Documenting Shenandoah Mountain
I interviewed and photographed Lynn on Feb. 12, 2010 and have paraphrased much of the content for the sake of brevity. –Sheila Newman
Lynn Cameron, Psychology Librarian at JMU Libraries, has been on half-time academic leave during the 2009-2010 academic year to conduct primary research and develop a body of digital scholarship on the Shenandoah Mountain region. The purpose of her project, as detailed in her Institutional Review Board request, is to “record in video the history, culture and ecology of Shenandoah Mountain. The participants who will be recorded are primary sources for information on Shenandoah Mountain. The digital videorecordings will become a part of the JMU Libraries Special Collections local history collection. These videorecordings will be primary sources that will enhance our understanding of the Shenandoah Mountain area.” Lynn also has continued her work as the liaison librarian to the Department of Psychology while carrying out her research project. She will be retiring from JMU Libraries as of June, 2010.
Lynn recording local artist Fred Cooper
Sheila: How did you first get interested in Shenandoah Mountain?
Lynn: When I first moved here, I wanted to start exploring the area. I felt so lucky to live here with a national park on one side and a national forest on the other. That was in 1981. I really wanted to explore the wilder areas to the west, which is Shenandoah Mountain. I just fell in love with Shenandoah Mountain and I've enjoyed exploring it now for 29 years. The more time I spend there, the more I want to know about it. It's not just a forest, it's much more.
Sheila: Is it satisfying to have a personal interest dovetail into a work project for you?
Lynn: Yes, it really is. I have this passion for Shenandoah Mountain, but my whole career has been involved with promoting information literacy. This project can be seen as an extension of information literacy, namely digital literacy or digital scholarship. We are fortunate to have many technologies available through L&ET, and this project pulls a lot of these resources together. It’s exciting to be producing something with this technology that could inspire and be useful to people. I've mostly worked with the printed word, and by creating these videos I'm learning that decisions I make really influence and shape what the viewer is going to see and learn.
Sheila: For instance, what you include, what you leave out, where you cut...?
Sheila: Even whom you choose to interview?
Lynn: That's exactly right. So it puts a lot of responsibility on you. You have to be fair and cover a variety of perspectives.
Sheila: Can you describe the equipment you had to acquire to do your video work?
Lynn: I bought a Macbook laptop primarily because I needed to edit videos and felt that iMovie was a good choice. I also bought a small, portable video camera (Kodak Zi8 pocket HD camera), a tripod and a microphone. I wanted something that was very portable so I could do some of my recordings on-site, but I also wanted good sound quality. With iMovie I am able to incorporate still images and video from various sources along with text and scanned documents.
Sheila: Do you use your digital camera for stills?
Lynn: Yes, and I have a scanner that I sometimes bring with me, for example to scan Fred Cooper's sketches at his home so that I could incorporate them into his video without needing to take the sketches off-site.
Fred Cooper’s sketch of High Knob Fire Tower on Shenandoah Mountain.
Sheila: Can you describe some of the collaborative efforts that have arisen from your project that involve JMU faculty or staff?
Lynn: Some of my subjects for the video have been JMU faculty, for example, Billy Flint, a salamander expert in the biology department and Dan Downey in environmental chemistry. I've sought out people who have expertise on Shenandoah Mountain. Other collaborations would include the plan to put these videos in Special Collections. I've been talking with Tracy Harter [Special Collections Librarian] to plan how that can happen, such as how the videos could be stored. Judy Anderson [Cataloging Librarian] has been giving me advice on what type of information to put on the videos so they can be cataloged, tagged appropriately and easily found in the catalog. These videos would then be accessible online to any researcher anywhere. I've also had support from coworkers and the Center for Instructional Technology, namely D.Lee Beard and Dave Stoops, among others.
Sheila: Does anyone in CIT do the video editing for you, or do you do that yourself?
Lynn: I do that myself.
Sometimes I run into intellectual property issues that are not easy to navigate. For example, when one of my videos discussed the Great Eastern Trail, I wanted to include a photo of Earl Shaffer, the first person to thru-hike all of the Appalachian Trail. He conceived the Great Eastern Trail route, a western alternative route to the AT which runs along the spine of Shenandoah Mountain. I found a photo of him on the Internet, but I wasn’t sure if I should use it in my video.
I’ve had to seek advice from Jeff Clark [Director, Media Resources] and D.Lee about how to avoid any legal problems from my content. This is a huge issue. I try to give credit, fully, and don't use too large a portion of anything, keeping in mind that these videos are for educational purposes, they're not for profit. Hopefully these things make a strong argument for "fair use" under copyright law. It can get complicated. Sometimes I choose not to use things if I think they are borderline. I try to use my own photographs as much as I can, but it isn’t always possible to do that.
Sheila: How many videos have you worked on for this project?
Lynn: More than a dozen so far.
Sheila: Who do want to view your videos and what do you hope will happen with them?
Lynn: I hope that people who are interested in learning more about this area will look at them. People who want to understand what is special about Shenandoah Mountain, the ecological attributes and all that it brings to us. For example, it provides fresh water for Harrisonburg and Staunton, municipal water, and it's nice to know where your water comes from and to understand the mountain that you look at every day. So I hope that local people will be interested in it but also any researcher. Students might be interested in it, people wanting to explore it recreationally, and so on.
I like the video medium because you can see and hear the subjects. You can give more detail in a written paper, but the video is like a primary source -- you get a first-hand account. It adds a certain dimension. I don't think it's better than the written word, but it may draw people in who want to learn more. It is invaluable to see and hear first-hand from experts, it’s a living history.
Sheila: You're not going to end your work at the end of this academic year, are you? Is this an open-ended project?
Lynn: I could work on this the rest of my life. I plan to keep working on this because my curiosity about Shenandoah Mountain is not going to go away.
Part of my research leave is to do the videos, but there's another part that I'm working on which is a bibliography of published research on Shenandoah Mountain. So I'm collecting articles on any aspect of Shenandoah Mountain that have been published in any literature. That could even extend into poetry. The project is concentrated on one geographic area but looks at it from many different disciplines and facets.
There is much more to tell about Lynn’s project. For more information contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.