Cultural Crossroads a COPLAC Digital Course

Author: vogel (Page 1 of 2)

COPLAC Final Write-UP

When I was notified of my acceptance into the Cultural Crossroads course sponsored by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges last semester I was extremely excited.  I love being able to push my learning and interact with course subjects differently than in a traditional class room. Having a class with students from all over the United States was an amazing opportunity and allowed me to meet wonderful people I most likely would never have encountered otherwise.  I had used Skype before and a few other face-timing programs but Zoom was entirely different and a little strange to get used to.  When the course started, I was still at home as my school’s semester still had a few weeks until its start date.  It was interesting and also sort of challenging to transition my mind away from work and summertime when after class all I had to do was leave my bedroom and then go downstairs to take care of my dog.  It was really different to be able to experience not only a version of online school but also staying at home for school when my college is two and a half hours away from my house.

Being able to experience class over zoom session was also really helpful because they were all recorded and so we could go back and re-watch class if we did not understand something or the internet connection cut out.  Another thing that was challenging about having school start later then the course was being able to meet up face to face with my partner and start our research.  We already knew we most likely wanted to study Irish Immigration during the late 1800s, but that meant that a lot of our research was going to involve physically going to the archives and sorting through information.  With both of us away from school for almost the entire first month of class, it was difficult to feel like we were making progress, but we were able to find really great online resources in the meantime.

Being back at school definitely made class easier as I was able to get into a routine fairly quickly.   However, one of the worst things about being back at school during this course was the internet connection.  Our school updated the system about a month in the semester and it caused a lot of problems connecting to the internet.  Being back at home I believe I only had one day where it Zoom told me my internet was unstable, at school it was a regular occurrence for a while.  But being able to go to class with Susannah really allowed us to focus our thoughts and ideas about how to shape our project, poor internet or not.

Deep diving into archival research was really great.  Both Susannah and I were in a class about Historiography at the same time as this course, so we were able to get a more hands on approach to learning how to create our project which was amazing. Another huge benefit about us being in our Historical Methods and Theories class at the same time was that we had a fresh knowledge of how to sort through sources to find the best ones.  In the beginning of the year we talked a lot about the different types of primary and secondary sources and in what situations sources count for each.  That alone was helpful in determining what sources counted for what, but we also spent an extensive time on how to interpret those sources and use the cultural and political context of the time they were written in to understand their position from the best of our abilities.  When sorting through the resources at our local library keeping everything we had learned from that class in mind really allowed us to figure out what sources would be most helpful to our site.  Building a website from scratch was a huge undertaking but super worth it.  I love designing things and being able to go in to the nitty-gritty of WordPress and play with the settings to make the content look a certain way was really fun and I definitely learned such a valuable skill that I would not have learned in any other class.


Updates/First Round of Edits

Since the last class Susannah and I decided to each tackle one major aspect of the site.  I worked on our home page and included more information on how our project is unique and important for our area.  Susannah took on adding more information on male laborers and the wages they earned and how they fit into the society of North Adams.  Personally for me trying to create our homepage was really hard.  I want it to be short enough that people will not get bored reading it or skim it and loose out on important information, but I also wanted to include enough detail and information to entice people to explore the site further.  Finding the balance between the two was really difficult and I think it still needs some work but I decided stepping back and taking a look at it tomorrow with fresher eyes would be best.

First Draft of Project

Creating the first draft was really fun.  I created most of the design aspect and added the all the pages, which is something I really love doing.  Being able to move things and see how it all comes together is both really rewarding and also a little overwhelming.  Now we have to start editing and figuring out where everything is best placed.  Susannah and I worked together on the overall look of the website and then we split up to actually add the information.  Susannah worked on the Homepage, the Hoosac Tunnel page, and the Historical sketches page.  I created the content for the Maps of the Irish Journey page (which we still need to add a bit more to our timeline, but for now it is really great to have it up), the Irish Potato Famine page, as well as the Irish Arrive, Irish in the Workforce, and the Saint Francis of Assisi Church pages.  Collectively we created the About Us, Contract, Photos, and Bibliography pages.

