Author Archives: Elizabeth Szypulski

More Than Surviving – Final Project Report

The More Than Surviving final project report can be viewed here — we chose to publish it as a Google Doc to make it as easy as possible for our external audience and consultants to read and review. We’ve also embedded it below.

Thank you to all of our classmates for your valuable feedback and support throughout this process! It has been a joy to see your projects develop and to share our own work with you. We’re so grateful to be a part of this ambitious, thoughtful cohort.

Elizabeth Personal Post – Week 15

The last few weeks have been a crunch, but also an incredible experience. Hopefully it doesn’t make me sound like a slouch to say that I’ve learned more in the last few weeks of the class than I did in most of the time before. A big part of this is the ambition of the project and my teammates — early on when we were conceptualizing the site, Zelda set an example for all of us by saying “yes” to our vision of what the project could be. With a complex, custom built site and only two developers (and that’s being generous to myself — if there are two of us total, Zelda is one and a half), the work I did had to be useful.

I can’t overstate how intimidating this was at first. When I read Gemma’s post the other day, I found so much to relate to — even with the abundance of documentation, including a developer guide Zelda wrote for me, Github still feels like a funhouse maze, or maybe a club that’s technically open to the public, but which requires complex, arcane rituals. Committing my changes, at least, always feels like an incantation that, when I say it, can lead to unexpected results, like creating a hundred extra files that I then have to delete one by one. Which makes me realize the analogy I’m looking for is this:

there was originally an embed of an official clip of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” from Fantasia here – I guess even the officially sanctioned Disney videos don’t play nice with WordPress, which checks out. If you’ve never seen it and want to get the reference, you can watch it here. A tl;dr – Mickey is the apprentice of a very stern sorcerer with great powers; while the sorcerer casts very cool spells, Mickey is stuck hauling buckets of water up and down stairs. When the sorcerer clocks out for the day, Mickey decides to use his magic hat to enchant a broom to carry the water for him — with disastrous consequences. The enchanted broom quickly floods the sorcerer’s dungeon, and everything Mickey does to try to stop the chaos makes it worse. As a very anxious kid, this sequence from the movie always haunted me!

Except, of course, Zelda is a much kinder, more encouraging sorcerer than poor Mickey’s boss; instead of fixing my errors for me, they’ve helped me figure out how to fix them myself and cheered me on when I (finally!) get it right. I know from experience that that often takes more time and patience, and I’m grateful for it.

And now that we’re close to the end, we have a whole website, rather than a big mess of broomsticks and buckets, and I can see how my work has helped make that possible. It’s rewarding to see how my contributions have aligned with and supported Zelda’s wizardry, Estefany’s designs, and Majel’s immense passion and knowledge.

One thing that’s been true all semester is how lucky I feel to have gotten to work on this project and to help shine a light on the history of Wampanoag activism while learning about it myself.  My feeling of gratitude has only deepened. As a (very) new mother, this semester was always going to be tough for me, but my teammates have shown me so much grace and care, from their patience when I’ve arrived late to our Saturday calls, to their ability to hear what I’m trying to express, even when I’ve been too tired or scattered to find the right words. In ideal circumstances, I wouldn’t have to write code with my baby strapped to me, or bounce him on my lap while trying to discuss database structure or 19th century history — but Estefany, Majel, and Zelda celebrated the fact that I was a new mother and a student, rather than letting me feel guilty or less than for having to balance both at once. For that reason (and so many others!) I’ll always be grateful for the time we spent working together.

MTS Update – Week 14

We’re almost there! It’s hard to believe. Seeing pieces of the project come together with visuals, text, and even some interactivity has been powerful. Estefany’s social media posts (more on that in a second!) and Majel’s new site copy have given us a way of seeing what the project will look like from the outside – valuable insight and encouragement as we power through what’s left.


Outreach comes first this week because it’s exciting – Estefany launched our social accounts today! You can find us at more_than_surviving on Instagram or morethansurviving on Facebook. In preparation for the launch, Estefany and Majel created a beautiful set of story posts to explain the project and its focus. You can see a few of the slides below; I encourage everyone to check out the whole story on Instagram!

Estefany is continuing to create social content, and Elizabeth and Majel are revisiting their research to pull quotes that can be used in future posts.


We have some key tasks to complete before we can wrap up the tech side of our project, but we’re still on track to finish by our deadline. The focus this week is on front-end development and implementation. Elizabeth has finished building and styling the timeline, so she’ll be able to help Zelda implement the site styles. We’ve also created a tracker for our QA process, so as soon as a version of the site is live, we can start checking the navigation and functionality.


The site copy has been drafted and is in final review with our cultural collaborators. We updated the format of our event data this week, lengthening the short description that will display on the timeline, and embarked on our “nice to have, but not necessary” research task – writing up short descriptions of state and national events to provide context for our Wampanoag events.

