Are you a 1910 Slang Word? Because You’re “Jamake”-ing Me Crazy

Despite all the Digital Humanities concepts, ideas and jargon thrown at us within our first 48 hours of internship, one question dominated my mind this morning.

“What the heck is a ‘Jamake’?”

I’d encountered the term while reading the Kidder, a 1912 humor zine that was quite sophomoric for the time (although I’d argue that all publications in a college should be at the very least 25% sophomoric, if only for proper class-year representation.) The student editor, one Frederick Barton, had sent a draft to esteemed writer and troublemaker Elbert Hubbard. Hubbard, impressed with the rebellious display, wrote a kind letter in response. The editors would run Hubbard’s approval in the same issue, a trophy of witty delinquency.


Remember the good ol' days when world renowned authors invited you to sip lemonade on their porch because of your college magazine? I'm still waiting to hear back, Margaret Atwood. 

Reading his kind regards, I was left wondering what quality “jamake” could describe. Google searches turned up nothing. I texted my grandma at lunch and she never responded (crossing finger she didn’t pass away but too right now too call). Not until later did I realize the truth.

Jamake is plural.

The singular is “Jamoke,” a slang term from the late 19th century to describe a fool. The phrase arose from Irish American slang, particularly those working in shipping ports. It’s a combination of java and mocha, new words in America that had yet to be made cliche by Starbucks. To call someone a jamoke, apparently, is to say they no greater mind than that of a cup of coffee. It would rise to prominence in the trenches as slang for an army men, and like Tang, classic rock and the US presidency, would pick-up a less savory definition in the 70s.

Questions like these make me excited to spend real time looking at Amherst’s publications (unfortunately it’s not quite as easy to appreciate that old, mildewy book smell when you’ve gone digital.) I’ve written for a good number of our papers and magazines, but one thing I’ve found lacking is a sense of community and history within them. Students email their drafts, never step a foot in the office and don’t even know each others names. If it weren’t for the icons attached to their gmail address, I wouldn’t even know my editor’s faces.

My guess is that it’s hard to talk about legendary writers for The Student because it boasts such a massive, unwieldy history. Publication controversies, successes and tragedies come and go, but aren’t well recorded because they are ultimately covered up with the slog of boring candid sports photos and fluff news pieces. If an American icon were to contact a publication I wrote for, it probably wouldn’t even trickle down to my level. It seems a little ironic how the gatekeepers of Amherst’s daily history, have almost no knowledge of their own past. That’s all a little bit too selfless for me. Hopefully this jamoke can rectify it.

Optimistically confuzzled

As two separate words, “digital” and “humanities” do hold some meaning for this child of the digital generation, whose liberal-arts education leans liberally toward the humanities. But simply put those two words together, and poof! I am faced with a hazy sense of meaning, which is just a kinder way of saying that my knowledge on the matter is basically non-existent. Thankfully, the description for this Digital Scholarship internship reassures that “no prior technical or digital scholarship experience necessary, just curiosity and commitment.” After reading a number of articles, some of which attempt to clarify the scope of “digital humanities” while others argue for the futility of defining/delineating boundaries for the field, I find some comfort in the collective confusion, at least for these first two days.

In the last 36 hours, one word appears to best characterize my experience with digital scholarship this summer: fluidity. Digital humanities is inclusive in its ability to hover beyond the wall of definition, welcoming vast networks of scholars, projects, and methodologies. But with this fluidity comes more responsibilities. The first half of the internship will be devoted to exploring some of the tools available to digital humanists, but how do I allow the tools to enrich my research project rather than to dictate it? There is a limit to what we interns can learn and apply in the first few weeks, so how does one even begin to maintain a conversation between the digital and traditional aspects of the research process? What kind of questions would take advantage of the potential of digital technology and yield insights that traditional research for a paper could not?

