Diploma day

The winding down is complete. Today is technically diploma day, and so I will say farewell to my grad school blog. Comments have been closed; though the site will remain up, I will no longer be adding new content. I’ve moved to other corners of the web. My main personal site is meganmiller.info. I sometimes tweet (@mhpmiller) and may also do a bit of blogging at mhpmiller.wordpress.com.


I decided to participate in the College of Liberal Arts graduation ceremony next month. This is mostly (though not solely) for The Daughter’s benefit. Modeling lifelong learning is a good thing, and it will be a preview of the pomp and circumstance of her upcoming kindergarten graduation. Hopefully neither she nor The Son will become too terribly bored. A smaller crowd is an unexpected benefit of not finishing up in May; fingers crossed that they keep things moving.

We used venerable regalia at Bryn Mawr, returned after the ceremony for use by future students. That was a nice tradition on a campus rife with them (some warranting a capital), and the variations in style felt pleasingly eclectic rather than mismatched. (I chose a hood with actual rabbit fur. I liked the old fashioned authenticity feeling, rabbits are neither endangered nor slaughtered in mass numbers in order to produce a single bachelor’s hood, and these particular rabbits died long ago. But I also liked the fact that those more actively concerned with animal welfare had an artificial fur option.)

This time around, I am buying regalia. This is a logistical relief and will, I suspect, provide hours of dress up fun. The robe in question will be made of post consumer recycled material. Apparently I will be wearing twenty-three plastic bottles.

I am not entirely certain how I feel about this. I approve of recycling in general. Who doesn’t like sustainability? But there is a part of me that wonders if it is symbolic in some way that everyone graduating will be clothed in trash.

AcWriMo results

I fell short of my goals, which I had purposely set to be somewhat ambitious (every “and” on the list functioned as an “or”), but I am still pleased overall. I accomplished stuff. The fact that article #1 is not quite ready to send out is less important, for my purposes, than the fact that I did not suddenly realize it was December and I had accomplished absolutely nothing during November.

AcWriMo, etc.

I signed up for AcWriMo this morning, as I was procrastinating from sending out a mostly written manuscript query. My list of goals is highly fluid and contingent–interest in an article will, for example, move the completion of said article to the top of the queue, which at the moment consists of a lot of “read up on x,” “watch YouTubes about z,” and “be reactive.” So, we’ll see.

Since I will soon officially be out of grad school, I’m going to shutter this website next month. This will basically just mean turning off comments; I’m planning to leave the blog in place for posterity. Turning off comments is, perhaps, something I should’ve done a while ago. Most posts did not generate any comments, and my attention to the blog was such that conversation was even more rare. That means that I missed the chance to have a couple of potentially interesting exchanges. It also enabled the periodic drive-by toxicity in the Bubble Guppies comment thread. (That is by far the most popular post. To date it’s generated 20,037 of the site’s 25,945 views.) The take away (or rather, the Established Fact of Internet Life which is illustrated) is that doing comments well requires effort and attention. Another take away involves reaching audiences, something I should discuss in greater detail, considering that audience engagement is kind of a big part of the whole public history thing.

Thesis defended

Yesterday, I successfully defended my thesis. (Not like this–it was, in fact, an informal and enjoyable conversation with my committee.)

Today, I am kicking off the process of getting it into Temple’s repository. (It will probably be months before it appears there, and I’ll make it available in other channels as well. On the off chance that anyone wants to read about public history/archives/digital humanities/material culture/3D printing in the meantime, ping me in comments or Twitter or wherever and I’ll send you a copy.)

On a completely random note, I am unreasonably pleased that my footnotes non-gratuitously include a material safety data sheet, two recipes, and Godzilla 1985. (Well, okay, the specific recipes may be a little gratuitous. But after a hundred plus pages, who doesn’t need some chocolate?)

“It’s just a thesis”

Having (finally) submitted a thesis draft last month, the highly attenuated process of actually finishing the damn thing is, hopefully, nearly over. This makes me pleased, not least because when I do not lapse into feeling like it’s a metaphorical weight dragging me down or a gas seeping into every free moment of my life because it is not done yet…I actually rather like my topic and look forward to the finished product.

