How Technology Is Preserving Historical Documents For Future Generations

Technology is often associated with futuristic thinking, expanding human knowledge in innovative new ways beyond anything we’ve ever experienced before, but technology is also empowering us to preserve the past as well. Today, technology is helping educators keep history tangible and real for generations of future students because there is a huge difference between learning about history and seeing physical evidence about it.

When, for example, a high school history student reviews the historical facts around the U.S. Declaration of Independence, it’s something of an abstraction. The people and the events of the distant past are merely facts to be memorized for a history exam. However, actually seeing the unique engrossed Declaration of Independence — one of the most cherished documents in the United States — at the National Archives in Washington DC, paints a vivid picture of the events that altered the history of a young nation and changed the world.

Historical Collections

Witnessing actual historical documents can be remarkably inspiring, and, fortunately, not all historical documents are tucked away in museums, libraries, and private collections. Some historical documents for sale are signed by such iconic figures as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson and are available from the Raab Collection for students of history to enjoy.

Why History Matters

In a HuffingtonPost article about why preserving history matters, Steve Berry, the New York Times bestselling author of The Columbus Affair explains why history still matters in an age when technology is slowly pushing us to become a space-faring species:

“Firsthand, all across the country, I’ve witnessed the incredible treasures preserved within libraries in our schools, public buildings, historical societies, museums, and universities. At the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, I saw a marginalia written in Twain’s own hand. Inside the rare book room at the Library of Virginia was a book of psalms that arrived here on the Mayflower. In county libraries in rural America were the records of families who settled that land centuries ago, and in Smithsonian were the last remaining books of James Smithson, whose legacy was the founding of the institution itself.”

The Work of Preservation Experts

Libraries and museums face the dilemma of trying to make historical documents available to the public and historians while at the same time making sure that they are preserved for posterity. By keeping them encased where they are visible, they achieve this balance. Helping them with this effort is a  small, dedicated band of researchers who are preserving human records for posterity.

Although most paper documents are digitized, it’s still important to preserve the original—although, of course, working with original documents can be nerve-wracking because the preservation expert can’t afford to make a single error. New advances in technology make it possible to identify the causes of degradation and create solutions to prevent further ruin.

The Science of Preservation

The biggest source of degradation is oxygen, and so documents must be encased in a way that removes oxygen and controls moisture. An encasement will use a thick sheet of glass as the base. This is not ordinary glass, but a non-reflective glass. The encasement is then hermetically sealed and oxygen replaced with argon, an inert gas.

Argon is used to keep the atmospheric pressure. Oxygen has to be removed because it reacts with the atoms in paper and it also speeds up the rate that the ink fades.

The encasement is often monitored with a sensor to notify the museum or library staff if the atmospheric pressure inside an encasement exceeds a safe level for the paper document. The staff will immediately alert their preservation researcher, who then rushes over to vent the excessive pressure. Many priceless documents are preserved in this way, including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Examining Historical Documents

Besides preserving documents, technology can enhance historical research, often revealing surprising new insights about a historical document. Hyperspectral imaging technology is an invaluable way of examining ancient maps and documents without researchers actually touching the materials.

Just like the telescope and the microscope can enhance human vision to see what used to be invisible, hyperspectral imaging makes it possible for researchers to uncover a wealth of information that was not accessible before. It is now possible to see how, where, and when a document was made by examining the finest elements of ink pigmentation. This enhanced vision sometimes reveals surprising things, too, like a watermark, or, as in the case of the Declaration of Independence. Normally, human vision is restricted to the electromagnetic spectrum that ranges from red to violet, but with hyperspectral imaging makes it now possible to include ultraviolet and infrared light.

Preserving Documents for Posterity

Although documents are made of imperfect materials and degrade over time by fading or tearing, the situation is not as dire as it could be because researchers can now use some amazing technologies to preserve ancient documents for posterity. Technology is also giving us a deeper understanding of hidden text or other clues.

Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this article

About the Author: Jenna B.