My first foray into the library’s archives yesterday was a mix of glee (combing through just a few boxes of student publications revealed some bizarre ads and an interesting sense of humor in the late 1800s) and apprehension (how can I synthesize all the information in this collection of 36 boxes occupying 90 linear feet?). The obvious challenge of diving into a collection of this size and variety is how to navigate it all effectively: do I studiously go through all of the boxes (a bit ambitious… just a bit), hoping to stumble onto interesting threads one day? Do I identify a theme or question beforehand? Do I take notes of interesting tidbits and try to weave a pattern throughout? Or do I view the brainstorming process through the digital tools that we will learn, thinking about how they can be applied in the formation of my questions? In short, how should I take advantage of the interdisciplinary potential of a digital project? And thinking about the end product, which hopefully will be a concrete presentation-ready thing, what would the experience be like for an audience unfamiliar with digital scholarship?

Just drowning in questions… Be back in a mo’

As much as I anticipate the long periods of ambiguity, confusion, and perhaps existential crisis this summer, I do look forward to experiencing them all (just with my fingers crossed for the light at the end of this purple tunnel of ambiguity). Who knows, maybe I will be able to define what “digital humanities” mean(s)… to me.

Digging in

“… digital humanities, with a culture that values collaboration, openness, nonhierarchial relations, and agility, might be an instrument for real resistance or reform.”              – Matthew Kirschenbaum

The struggle to define digital humanities reflects its wide scope of possibilities and potential for growth, and in its ambiguous boundaries lies its definition. Kirschenbaum tries to explain, “Digital humanities is more akin to a common methodological outlook than an investment in any one specific set of texts or even technologies.” Advancement of technology will and have been changing the contours of digital humanities, but what should remain consistent is the willingness to incorporate digital tools to advance academia. This attitude has allowed digital humanities to expand and be accepted in academic environments, and the proliferation of projects implementing digital humanities in the past decade is a true testament to this dedication.

In the context of this Digital Scholarship Internship, I am struggling to comprehend the meaning of digital humanities and how this term translates when digging into student publications in the Special Archives. I see this internship as an opportunity examine the history and culture of the Amherst student body, especially during contentious times, and use digital methodologies to make this information accessible to the public. At this moment, trying to find what I want in the student publications collection seems like trying to find a needle in a haystack. But in hopes that aiming high will get me somewhere close, I will say that I want to find student publications that reflected or shaped the Amherst administration, such as admitting women, increasing diversity, changing financial aid to need blind, implementing a Black Studies major, and more. I hope that by focusing on the past impact of student voices, it will encourage future classes of Amherst College to speak out for change, using the past as precedents for their struggle and success.

1 Thing a Digital Scholarship Intern Said In a Blog Post [Sponsored]

It is ironic I have been prompted to write about how my project «will benefit from a team-based approach» as an individual (though not necessarily as an artist who respects creative integrity and intellectual property). I think it like enough immeasurably more valuable to discuss directly with my fellow interns just how they could «shape, amplify, improve and implement [my] piece of the project» than to conjecture as much alone, in a blog post somewhere between the back o’ Bourke and Woop Woop, enclosed by this series of tubes we call “Internet“. Nevertheless, I write on, thinking (rationalizing?) the exercise will prove to be useful in due time.

I have left the above introductory paragraph to ferment as a draft in my WordPress dashboard for a half-week now, supposing that an answer to the then-unanswerable question of how others may augment my project would reveal itself to me via a Seussian dream ripe for psychoanalytic interpretation. Alas, no Muse has left such a phantasmagorical present for me. Yet I am not surprised, considering how many of the countless personality quizzes I have taken (most notably the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the Enneagram test) along with my co-interns have said I am not a model team player, to understate my results. Bluntly says, «Active teamwork is not ideal for people [like me] with the INTJ personality type»; the Enneagram Institute likewise states, «Eights [like me] are the true “rugged individualists” of the Enneagram. More than any other type, they stand alone. They want to be independent, and resist being indebted to anyone.» Similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the world’s largest cowboy boots, my inability to expatiate on the merits of teamwork is a small wonder.

