This class has been a wonderful experience. The website that Kodey and I produced is something that I am really proud of. On the whole, I think it meets core goals of our contract with little deviation. What did not make it to the website from the contract is largely cosmetic and did not inhibit the effectiveness of the finished project.
Our research made extensive use of newspaper articles and a few written memories from the time period under study due to a lack of scholarly work done on McDonald Territory. Scholarly works that were used largely focused on the nature of tourism in the United States and the Ozarks as a whole. While this could have been a major struggle for us, it instead turned out to be a great opportunity to delve into primary source research and provide an analysis of events that was truly our own. The deep understanding of Ozarks tourism and the unfolding of events in McDonald County allowed us to develop an interpretation that hadn’t really been explored before, particularly in regards to the nature of secession.
Unfortunately, our website is missing a few elements that we had hoped to add, as seen in our contract. I was really hoping to work with oral histories from the area. I’ve always been interested in how people who lived through a major event in history understand it, it’s a nice counter balance to the role of the objective observer-scholar. The inclusion of oral histories did not occur, however, due to the age of the people who lived through the creation of McDonald Territory and a local stigma attached to the event. Popular understanding of the movement (that it was a farce designed to pull attention to the region) has made it unpopular to discuss it, at least according to Lynn Tatum, a very helpful member of the McDonald County Historical Society.
Some design changes took place between the creation of our contract and the creation of our site as well. This was pretty minor and probably for the best. The current manifestation of our site I think really embraces the concept of digital humanities. The wealth of images that we were able to find gives readers a good understanding of the time period and importance of key institutions and events, such as the tourism industry in the county and the involvement of Jasper County citizens with McDonald Territory. The organization of the site I think provides a good understanding of the nature of secession and really encourages the visitor to think on it as they explore the website.
All in all, I would say that Kodey and I have produced a strong website with a deep background in both primary and secondary sources, providing a good blend of inside and outside perspectives of the events that unfolded. We’ve also added a lot to the conversation, both in terms of the secession itself (particularly in terms of the intent of the movement and the involvement of Jasper County) and of the nature of secession in general. Aside from content, I would also argue that the format and design of our website is very strong as well. We make it very clear from the homepage how the site should be used and every page has a clear indicator of what is to come next. This provides visitors with the ability to casually browse the site at their will or to follow the chronology of events and development of our argument as we intended if they want to. In this way, it is accommodating to curious travelers or invested scholars.
I would again like to say that this class was a wonderful experience. Aside from the invaluable experience that I had in independent research and website creation, the community was phenomenal. What a great group of people to go through this project with. The help and conversation that we gave each other was amazing and I really feel that I got a taste of what professional academic communities are like: constantly speaking to each other about our research and offering advice when someone needs it. Thank you again for accepting me into the course and I hope that the fruit of my and Kodey’s research and labor has been a success.