Jenna is a freelance writer who got into blogging in college and copywriting upon graduation. Jenna has usually written about topics that mean a lot to her such as health and medicine when applied to family and loved ones. Jenna is an avid runner as long as it’s not a marathon distance jog! She’s on twitter (she still hasn’t fallen in love with and doesn’t use often) @JennaFromDaBlog!

Leveraging Technology in the Classroom

Technology is one of the fastest changing fields in history. Devices, programs, and education methodologies surrounding tech change dramatically from year to year, which can make it challenging to devise a technology integration plan that is safe, cost-effective, and educationally valuable. To do this, it is necessary to first focus on student and device safety, find adaptable ways to integrate technology into the classroom, and consider applications independent of hardware and infrastructure that may benefit students.

Student and Device Safety

Any technological device that is brought into the classroom should be protected from the students and should protect students from outside influences which may be detrimental to the learning process.

Physical and system protection can be provided in the form of iPhone cases, antivirus software, routine operating system and software updates, secure internet connections, surge protectors, and appropriate caring cases. This takes a dedicated IT team for each school district with people available in each school to maintain systems and physical components.

Protecting students from outside influences can be more challenging due to the advanced technological expertise of the current generation of students. However, there are safeguards that can be put into place that will prevent them from accessing particular websites or groups of websites with proper software management.

Classroom Technology

It is almost impossible for any one person to be aware of all the latest technological advances that can be powerfully utilized in a classroom setting. The emergence of affordable 3D printers has revolutionized the way students can interact with every subject. Yet, many teachers are completely overwhelmed with the possibilities and are unsure of how to best use the printers in their own curriculum.

In order to make use of the newest technology, schools may want to consider technology ambassadors or a technology chair for each department or grade level depending on the organizational structure of the school. These are people who can make finding and implementing new technology a priority within their discipline. Using the 3D printers as an example, a history chair may recommend each history teacher have students print replicas of artifacts from specific time periods. Whereas someone who was the head of the 8th grade department may create a thematic unit and make suggestions for how each subject area can utilize the 3d printing capabilities.

Social Media Possibilities

Social media has the advantage of being cloud based, free, and something most students are already using on a regular basis. It is a great way to connect with parents and keep them informed of class projects and progress and to get students more excited and engaged. It also teaches students how to use these networks in a productive, responsible, and safety conscious manner which are skills many are sorely lacking.

Some teachers have found a way to utilize Twitter to encourage students to share their literary habits with a broader audience without sacrificing their privacy. Others create Facebook groups for parents or for specific classes to share online resources and access course material and extras with the documents and video options. Most major social media platforms have the ability to create private groups that are only accessible with an invitation. This helps protect student privacy and keep the content secure.

Technology doesn’t have to be an intimidating roadblock in the path of education. It needs to be embraced on all levels and areas in order to ensure students are fully prepared to maximize the use of technology in their daily lives and for the rest of their educational careers.

Consideration was received for the editing and publishing of this article

About the Author: Jenna B.

Jenna is a freelance writer who got into blogging in college and copywriting upon graduation. Jenna has usually written about topics that mean a lot to her such as health and medicine when applied to family and loved ones. Jenna is an avid runner as long as it’s not a marathon distance jog! She’s on twitter (she still hasn’t fallen in love with and doesn’t use often) @JennaFromDaBlog!

NüYü “Panther Pause” Challenge

In my school, we have a program, Performance Reveals Individual Student Magic (P.R.I.S.M.) which is our gifted and talented program. A group of students within the program identified an area affecting students across the country and determined a solution. The problem… stress. The solution… mindfulness. As a means to implement change, they created an in-person as well as a virtual challenge to guide individuals through steps to become more mindful. As stated on their site:

The Panther “Pause” Challenge is a new program we have come up with to teach people of all ages about mindfulness. We’ll be offering things such as resources (books, articles, videos, worksheets, etc.) to teach people about mindfulness, people like you! You can take a free mindfulness course right here, at home.

