Sorting & Presenting: Digital Tools for academic research

posted on 22 Jan 2013 17:39 by Nynne Christoffersen
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Last summer I was interning at a textile archive in Connecticut where I conducted research for my forthcoming project on the American silk industry. I am specifically looking at the Cheney Brothers Silk Company that became the number one producer of silk fabrics in the US by 1923. The Cheney Brothers Silk Corporation, built an entire ‘silk city’ in Manchester CT, complete with the first privately owned railroad. The silk mill had its heyday before the recession and a general decrease in demand for luxury textiles as well as the arrival of modern synthetic fibers slowly forced the company to scale down its production.

Working with the Cheney archive, I was struck by the sheer volume of research material. I found myself facing a couple of thousand scraps of textiles from the company’s sample books, an abundance of original watercolor artworks for textile designs, as well as hundreds of books and documents attesting to the company history. How does a scholar of material culture deal with such a quantity of material? What to do if a majority of the material is visual data? By building my own wiki, I was able to handle and organize the vast material in the simplest possible way. With the Wiki I created especially for my project I have started to compile many different types of sources in one place: links, photographs, videos and texts are all conveniently made accessible via my wiki site.


Organizing and sharing digital content is one thing I am learning how to question, challenge and optimize in the DML. A related discipline is the challenge of presenting research. A tool that I found helpful when creating presentations is the Prezi. This integrated tool allows its users to give a multimedia-presentation using a non-linear, visually oriented, and easy to learn platform. Personally I find that one of the biggest challenges when considering technology in academic practice is the difficult of fusing or bridging the various technologies I want to use. It was therefore a revelation the first time I saw a Prezi presentation that had links, video and audio integrated with the more familiar jpg’s, and which allowed the presenter to choose her sequence of slides as she went along. Such classroom use of integrated multimedia platforms, is just one of the ways in which the BGC is prepping me for my professional future.


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