I do not mean to suggest even remotely I think the members of my team dimwitted and thus incapable of contributing anything of value to my own endeavor. I merely offer an explanation for why I am experiencing so much difficulty coming up with ways in which a team would be able to enhance my project. Then again, maybe I have been uncharacteristically quick to write off the possibility that I will not use my team as a resource, that I am too much of a black sheep, lone wolf, loose goose, or any other name for an individualistic (and sometimes unruly) animal / Amherst restaurant (look it up).

At my most Panglossian, I believe my team can aid me by simply being there, by entertaining my questions and nodding their respective heads at my at times needy appeals for approval. And that really is all I need to elevate my final project—the understanding endorsement of others.

The Art of the Soluble

The more I read up on Hitchcock, the more I wonder what else we interns could add to the corpus of Hitchcock scholarship. Why, the man was esteemed enough to be the subject of a profusion of works, which all state the same talking points: he was a “crank”, “genius”, “hypochondriac”, &tc. Then again, these and other judgments are the result of more traditional forms of humanistic inquiry; they all derive mostly from the same first and second hand accounts, whose promulgations have fossilized into mere caricature. There must be more to the man than indigestion and piety, I assume (against a cynical impulse to write off others as the sum of predictable motivations such as desire, ego, and/or profit-maximization). Perhaps, nay, almost certainly at least one of the many biases and heuristics that guide human behavior gripped those who wrote of Hitchcock as they wrote of him. Without the digital tools available to the humanities today, everyone from Philip J. Lawrence to Ariel Jacob Segal may have ignored or simply overlooked data (in whatever form it takes) that, when considered against beliefs, hypotheses, prejudices, and other data, may very well prove to be enlightening—at least, I hope not-so-quietly (I am writing this blog post, after all) to find such a unicorn.

But I stodge on, tempering my expectations with frequent ganders at the calendar (which now end in variants of exclamations similar to That’s it??! rather than the naïvely optimistic Oh, I’ve got time!s of my younger-by-mere-weeks self from earlier this summer) and recurrent falls into rabbit holes of en-coding, project [self-]management, and distractions, respectively. In fact, I have a project in mind, one that plays on my earlier pursuit of cataloging and analyzing Hitchcock’s debits and credits. Like I said in an earlier post of mine, the question of how Hitchcock extricated the College from crippling financial obligations has a rather definitive answer already, so arecched by my academic forebears. A more suitable, less close-ended question is, How did Hitchcock spend his own money? However often Hitchcock expounded on (and sometimes—let’s be real—bloviated about) “The Cross in Nature / And Nature in the Cross” in his writings, one still cannot be sure of what he valued without diving deeper into the other things he left behind, viz., his personal financial records. These documents make up a significant portion of his papers, not to mention, a sizable quantum of archives the world over. Yet the digital humanities for one often (I have read) ignore this chunk of dossiers for reasons varying from antipathy for the travail that is data extraction to a myopia in estimating their scholastic worth. I think such apparent indifference lamentable. As the affable (albeit occasionally creepy) Vice President Joe Biden said, «Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.» Indeed, it is in historical financial records (or: HFRs, as Metadata Management Librarian and recreational protogramophile Kate Gerrity would have us call them) one’s affairs and, by extension, interests and ethics emerge.

Consider the pontificating televangelist (the appropriate question here is, Which one? 😏) who professes a belief in the Gospel—the one that includes Jesus saying, «It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.»—as he raises $60 million for a Gulfstream G650. What Creflo Dollar or any other person wants to buy is sometimes much more telling than what he or she says they treasure. But I doubt I will find anything that even approaches the scandalous in Hitchcock’s own books. Even if I were to happen on questionable pecuniary behavior, I am not in the business of sleazy tar-brushing. No, I merely seek to enrich my understanding of Hitchcock, and expect to do as much by transcribing his account book and evaluating the data I am able to collate. With help from the supportive personnel here at Frost, I do believe my labor will yield a rich harvest of knowledge—knowledge of who Hitchcock was and what he left behind, knowledge from which future scholars may educe their own ventures.