This course can also be used by teachers to teach students mindfulness strategies in the classroom. Some group activities are prefect for students to try out, and the handouts can be printed out and distributed to students.

Alright, a little orientation. How this works will be as follows: We’ll be providing resources (perhaps in the form of a pdf, slideshow, video, or google form), and then offer a google form, “test” afterwards to make sure you got everything you needed to know from those lessons. We’ll have two tests per week, and each week has two lessons, so the test will be on one lesson. After each test, you will get a digital badge that will be sent to you via email, and once you complete all the tests, you will have received eight badges – two for each week. There are also going to be extra tests about other things, like extra credit!

They reached out to me for the underlined part above. Utilizing the same format as I previously posted about (here & here), we have Google Forms collecting information, sending the information to Google Sheets w/ the FormMule add-on sending out the email templates.

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Have students reached out to you for assistance with a technology task? I would love to read about it in the comments below.

Leadership… #EdublogsClub

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Simply write a post and share it (via social media w/ #edublogsclub or posting a link as a comment to that topic’s posting on the Edublogger site) to join in, or sign up to receive email reminders of each new prompt. 

Back in April, I did a post in response to a question on great videos for a keynote or presentation. One of the videos is perfect for this week’s prompt on Leadership.

Derek Sivers states, “The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.” In leadership, there isn’t always a single person or entity that is solely responsible for command. The second person in a movement is just as important a leader as the first person.

I have my lone nut moment all the time. As a technology coach, you put yourself out there making recommendations of various tools which could be beneficial to the teachers you (in essence) lead. Sometimes you remain the lone nut, advocating for a particular tool, hoping that someone will come along and join you giving credence to the ‘movement’. Other times you find out that someone has gained a new item for their toolkit. Maybe they reach out and ask further, in-depth questions or let you know how it went with their students. Or, as in this instance, you found out through a notification of being mentioned in a tweet.

What are your thoughts on Leadership? Do you agree or disagree on the first follower being a leader? I would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

World Sketchnoting Day #SNDay2017

Yesterday (Wed., Jan. 11) was World Sketchnoting Day, I participated by listening to an episode of the House of Ed Tech w/ host Chris Nesi. I thought it was only fitting to listen to & sketchnote episode 068 with special guest Stacey Lindes who discussed sketchnoting, what it is, her process, and went into detail on her personal challenge, sketchnoting each day for 100 days. Take a look below…

My Work Space… #EdublogsClub

This post is part of the #EdublogsClub – a group of educators and educational technology enthusiasts that blog around a common theme each week. Simply write a post and share it (via social media w/ #edublogsclub or posting a link as a comment to that topic’s posting on the Edublogger site) to join in, or sign up to receive email reminders of each new prompt. 

Sometimes it is interesting how various items converge around the same time. This week’s topic, a blog post from Richard Byrne called ‘Why We Feel Attached to Our Stuff‘, and news on my current space at work have all converged this week to make for a timely post.

I don’t normally veer off from talking about technology integration, but this is one topic which I felt warranted the diversion. Let’s take a little detour and get caught up on some backstory. At the beginning of the school year, I approached my building’s principal with an idea. Let’s take one of the abandoned computer labs (all students in the building now have Chromebooks) and let’s convert it to a training center for teachers. She was on board and the start of room 619 becoming a space for teachers to learn happened. Now fast forward to just coming back from winter break. Due to some circumstances beyond my control, I was informed that the space would need to be shared with our PRISM (gifted) program. So this week started construction on the space. All of the custom tables (from when this was a computer lab) were removed, painting began, and the equipment from their previous space started transporting to this space.

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How the room looked on Tuesday

As teachers have walked by, many have stopped in to see the transformation take place. Several have asked the same question, “Are you upset about this?” My response has surprised many and I think I can attribute it to reading the post and watching the video (embedded below)

I recognize the room is not “mine“, even if I wanted it to be, it couldn’t.

Have you ever had a change to your space that you had no control over? I would love to read about how you handle/dealt with the change in the comments below.