Video Trouble

As I was creating a page on the Irish Famine on our project site I ran into some trouble trying to embed a really great video that I found on the Encyclopedia Britannica website that did a really fantastic job of giving an overview of  the major events and effects the Famine had on Ireland.  So I turned to Leah when it did not seem to be working and together we figured out that the way the had attached it to their website did not allow for anyone else to share it or embed it on other websites.  So we came up with the solution of hyperlinking to the page and describing that if viewers want more information they can find the video through the link and then come back and continue reading about the story of Irish Immigration to North Adams.

Blog Update

Coombs, Debora . “North Adams Public Library.” Debora Coombs stained glass. Accessed October 15, 2017.

Susannah and I are making steady progress toward our final goal.  We took a trip to the local library last week and found some promising sources on a few prominent Irish immigrants to the area during the late 1800s.  We are also starting to create our pages for our project site and are currently figuring out where we want what information to go where.  We plan on going back to the library either this week or next week to try and find more primary sources.  We are also still adding information to our google map and our timeline to make them as full as possible because we want them to be a sort of center point on our project site.  They are some of the most visual pieces and are also our most interactive elements of the project so people will most likely gravitate to them first, so we want them to be the best they can possibly be.

Project Progress

Our project is coming along steadily, we have created a google my maps and timeline to visually show readers the journey that thousands of Irish settlers took from 1840 through 1900.  I created a page on our project site for them entitled Helpful Maps of the Irish Journey which I think looks very visually appealing.   The only problem I can foresee people encountering is the fact that when you try to scroll down the page with the mouse hovering over the google my maps, it just zooms in or out and can make the map look really strange.  It is an easy and quick fix for people to realize that is what is happening but it can also be a bit startling when it happens, I speak from experience.  I am also still working on the name of the page because I am not sure if I want to include Immigrants in it or not yet or just keep it at Irish, I do not want it to sound like we are talking about all Irish citizens but I do not want to refer to them as immigrants too often.

As for sources go we have been finding really great secondary sources but not to many primary sources, which has been kind of frustrating but we are trying really hard to scout them out.   Figuring out how to cite work has been a bit confusing but using the citation machine that Amy suggested in Slack has been very helpful.

Cultural Crossroads Final Contract

Project Site:

Project Description (Mission Statement and Goal):

The goal of this project is to increase understanding of the Irish workers who built the town of North Adams, from the 1840s through the beginning of the 20th century, among local residents.  We intend for our website to be as user friendly as possible and tell the story of the Irish in the Berkshires as succinctly as possible.  We would love for our project to be used by the North Adams Historical Society as an exhibit of the amazing history of our area.  We would also love our site to help anyone who is looking to research the history of Irish migration to America along with North Adams specific history.  Our project is unique in the fact that while many people have studied the history of the Irish in America and specifically in New England, this is the first online digital history project on Irish Immigrants in the Berkshires their seems to have ever been.  We would love for our project to be a useful tool for anyone with a love of local history to be able to widen their understanding of an amazing group of people who faced incredible odds and came out for the better.

Basic Structure of Website:

The homepage of the website will feature beautiful images relating to the project as well as a summary of our project and it’s goals. We will also have pages devoted to our bios, our secondary bibliography, our primary bibliography, project contract, the timeline, and the map, and a page devoted to significant events in chronological order to better illustrate the story we are telling.

Tools We Are Using:

We are using a wordpress site with the Hemingway theme. We will also be using Timeline JS and Google My Map to trace the Irishmen’s journey to and around the Berkshires.

Work to be complete by each member:

Kate- Responsible for 3 Primary sources and 4 Secondary sources, transportation to and from archives, finding images to be used for the site, as well as creating the pages our information will be entered into and setting up the website.

Susannah- Responsible for 3 Primary sources and 4 Secondary sources, contacting archives to set up additional help, finding any potential videos or audio clips to be used in our site, entering information onto pages as well as finalizing the overall look of the website.

Schedule for Milestone:

  • October 3, 2017 – First drafts at Google My Map and Timeline to be posted on individual and project blog.
  • October 5, 2017 – Final Draft of Contract
  • November 20, 2017 Final Draft of Bibliographies
  • November 28-30, 2017 – Final Presentations
  • December 11, 2017 – Final Websites and Blogging due

Google My Maps

“Trinity College Dublin.” IE 2050: The History of Irish Cartography – Courses – Irish Studies – School Of Histories And Humanities – Trinity College Dublin. Accessed October 02, 2017.