Reflections as We Move Into the Final Stages

We’re coming around to the homestretch of the Digital Scholarship Internship, and as we move into the final stages of the program, I can’t help but feel the need to reflect. Over the course of the summer, we’ve done numerous readings, workshopped tools and methodologies, critiqued and learned from individual projects which used them, and put these lessons into practice on a small scale in an effort to amass skills for a culminating project. But rewind back a bit more to before this phase of the internship, and what were we doing then? Let us go back in time to the first few weeks of the DSI.

In the beginning stages of the internship, we dedicated a lot of time to figuring out exactly what the Digital Humanities were. A LOT of time. We thoroughly examined readings upon readings and combed through blog posts upon blog posts in an attempt to answer the standing question of what constitutes digital scholarship. What are the Digital Humanities? (What is the Digital Humanities?) *cue painful memories of utter confusion and anxiety about whether or not to use “is” or “are” when discussing THE Digital Humanities* Are scholars simply putting a name on something which would one day be the standard? Is defining it as a discipline or practice redundant? Was it a digital take on the humanities or a humanist take on the digital? What qualifies as scholarship? Since a huge portion of what makes the Digital Humanities THE Digital Humanities is the facilitation of the exchange of information and peer review, accountability and validity also become increasingly important. (Let’s face it, it’s a lot harder to get published in a journal or to publish a book than it is to purchase a url and call it a project or exploration) So what is up? And where do we fit as some undergraduates trying to navigate the field and create good work in such a short amount of time?

Throughout the summer, we’ve taken a number of pauses in order to stop and go back to the concept of what constitutes digital scholarship. We’ve looked at a great deal of projects, analyzing and critiquing their methodology and execution in an effort to learn from the mistakes and successes in order to make our own project as useful and productive as possible. Of course many of our critiques tended to fall into the category of consumer-side failures, such as browsing capability and its effect on the user’s experience with the site, presentation and aesthetic, usefulness or applicability of the material, etc. In our exploration, we unfortunately did not see any projects quite as dynamic as that which we hope to create. Most of the projects had singular focuses (foci?) and used one methodology or tool to make an argument about one small thing. For one thing, our project is seeded in the archival collection of one man and his wife (a not so popular name in history, I must add) a characteristic which inherently makes one ask the purpose of studying the collection so closely. Last year’s interns’ work dealt with a widely applicable and or at least recognizable topic pertaining to American history, as it was research related to a collection of Native American literature. Our collection is quite different, making part of the challenge of our project proving the value and the importance of the subject of the collection in question. Why should we care about Edward Hitchcock? If he were really that important, wouldn’t we know his name already? Wouldn’t the world? Each of us has a different idea about what makes the collection and more importantly the man important, and consequently we all have different ideas and different strategies for how to sell him.

Many of the projects which we’ve looked at already dealt with much larger but much more universal concepts. For example, visualizing the distribution of wealth in the United States is very admirable and relevant project given the intellectual moment in which we live. People are becoming more and more aware and vocal about social and economic inequality and injustice. Hence studying how such inequalities physically and geographically play out in our society makes for a project whose value is rather hard to dispute. Additionally, making a project solely visualizing these disparities can serve as a standalone project, which many of the projects we looked at did. However as I said, Hitchcock isn’t exactly a household name, so we bear the burden of telling a story to our audience as we make an argument about the story, which the average man or woman will probably not know. In a way the four different aspects of Hitchcock’s life which we hope to analyze tell this story, giving body and a narrative to what may otherwise come off as a snazzy book report on some scientist who lived at some point and did some things. For this reason, I must say that I have yet to encounter a project that does something very close even in principle to what we how to put into practice.

