Shortly after being assigned to the Archivists group and looking over what the previous website group had accomplished, we decided that we needed to create a more personal connection to Walter Harding’s story. While there was a lot of information about his work and the scholarly contributions he made to Henry David Thoreau’s legacy, we wanted to know more about Walter Harding himself.
After consulting with Liz Argentieri, an archivist of Milne Library, and asking about Harding’s relatives, she pointed us in Allen Harding’s direction. With the help of Professor Schacht, we contacted Mr. Harding by email and set up a conference call. We tried to do the call over Skype at first, but there were a few technical difficulties, so we switched over to a conference call on a cell phone.
The interview itself went wonderfully! Mr. Harding was very generous with his time and the information he gave us, filling us with cool stories about his father. We learned how Walter Harding came to be at Geneseo (would you have guessed that it was his wife’s attachment to the town that made them stay there?), that he enjoyed camping and birdwatching, and that every summer their family would make trips to different universities where Walter Harding did research and work.After the interview, we started to transcribe an audio file we made of the discussion. We also received a few emails from Allen Harding containing some really wonderful photographs of
Allen Harding throughout the years. After transcribing and editing the interview, we uploaded it to the site, putting some pictures alongside each question to add a little flavor to the page. All of the photographs, however, are also uploaded under their own area of the website with captions.
The audio transcription along with other files were uploaded onto our website, using Omeka as our host network. Omeka allows users to pick from several different themes, varying in color and layout. We felt that the initial layout the previous students chose was unsophisticated an did not fit the vibe and image we wanted to create. After deciding on a theme we felt represented Walter Harding and his life, we began to upload the documents (letters,photographs, newspaper clippings, etc.) we found in the Harding Archives located downstairs in Milne.
A great deal of our efforts as a group went in to familiarizing ourselves with the contributions to literature and scholarship that Professor Walter Harding made. Together, we spent our time pouring through documents in the archives of Milne Library in order to gauge a sense of how Professor Harding’s impact has influenced us as students of SUNY Geneseo, as scholars of English literature, and as appreciators of the works of Henry David Thoreau. Despite the numerous documents we had accessed, however, it was but a fraction of Professor Harding’s collection and bibliography. It was our job to select a few items from that prolific collection of literature that we felt would best represent the legacy of Professor Harding’s 26-year tenure with SUNY Geneseo and put together a website which told a story of this man’s career.
We used scanners from Milne to upload the documents onto our laptops. After naming each file and assigning it to its specific folder, we were ready to start uploading everything onto the website!
We all were excited to begin work on the website. Dr. Schacht encouraged us to think of something new we could add to the site. He wanted us to create an exhibit as if the website was a museum and create a new area where interested parties could go to explore and learn.
After countless trips to the library going through archives, we all were struck with inspiration. Walter Harding had done so much in his life, impacting so many around him. He influenced his students at Geneseo, people across the country, and even other countries. His contributions about Thoreau and his works has made a lasting impact on our society.
That is why for the website, we created three different collections about his contributions to SUNY Geneseo, the nation, and then the world. It was so easy to go through the archives and find amazing documents and information for each section.
One of the most exciting moments was when we found a letter from Albert Einstein to Walter Harding. We didn’t realize that Harding even know him! We later discovered that he would write to all sorts of different people to see what they thought about Thoreau’s writings.
While we at Geneseo have all heard of Walter Harding one way or another, we didn’t realize until after we found so many various letters, newspaper clippings, and other documents that he was such a well known figure. Without, Thoreau truly would not be as well read or respected as he is today.
Working on the website was such a fun experience, since we got to learn more about this amazing man, and also design and create a whole world for people.
Students: Kathryn Bockino, Kevin P. Feeley, Corinne Green, Angeliki Ellie Laloudakis, Danielle Pesin, and Emma Wang
Faculty: Dr. Paul Schacht, Liz Argentieri