Click on the picture to view our map!

Susannah and I choose to use Google My Maps to show the journey of the Irish out of Ireland to North Adams.  We used news paper and online sources as well as the birth place listed on a few grave stones to locate where these families were from in Ireland and where they stopped along the way to their new home.

A Good Place to Work (if you are a woman).


Homer, Winslow. Bobbin Girl . 1871. Lowell National Historical Park, Lowell, Massachusetts . In Center for Lowell History . Accessed September 27, 2017.

McGaw, Judith A. “”A Good Place to Work.” Industrial Workers and Occupational Choice: The Case of Berkshire Women.” The Journal of Interdisciplinary History 10, no. 2 (1979):227-48 doi:10.2307/203335.

This secondary source discusses the amount of women who worked in the mills throughout Berkshire County, most being immigrant workers, and the reasons why they worked where they did.  “In 1880, twenty-two woolen mills, twenty one paper mills, eighteen cotton mills, and seven mixed textile mills operated in the county.  All of these industries presented substantial employment opportunities for women, cotton and paper mills generally hiring a preponderance of females” (pg. 230).  “Initially, prejudice also impeded the hiring of ethnic minorities, but, at least for the Irish, the years after the Civil War saw a lessening of that discrimination” (pg. 235).  One of the biggest reasons women chose to work in the first place was need.   Either they came from families who had too many children to feed, so the older boys and girls had to help out, or they came from families where the men where either unemployed or had past away.  Many of the men who died during the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel left behind large families.  In 1880 there were a large number of mills women could work at that were within a ten mile zone of their homes which made finding a job that much easier.  Most of the female mill laborers made the choice to start working where and when they did along with other family members.  “75 percent of the women working in cotton manufacturing in the Berkshires were still living with their parents, three fifths were under the age of 21 and almost a quarter of cotton mill girls were under 16” (pg. 235-36). Many of the immigrants living in the area were so poor that they had to send as many children to work as possible, those who had more daughters working in mills were most likely from families where the fathers were unskilled laborers or unemployed altogether.  Another factor that showed just how poor these settlers were was the fact that the majority of cotton mill workers were extremely young.  Soon hiring young girls and women as workers in cotton mills became the norm and they turned into the easiest places to get a job as a female, especially from coming from a family that was “ignorant, less familiar with American life, and poorer” (pg. 237).  

Catholic Pittsfield and the Berkshires

Mullaney, Kathrine F. Catholic Pittsfield and the Berkshire. Pittsfield, Massachusetts: Press of the Sun Printing, 1897.

“Rev. Fr. Charles Lynch, date unknown. First pastor of the Parish of St. Francis, itself the first Roman Catholic church in North Adams.”

This primary source discusses the establishment of St. Francis of Assisi  parish in North Adams and the appointment Father Charles Lynch as the first Priest of the Irish Church in the Berkshires.  Father Lynch was offered the position in North Adams in 1863 after serving for many years in another Catholic church in Pittsfield. He was only in North Adams for a short time before he realized that the church they were currently in was too small for the congregation so he called for the establishment of a new church, St. Francis of Assisi.  After spending up to twelve hours a day toiling at the mills and factories the men of the parish build St. Francis on the corner of Eagle and Union St.  He also called for a Catholic school, St. Joseph’s, to be built for the children of the Irish Immigrants some years later.  He served for 21 years as the head priest for the Irish and was beloved by the community.  “He did more towards making it a law-abiding community than legislatures and public officers every did” (pg. 183).  He sadly died on May 30th of 1883 due to paralysis at the age of 53.  Thousands came to his funeral and every business in North Adams closed.  He asked not to have a great statue or monument in his honor, as he wanted St. Francis to remain his greatest achievement, however,  “his loving people were not content that their good father should lie without the usual testimony of affectionate remembrance marking his grave, therefore a granite memorial stands above him, as a tribute to his memory” (pg. 186).

Photo from:

Marino, Paul W. . “A Grave Situation .” Accessed September 25, 2017.

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