As for my portion of the project, I hope to visualize a network of intellectuals discussing the “Cross in Nature” as we’ve come to know it (we being the interns, although we did not coin the phrase ourselves) in journals and correspondences with Hitchcock. The scope is narrowed organically by the limitations to which publications can be accessed via an Amherst College computer, although this still doesn’t narrow the scope too much and I still have plenty of work ahead. A project which does a very similar thing to what I hope to express in my section is one that I’ve referred to before, the Society of Letters. The project maps correspondences on a map with a network analysis type of framework connecting the various points on the map. So essentially the same deal. I’m feeling confident that the work will get done. (although it would be nice if some magical work fairy did it for me) But until that happens, I’ll be gathering data for what will hopefully turn out to be a successful wing of a successful collaborative project.






Ripples in the Pond of Hitchcock

After weeks of agonizing over our final project proposal and potential research questions, the proposal itself fell together with unprecedented ease. Once we’d had a taste of thinking practically and narrowing our scope by doing individual project proposals, it seemed a natural step to integrate the elements of our own proposals that we’d found most interesting into the final project. What we have settled upon for a loose overarching question is What did Edward Hitchcock leave behind? Although, yes, it is rather broad, it’s been a useful umbrella under which we can arrange our major themes of time and legacy while still making use of the collection.

For the structure of the project, we ultimately did decide to take most of the individual proposals and connect them where relevant as sub-projects within the overall final exhibit. The idea is that we’ll have a kind of interactive website that lets viewers choose upon entering which of the ~4 sub-projects they’d like to explore first. Ideally, they’d eventually explore all of them, but we’d like to present all of the options on an equal footing, not determined chronologically or by “importance.” We want our audience to be able to engage with any part of the site and come away feeling that they’ve experienced a full narrative, not just part of one.

In terms of sites that would model something like that visually, while I can’t think of any specific examples, I feel that I’ve certainly encountered something similar before. I’m imagining a pretty simple homepage, maybe one that starts off with some basic biographical information about Hitchcock (or features that lead you through that) so there’s some kind of baseline knowledge, and then maybe leads into a page with four boxes: one for each of the mini-projects. You click on a box, and it takes you to that project page. Embarrassingly, the closest visual model I have for this is the block boxes you click on to select answers in Buzzfeed quizzes, but hey, at least those are intuitive.

I do at least have a clearer idea of what I’d like the iteration of my “mini-project” to be. I’ve harped on ad infinitum about how the Cocitation Network project in Signs@40 was in the inspiration for my mini-proposal and all that. But while it is a beautiful piece of data visualization, the kind of data that I’m looking to analyze doesn’t quite fit into the network model the same way. Signs@40 was examining the citations listed in all the articles in their journal over the past 40 years: so while the nodes of the network were from a variety of authors and time periods, they were all neatly catalogued by the single source of the journal itself. Not only does this give them a clear, demarcated set of data to examine, but it all comes back to the same point that they share in common: Signs@40.

With Hitchcock’s citations, things get a bit trickier. Hitchcock was pretty prolific and published a lot of his writings, which ranged in subject from geology and chemistry to the temperance movement. To completely measure the effect of his words, one would have to track whenever ANY of his many publications was cited: a task which not only seems very time-consuming, but kind of boring. So I plan to narrow the search to only tracking when his most important works were cited (exact criteria for that TBD). That helps a little bit with the problem of scope, but still there’s the question of having multiple sources for the citation network(s) it/themselves. Each work of Hitchcock’s would be at the center of its own network, which would necessitate a multitude of graphs, and more time. Unless, of course, we choose to put them all together in a single graph, which then raises the question of topic: should the original documents be all scientific texts, or a mix of scientific and religious? I’m more interested in looking at a medley of topics, but I’m also concerned that having too many different categories that the data points differ on could make it both difficult to model and analyze.

Data visualization of networks seems like a pretty popular field in the DH/tech community. This site has a lot of really well-constructed and easy to read data/network visualizations, so I spent some time here looking for inspiration.

