February 27, 2020

Summary: Farmer Group

John Forest


Our group has decided to use Omeka to host our digital project.  Through deliberation with Angie, we have found a multitude of plugins and resources at our disposal that will help us achieve our goal: highlighting the legacy and impact of James Farmer here at UMW.  In our meetings we have discussed using a controlled vocabulary list to streamline our metadata process, which will also help make our site easily searchable for students and scholars who wish to use the items we find and interviews we conduct.  We will also have different collections that cover some of the things that will be discussed below, including oral histories, awards and James Farmers lectures from his time at UMW.  

Oral histories

Besides acknowledging previous projects, we are also contributing new content to this project through facilitating oral interviews with student Alumni, faculty, and others who knew Dr. James Farmer. We contacted potential interviewees through the Alumni Facebook group and through our personal connections. A Google survey was sent out to all potential interviewees to see their willingness to be interviewed, best mode of contact, and availability for interviews. We are currently in the process of configuring our schedules with the interviewees and booking locations for the interviews. We are also in the process of creating a Consent Form for the interviewees, which layouts where this content will go and the interviewees’ rights to defer, as well as the basic outline for our interview questions. We hope to send out the interview questions to the interviewees so that they can mentally prepare for them.


Dr. James Farmer was a Professor of History at Mary Washington College (MWC) from 1985 until his retirement in 1998. Throughout this time, he received many awards and honors for his courageous actions during and after the Civil Rights Movement. Even though Dr. Farmer spent a short amount of time here at Mary Washington, many of the awards and honors that he received can be found in Special Collections and University Archives, the James Farmer Multicultural Center, and the Rappahannock Scholars/James Farmer Scholars Office. These awards and honors are mostly certificates, however, there are plaques and frames in some of these locations as well. With all of these artifacts throughout campus and with the majority inaccessible to the public, the James Farmer group has decided to digitize his awards and honors.

The majority of certificates will come from the James L. Farmer, Jr. Papers Collection. Within this collection, there are five folders dedicated to his Awards and Honors. Since there are a lot of awards within this collection, we as a group have decided to narrow down the selection of awards and honors to the time he was a professor at MWC.Once I complete digitizing this collection of awards, I will move onto the awards and honors. These can be found in the James Farmer Multicultural Center and the James Farmer Scholars Office. Since a majority of Dr. Farmer’s awards are currently on display in the library, I have put in a request for them to be transferred to the Digital Archiving Lab to be digitized. 

From talking with Angie Kemp, we have come to the conclusion that the scanning of the awards should not take long. However, the photographing of these awards and honors is a completely different process. Being that the photographing of awards is more difficult, Angie has offered to help me with setting them up to photograph. Another time-consuming process is going to be the Metadata. With that in mind, after spring break, Angie is going to help me create an Excel Spreadsheet to ensure that this process is done correctly. In addition, this will help make our Metadata consistent when we start to upload our collections to Omeka.


The UMW Special Collections contain an extensive amount of Farmer-relevant video materials. These include Farmer’s Reflections series, which was the subject of a former Digital History class’s project, as well as numerous videos that have not had the same level of attention paid. Out of these, we’ve selected three recordings of Farmer’s lectures on civil rights history and his personal experiences with this history, all of which are currently uncaptioned and untranscribed. We’ll be using Youtube autocaptioning and Adobe Premier Pro video editing to create captioned versions of these videos, and we’ll then use the caption files to create transcriptions. These two accessibility options will allow Special Collections to display the videos, and the lectures will find a broader audience through being displayed on our website as well. 


One of the major aspects of my job for this project is focusing on the accessibility of our site and our content. There are plenty of ways of implementing accessibility, but one of the major accessibility issues that I will be focusing on is accessibility for the visually impaired. To make our site more friendly for those with visual impairments, we need to consider color contrasts so our content is easy to read. Colors like yellow text on a bright blue background makes it difficult for those with good eyesight, but for those who are more impaired, it is almost if not totally impossible to read. To combat this, we will need to make sure that our site’s colors are heavily contrasted so everyone has an easier time looking and learning from our site. Another major aspect of this is making sure that our site has alt tags for all our images and videos, and transcriptions and captions for everything so people can listen to the site if they cannot read it themselves. These are just two big aspects of making sure our site is accessible to everyone, and to ensure that I am doing my best and not missing anything, there are various websites that can be used to double check accessibility, primarily WAVE Web Accessibility Tool which takes any URL the user plugs in and checks various aspects of accessibility so that the user or creator cango in and ensure their site is as accessible as possible. For this project we want everyone to be able to learn about James Farmer’s educational legacy at UMW, and making sure our site is accessible as possible.