea behind it.  Since it’s been up, I’ve heard positive feedback about my firm deciding to have the Paralegal profiles on their website.  It’s made me more accessible and visible within the firm.  I feel like I’m part of a bigger digital picture.

I think these WordPress assignments will help teach how to further expand my digital presence.

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