My original idea of what the network would look like was similar to this LinkedIn visualization tool, which allows you to look at an aggregate of your connections on the site and see how they’re all collected to one another. Pretty much a standard network visualization. What I like best about it is the color-coding, which would come in handy if we end up doing a single Hitchcock citation graph of his top publications, as the colors could be used to designate each publication (and also offer a useful comparison between the reach of each one). What I don’t like so much about this graph is that it’s incredibly difficult to read, given all of the nodes that are included. Granted, with our project, it may not be so important to read each individual node, and more so that we at least have a visual sense of the mass of them. So actually, maybe not a problem at all.

Another network visualization I looked at was this one, which charts Google+ “Ripples” that extend as a way of sharing news in social media. The idea is that when something groundbreaking or headline-worthy happens, someone/some site is the first to post it, and then some number of people will see the news and share it over social media, in this case, Google+. Then, some number of people who see that “share” will go on and share it themselves, and the news will extend out like that, reaching an even greater number of people. I found this visualization particularly interesting out of all the network analyses I saw because it seems the closest in goal to what we’re trying to see in the Hitchcock project. In mapping where Hitchcock is cited, we’re trying to get a sense of how far his influence spread, how important and worth sharing his ideas were, both back then and now. Google+ Ripples is doing something similar in that the visual effect isn’t so much focused on who did the sharing but the sharing itself, how the ripples spread out from this original source or news event. It’s all about magnitude and direction of influence, which I think will be key in creating our own visualization of Hitchcock’s influences on the scholarly world.

One potential problem with these models is that most of them are made in Gephi, or some more complicated software. While we had a brief Gephi training, none of us on the team are particularly confident or even conversational in using it, and we eventually decided that in order to not waste time, we would likely use Tableau to create the final visualization. While Tableau, as far as I’ve seen, doesn’t do anything exactly like the Gephi network, it does offer a lot more options for graphs and other visual ways to display data, and is also a lot easier to manipulate.

But before we get to that point, we have to wade through a sea of data collection and processing: all of that and more exciting things to come next week!

Building it up

Are there projects out there like the one you have planned as a team? Like your smaller individual piece of the team project? What do they do well, and what could be improved? How are you feeling about your project now?

  • I am currently reading up on various buildings erected in Hitchcock’s time as professor, president, and professor again. After reading through the relevant sections of President King’s The Consecrated Eminence and getting a bit of background info on the 11 buildings constructed then. To be fair, King definitely has a narrative going on about the college having no money, the college having good relations with rich people all around, the college having people who know how to ask for money from those rich people, not enough money being transferred for those buildings, etc etc. “What a distasteful building,” says Hitchcock the Elder. “Did no architect glance over these plans before construction started?” (But of course, we can’t all have tasteful buildings. Then there would be no need to complain or pay any attention to them.)
  • Hitchcock had an absolute abhorrence for the North and South College architectural styles. “Colonial”, plain, and utterly boring compared to the potential grandioseness that could be a New England college campus, they are a complete disappointment. Apparently the buildings were not only  dorms, but also lectures rooms, literary society rooms, attics, sermon areas, etc. Those buildings were meant to be functional, and they fulfilled their roles.
  • This quote on JChap is rather apt: “It was unfortunate that the plan of the building did not pass under the eye of some competent and responsible architect.” Burn.
  • Another interesting fact that came up recently: Other New England colleges tore down and rebuilt their college rows a rather long time ago. For us, the ~worst buildings~ are the most iconic ones. Simply going on the Amherst webpage shows that College Row remains the most iconic and notable part of campus.
  • Look at this. Half the pics are of Johnson Chapel. Hyperbolically.
  • Anyways, after all of these readings, I realized out of the initial list of the 11 buildings constructed during Edward’s time at Amherst, not all of them he had direct input in creating. After reading more about the various groups of faculty and donors who decided on the various structures, I realized only a few of them really mattered in the context of Hitchcock
  • The Octagon [known as the Woods Cabinet at first]
  • The Octagon now
    The Woods Cabinet then


  • The Appleton Cabinet [now Appleton Dorm]
  • Appleton Cabinet then
  • Appleton now


  • The President’s House
  • President’s House then

    President’s House now
  • Morgan Hall [previously Morgan Library, complete with the Observatory]
  • Morgan Library then
    Morgan Hall now




Nothing really comes to mind. I have found a couple projects that show architectural history, but in their own way, not in a way that I want to.

