My First Day on the Job

 

My First Day on the Job

I was first exposed to the project Decomposing Bodies under First Experience of Research's (FER) guidance. I was given a description of the project along with over 200 others and the digital humanities caught me hook-line-and-sinker. Right off the bat I was intrigued by what the title of the project meant and how it relates to inheriting the nineteenth-century process of treating human beings as numbers. Before reading the description of the project, I had no previous knowledge of Alphonse Bertillon or his process of classifying human beings as individuals on cards. As I read on, Decomposing Bodies seemed to reach out and call me; the skills and activities (being comfortable with computers, highly observant, and extreme interest with details) were all up my alley and what I loved to do. Naturally, it made sense to ask if I could join the project to help advance the research that was taking place.

My first day working with Alison Langmead and Sarah Hackney was mainly an introductory period for me; we discussed the project in more detail and what my job would be as their undergraduate assistant. My very first assignment was to brush up on my information of the Bertillonage system and I discovered numerous, interesting facts. For instance, back in the nineteenth-century the majority of crimes were committed by men, but roughly 20,000 women were convicted criminals as well. After reading multiple articles, questions began to arise: Why did Bertillon chose these specific measurements? What types of crimes made a person eligible for prison? How accurate was this process in preventing recidvism? Some of these questions I was able to answer by further reading, but more bubbled after every answer I found. After I had a fairly good grasp on what the system was and how it worked, I was able to start transcription of the prison record cards from the Ohio State Penitentiary. Actually seeing and transcribing the cards was an exhilarating feeling; I had the chance to delve into their world and try to comprehend what each piece of data meant. The hardest part of this process was attempting to read the old fashioned, nineteenth-century writing. However, the more cards I became exposed to, the easier my brain was able to decipher the handwriting.

I have been working with Decomposing Bodies for a little over two weeks and every time I get the chance to work with the project, my fascination for the decomposing cards continues to grow. I am excited to continue my research with Alison Langmead and Sarah Hackney and hope all the information I dig up will help the Digital Humanities reach their intended goal with this project: to explore creative ways of connecting the community to the juxtaposition of academic inquiry and the social world.

Categories: 
  • Visual Knowledge
  • Decomposing Bodies
  • Undergraduate Work