In the late 1600s, many people from the German lands in Europe immigrated to America and began to put down roots in southeastern Pennsylvania. As they sought to combine their German traditions with their new way of life in the New World, a new aspect of culture emerged that was considered both documentary and artistic in nature. Documents, which came to be known as Fraktur, abounded in Pennsylvania German communities. The most common of these were highly decorated personal papers that chronicled an individual’s life events such as birth, baptism, confirmation, and marriage. Other Fraktur include house blessings, book plates, rewards of merit, hymnals and writing samples.
My project seeks to map the locations where these Fraktur were created in order to give a better geographical sense of of the data. In the process, I hope to further explore the connections between the creators, people mentioned in them, the types of documents and the locations where they were created. In order to raise awareness about the project, I have created a social media strategy, which I have outlined below.
This project is being created with three specific audiences in mind:
- Fellow scholars and researchers
- The general public (including my friends and acquaintances)
- Residents of southeastern Pennsylvania, who are familiar with the geographical area this project covers (including my own father, who was born outside of Philadelphia)
- In order to reach other scholars and researchers, my strategy will follow the general trends in the Digital Humanities field. It seems like most DH scholars (like Melissa Terras) communicate about their projects through their own personal/professional blog. Using WordPress to blog about my journey would help create a written record documenting the creation of the project and would also raise awareness that this project is being created. Another trend in DH is to create a blog or Twitter feed specifically for the project, giving periodic updates about the ongoing process. For example, The Papers of the War Department project has both a project blog and a twitter feed.
- In order to introduce this project to the general public, the use of a project blog or Twitter feed might work well. But, according to a Pew Research Report, 48% of internet users only use one social media platform. And 79% of those that only use one platform choose Facebook. While many of my personal friends fall in the category of 18-29 year old (which seem to be the most avid social media users), many of my family friends are older. As they are the sort of people who might read a post on Facebook, but would not read a tweet, I would want to post links to my blog to my FB page, in order to gain greater recognition of my work.
- Residents of southeastern Pennsylvania are a very specific audience and one that is hard to target. Since my father has connections with people in the area in the who are in the 50+ age range, asking him to share my posts on Facebook might be a good way to reach an older, local audience.
- In speaking to a scholarly audience, messages describing what the project is, what it is trying to accomplish, what sources its utilizes, and how it might be able to assist in their own research would be appealing. I would hope to convey that this is a scholarly project. From reading the messages, I would like scholars to visit the project website and interact with the different layers of the map. From this, I would also like them to find an interesting connection that prompts further research.
- In presenting my project to a public audience, I hope to raise awareness of what Fraktur are and why they are important. I would use very simple messages and simple language. It might be helpful to focus on one Fraktur at a time, describing what it looks like and where it was created, with a link to that entry on the map. This would create a good starting point or entry point for someone not at all familiar with Fraktur. I would hope that they might visit my project site, play around with the map and then look at the Fraktur themselves on the Free Library of Philadelphia’s website.
- In talking to the Residents of southeastern Pennsylvania, I would want to encourage them to look at this project as a way of learning more about their local history. I would try to emphasis how many of these documents were created in places where they have lived, worked, and visited. I would hope that they would visit the project site, and enjoy comparing the locations of documents to the places that are familiar to them.
I will measure the success of my strategy in several ways:
- Facebook: the number of likes and comments on the links to my blog or project website; I hope to have 5 likes and at least two comments on each link I post on Facebook. I hope to publish one link a week from now until the end of January
- Blog: the number of comments on the the project’s blog posts; I hope to write a short blog post once every other week from now until the end of January. I hope to have at least two comments on each blog post.
- Twitter: the number of followers; I hope to tweet at least once a week. I hope to have 20 followers by the end of January.