Some examples:!about

BUT ALAS none of them really show what I want to create. I have yet to decide what I want to create. It would feel quite a lot like Pottermore though.

Running Fast and Kicking Something

Less an articulation and more a demonstration, my proposal was relatively straightforward: presenting visually what Hitchcock left behind. I took the theme of legacy, which my fellow interns and I have been and remain drawn to, literally by examining the last will and testament of Edward Hitchcock.

I compiled who got what into an Excel spreadsheet, detailing the value of inheritances and their respective categories (among other data), as seen in the snippet below.

What guided my organizational methodology were the requirements of Tableau Public—a platform «for anyone who wants to tell interactive data stories on the web.» After playing around with the service for the entirety of one morning, following how-to videos and tinkering with example data sets, I was ready to begin transforming my own collected data into intriguing visualizations like a bar chart.

A (relatively) pretty bar chart

It is improbable to me that much if any more than a couple of graphs could be made with data extracted from but that one account book containing instructions for the dispersion of Hitchcock’s estate. My aim was never to craft manifold presentation-ready visual aids, however. Again, my proposal was a taster of what is possible given the right data. What prompted me to pursue such a route of action was my desire to investigate the narrative oft-repeated in secondary sources—that of Hitchcock’s saving the College from financial ruin. Unsatisfied with Hitchcock’s rationalization that «the glory of this change [in the College’s financial outlook] be now and ever ascribed to a special divine Providence», I knew that I wanted to look further into the matter for causes of a less divine and more concrete nature. Indeed, I wanted specifics; I wanted to know how the College’s money was spent before and during Hitchcock’s presidency. My proposal then was to be a trial of sorts, exposing me to the sort of work (transcribing and translating primary source documents like ledgers, and perhaps even encoding them) such an endeavor would entail.

But my ambition overshot the query—already have others detailed how the College’s money was expended under Hitchcock. Almost immediately upon Hitchcock’s ascension to the presidency, the College received a few sizable donations and many more smaller ones that together constituted about a hundred thousand dollars, which equates to about two and a half million dollars today. From this sum, Amherst was able to not only pay off its debt but establish several professorships and construct buildings including the Appleton and Woods Cabinets. What each debit amounted to is documented by the likes of Stanley King, thus answering in broad strokes the question of how largesse was spent during the reign of Hitchcock and leaving me temporarily empty-handed in terms of what I could contribute to the group’s final project. Nevertheless, I came away from my proposal qua practice with a better understanding of Tableau’s functionality, and do foresee continued use of the platform, albeit for a slightly different end (the details of which will proceed with time).

Title title title title

Blog Post: what was it like to put proposals together?

