Possible Ways historians can represent primary sources into data. Consider the primary sources we have looked at already in this class as well as primary sources you have encountered in your own work. How might these primary sources be represented as data? What are the advantages of considering primary sources as data? What are Wickham’s principles of tidy data?
After working with primary sources and learning about possible ways historians can represent them into data, I’ve been able to see how tidy datasets are a great method to use. The greatest thing about them is that they can be used in many ways for various kinds of sources such as newspaper articles, old journals, or record keeping logs, and still be considered efficient and effective in organizing and presenting key information. Considering primary sources as data contains so many advantages when historians or scholars are doing research since it allows all their work to be laid out in a concise manner rather than having textbooks and notebook papers scattered everywhere. This way, you’re able to choose what kinds of elements you want to focus on in your tidy dataset and present them in different columns that make the best sense to you. For example, when examining a primary source, it can be confusing to keep proper track of all the page numbers, dates, names, locations, and other important elements that one may be researching. Having a tidy dataset to represent these observations you’ve obtained makes it a lot easier to examine and keep track. They also provide the advantage of being able to see all the information as a whole, so that you’re able to pick up on any patterns or discrepancies that allow you to be able to make connections and conclusions about the data all together. I know I’ve personally done research where I tried to keep physical notes of everything I wanted to use or remember without any sense of proper organization, and it honestly becomes very overwhelming and confusing quickly. After our lesson in class about what tidy datasets are and having the opportunity to practice how to create them, I can’t believe I never knew about them sooner as it would’ve saved me a lot of time and frustration in the past. Especially understanding Hadley Wikham’s principles of tidy data significantly helped me in learning how to model one myself. He explains in his article how “each variable forms a column, each observation forms a row, and each type of observational unit forms a table.” Truthfully, it was a little confusing to understand how to apply these principles correctly at first, but once I tried to do it myself and worked in a group to create our own tidy dataset, I realized what he meant and understood how to apply the principles. A key thing I realized from this experience is that there truly is no right or wrong choice in what elements an individual must have in their tidy dataset, and it all depends on what kind of information you find significant to include in order to raise important questions and conclusions. With this in mind, I look forward to implementing this method to my future research so that I may get the most knowledge out of my primary sources.
Use the following resources to select a highway marker to explore. Describe the marker you chose and why you chose it. In what ways will you use Trouillot’s methods from Silencing the Past to learn more about the history of your selected highway marker?
After exploring many different highway markers, I chose the Maddox Cemetery located near Prince William Forest Park. I chose this highway marker because it caught my attention since I’ve visited this park before and it’s a great place for nature walks, but I never knew about a Cemetery being there. The marker describes a veteran of the Revolutionary war, Allison Maddox, who bought the proper in 1810 where all of his family members eventually ended up being buried when they died (Prince William County Government). The PWCGOV website also tells us that the inscribed headstones all date between 1826-1857; the earliest being of the grave of her brother-in-law, Jesse Scott, and the last being Mrs. Ann Maddox’s grave. What also caught my attention about this cemetery is that the family was apparently known to have two or three slaves, but their final resting place is uncertain. It’s also interesting to me that the marker shows the property to have been sold in 1859 by the son of Ann and Allison, Robert G. Maddox, which he then moved to Stafford County. After learning this information, many questions began to form in my mind. Where could the slaves have been buried? Who buried them and left the location of the burial site left uncertain? Why did the family decide to use the property as a burial ground for their family only? Why did the son, Robert G. Maddox, decide to sell the family property exactly? Did he not want his future family to be buried in the same cemetery? In order to help myself answer these questions and learn more about the history of Maddox Cemetery, there are a couple methods I would use from Trouillot’s Silencing the Past. He discusses how history tends to reveal itself with specific narratives that separate individuals into three main categories; agents, actors, and subjects. This is a useful method to keep in mind in order to determine who’s narratives are mostly highlighted and who’s narratives are silenced. In this case, I believe it is important to note that the narrative of the slaves are being silenced as this highway marker mainly discusses a Revolutionary War veteran. As Trouillot mentions, perspective is also key, so it would be interesting for me to understand the history and perspective of Robert G. Maddox for leading him to wanting to sell the family’s property where all his family is also buried. All of this information ties in together with our class discussions where we talked about how much history is told and how it’s shown to an audience in order to see who’s perspectives and narratives are silenced. With that, it is our job as scholars to ponder and ask these questions about why certain individuals’ perceptions are prioritized more than others, and to give voices to those who have been silenced.