I am used to saying “it’s just a thesis” for several reasons. Foremost is the fact that it is, indeed, just a thesis, as opposed to a dissertation. It’s a long paper. Yes, it is divided into chapters; but I am fully aware that, since the entire thesis would probably be a chapter of a dissertation, my “chapters” are adorable. Which segues into the the second reason, a sort of self-defensiveness: I’m not writing a dissertation, but I’m not stupid. And finally, there is the motivational aspect. It’s just a thesis. Sit down and bang it out.

But “it’s just a thesis” opens up the matter of divergent definitions between fields. I realized that comparatively recently when chatting with friends in STEM programs, and I am reminded of it fairly frequently when processing the Chance papers. Thesis = Ph.D requirement. Which does not mean anything beyond the fact that different fields may use different terminology for “great big research project,” but can make me stop to clarify that no, really, it is just a thesis.

Digital Norman

Go check out the fruits of what I was working on a couple years ago.

Here is the APS’s first fully digitized collection: The Anathan-Jacobs Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Collection. I worked on the processing and did a bit of the digitization, and the letters and photos have now all been added to the repository.

I never got around to putting up a link to the online exhibit, which is silly since Norman Jacobs ate a chunk of my life. He’s the object of my first archival crush. And three people working part time on processing, research, writing, and exhibit design meant things got a little bit drawn out. But it was a fantastic experience and I’m pleased with the result. From my perspective, it was the collaborative aspects of public history at their best, working primarily with Bayard and Tracey to process and write, but also getting the fun of things like conservators geeking out about the variety of paper Norman scrounged for his letters. So please do check out “”Quite a Little Way from Civilization”: The Anathan-Jacobs Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Collection.”

Sadly, I also didn’t think to take pictures of the physical exhibit we did for the the lobby, though the “Shaping North America: Politics & Exploration” page functions as an archive. (In the sense of this representation of Case IV being a consciously-selected sampling: in addition to our text, the lobby exhibit incorporated a map, two photobooks, five letters, and a dozen photographs, versus the three images and the letter excerpts we used online.)

Delightful things

As indicated on the staff page, I’ve been working on the Britton Chance Papers the past few months. I’ve done a lot of description and preservation and digitization in the past, but this is the first time I’ve had a license to weed.

I am coming across delightful things, but do not want to say anything about them because the collection is not yet available. Just felt the need to declare that ethics are a Thing, one which I spend time Considering. There is, of course, a big difference between me writing a blog post about how so-and-so wrote x-and-such, and me writing a paper for publication citing sources which are not available to other researchers. I still opted to be conservative. (Especially since many of the individuals represented in the collection are very much alive.) I have also considered writing posts for later release, but do not find the prospect sufficiently entertaining.

February miscellania

Another snow day. I am hopeful that the power will not go out again (I don’t count this morning’s two minute outage; we get those all the time, and they barely register–unlike the ice storm related outage last week, which had us huddling under wool blankets and retreating to the warmth and connectivity of the Y). And perhaps The Daughter will burn off some energy racing around the yard with the dogs, otherwise I will soon be covered with all the My Little Pony stickers.

The weather, with assists from health and jury duty, have wreaked havoc with my ability to finish digitizing things at the APS. On the one hand, if it’s gone undigitized since the 1950s, another couple weeks doesn’t matter. On the other hand, I would very much like to finish digitizing this manuscript.

Earlier this month, I went to my first hackathon. I’m very glad I went, because this is the sort of thing that I want to start doing on a semi-regular basis, and I hope that next time I’m able to contribute more. This time was personally useful for getting a sense of something I should learn more about. I was flirting with the idea of talking about the project at greater length (tweets don’t really count, though #glamhackphilly has some fun links) but Alex Brey, who drove the initial question posed to the British Museum’s open linked data, has already done a very nice job of writing up the weekend.