  • We split up into our own heads during the proposal section; the whole process was basically us retreating to our interests, doing our personal research and finding our own sources and figuring out which methodologies would be the best. This meant that each of our proposals also had a different focus: Marie’s was in-depth, with many many words on her thought process –  Seanna’s was all bulletpoints of possible questions and paths of inquiry; Daniel’s was an example of the process he would use to explore a comparable question.
  • I decided to softly pursue two proposals because of my initial understanding that we would require to do 6-8 proposals EACH. Gladly, I found out that we had to do only  6-8 TOTAL. God bless.
  • (We still only have 5?? Perhaps we should make one more just to have more options?)
  • My two inquiries were, naturally, following my interests: architecture and Orra’s drawings (visuals, mon ami!)
    • Hitchcock obviously influenced the college, yeah, old story. However, how much of his legacy is PHYSICALLY present on campus, that we must interact with every day and deal with? Yeah, dinosaur tracks, cool, but what of his do I actually have to see? This brought me to the fact that the iconic view of Amherst – College Row, complete with JChap, South, North, and Appleton – got built during his era as president. The Octagon too was a love of his, and an indisputable part of the college’s unique architecture.
      • I realize after typing and deleting the phrase ‘and so the question remains’ that I have no concrete question concerning this research – it would just be an exploration of the college’s architectural history and how Hitchcock’s decisions then affect our current student lives.
      • Part of me is also superinterested in hearing what people thought of it all THEN – Hitchcock’s contemporaries. What did students think of his hatred of dorms, citing them as “evil?” Did faculty care about having their own academic buildings, or were they content with the multi-purpose rooms of the South attic?
      • Anyways, questions that are terribly Amherst-important rather than irl important.
    • My other inquiry dealt with the forgotten variable of Orra White. She had fallen off our vision board a couple weeks ago; after answering all our initial questions about her, we sorta stopped… caring about her. There just seems to be nothing else that can be found out.
      • Criss, one of the interns last year, told us to just write SOMETHING on paper to feel as if we’re exploring new territory. Missy also warned to add Orra into the equation one last time and conclude decisively  to not drop her form our inquiry. Out of the four of us, I decided to take that path.
      • So I took a couple paths. First I took OW’s Herbarium and decided to do a side-to-side comparison to a couple different things: her drawn specimen, her contemporaries’ drawn specimen, a modern drawn specimen, and an actual photograph of the specimen. Second, I would take her lecture drawings for Hitchcock and compare them to modern scientific illustrations. I know at some point Orra drew this creation.
      • I hate to tell her that she's a bit off with that plan of the earth.
        I hate to tell her that she’s a bit off with that plan of the earth.
      • But yes; that is the general idea. To think about her drawings, their accuracy, and their place in the history of scientific illustration.
  • What I am concerned about is how these various proposals will fit together. The one on the relation of science and religion could possibly extend to analyzing citations; finances  of the college could possibly be related to the effects of Hithcock’s architectural decisions. Otherwise, all these fall under the realm of ‘legacy’ but even through 3 separate concept maps we have not found a way to  fit the four together in a cohesive manner. Perhaps that will come with time.

What questions do you still have?

  • None really right now? Mostly this urge to create something out of these loose ends.

What do you find exciting about moving forward?

  • I’m curious about the deductions we will make from our proposals. Yes, we know that Hitchcock’s financial abilities were enough to lead the college out of ruin, ~by the grace of God~, but I’m looking forward to finding out the numbers that allowed that to happen. Same goes for my idea about the architectural plans. I know that the college was slowly built; seeing how much WASN’T there is also something that I’m very looking forward to.
  • Basically, I’m interested in seeing results. : /

Reflect on moving from individual proposals to the group project.

  • Ooooohh suddenly I understand the difficulty that last year’s group had with reconciling their differing project ideas. If we have such a softcore attachment to our projects after a couple days, I can imagine what a month can do. Hopefully our group project will evade that issue and instead for one cohesive project instead of four disparate ones.

What concerns do you have and how do you think you can allow for one another’s interests?

  • I’m willing to scrap my ideas; I know they’re of the weaker variety (already my first proposal, Orra, has fallen out of the conversation) and I’m willing to let them go if they are unnecessary.
  • Another thing: we could switch roles in our
  • On a completely other note, I’ve been scouring Bioshock playlists on 8tracks and have completely fallen in love with this one playlist about the protagonist of the sequel and have listened to this song on repeat for days on end. My current music mix is sad emotional duets about water, pumping electroswing, and this weird southern gothic/Americana style that I have never been attracted to but cannot let go of now.
  • There’s something interesting about creative energy – when it’s there, its sheer force makes it hard to use or direct. When it’s not, it’s hard to get going. I’m not quite sure what to do with this thought; I’ll keep it for now.