Week 10 – MTS Group Update

This week, we took some time to reevaluate our project plan and workflow and verify that we’re on track to finish everything before the showcase. 

On Saturday, we met for a team retro, where we talked honestly about what’s been working and what could be better. In terms of what’s going well, everyone spoke positively about team communication and the way we’ve collaborated, shared the workload, and each brought our unique strengths and skills to the project. 

We all agreed on what could go better: none of us have found the project management tool, ClickUp, that useful. The tasks are too granular, and as more than one person put it, it feels like an extra task, especially as all of us are keeping track of the small details of our work on our own. Majel and I took some time early in the week to create the system we probably should have been using all along: a Google doc with lists of tasks.

This made it much easier to review our tasks to see if we’re on track to meet the milestones we agreed on earlier, including the project showcase in May. The good news: for the most part, we are. For milestones where we’re “behind,” we’re either very close (as with research), or we had previously reconceptualized the way certain project components would relate to each other and have been making progress toward slightly different milestones that will yield the same result in the end. (For instance, we’d initially counted “data entered into the timeline and map” as milestones to happen in April after initial working prototypes would be completed by the end of March, but we decided to focus on building the database early on, rather than refining a timeline and map with dummy data.) We’ve adjusted the milestones accordingly – see below for more detail – and plan to check in with each other in regular meetings during Spring Break.


We’ve been finalizing the design details, and it should be ready to be put into CSS stylesheets by the end of spring break. We’ve been using Sketch for our site mockups, so we already have the code written for those styles.


Next steps:

Hand off the site design to Zelda and Elizabeth for implementation.



Our initial project plan had us completing the research by 3/29;  we’re nearly there, so we pushed the deadline to the end of this week. We have five events completely written up, and two in progress. Majel is also working on two bios, in addition to the four she’s already completed.


Next steps:

Finish the writing, then add images for each event and activist to the database.



Zelda has been continuing to work on the API, and also prepared a demo of Mapbox that used play data. Elizabeth has been reviewing the TimelineJS code to better understand the functionality in preparation for launching it with live data.


Next steps:

Create up-to-date JSON with the live database, add live data to a timeline prototype.



Estefany and Majel have been creating a unified style/branding for the social media channels, which they shared with the group on Wednesday. The group gave feedback, but we all agreed it’s very close to being done.


Next steps:

Estefany will create social media assets with the new styles in preparation for launch.

More Than Surviving: Wireframes

Over the past few weeks, the More Than Surviving team has been focused on research and back-end development. However, early in the project, Majel developed the initial wireframes for the site pages, map, and timeline, and we’ve been working together to refine the features and develop the style. I took some time today to rework the wireframes in Sketch, which is free for students. Using Sketch will allow us to preview visual variants as we decide on colors and fonts (led by Estefany!). It also exports values that can be pasted straight into the site’s CSS — something that appeals to me as a slow coder.

With that background, here’s a preview of key pages from our site:


Bio – Elizabeth

Elizabeth Szypulski is an instructional designer and a first-year student in the Digital Humanities MA program at the CUNY Graduate Center. She has over a decade of experience creating interactive learning tools and developing curriculum for educational, non-profit, and corporate clients. In a previous role, she directed an accredited digital skills online class program that awarded more than 15,000 CEUs annually. Her research interests include public history and digital learning design for non-digital-native learners, including those who find traditional educational experiences inaccessible or discouraging.

She joined the More Than Surviving team with the goal of contributing to a meaningful public history project and developing her own research and coding skills. She serves as a co-project manager and developer. She is responsible for developing an interactive timeline of Wampanoag activism.

More Than Surviving: Overview of Work Plan

Our team is still working on creating a detailed, week-by-week work plan with specific deliverables, but we’ve established a broad work plan with key milestones. (Credit to Majel for drafting the plan and identifying the big pieces that need to be accomplished!)

The project’s goal is to launch the More Than Surviving website, which will include an interactive map and timeline related to Wampanoag activism in the antebellum era, as well as bios and descriptions of key activists and events. To launch the site by May 3rd, it will be necessary for the four of us to develop these components, as well as our outreach and social media efforts, concurrently. Some work has already been done — for instance, Majel has gathered a good deal of research and has established connections with community partners/experts who can help facilitate further research.

Over the next few days, we’ll finalize the sequence of tasks and deliverables in our project management space (and share it when we have!), but we hope to meet key milestones by the dates below.

By March 8th:

We will have developed the basic framework for the website, including functioning prototypes of the timeline and map. We’re starting by developing a site map and functional wireframe to establish the site pages and the connections between them. Within the next week, we’ll have established a data structure that will allow us to connect the map, timeline, and bios/event descriptions; in a later phase, we’ll be able to use that structure to populate the site with data from our research. Once this data structure is established, Zelda and Elizabeth will begin developing the site, map, and timeline functionality. At the same time, Majel and Estefany will dive into research, create a list of activists and events that will be highlighted, and begin entering that data into the structure we’ve established.

By March 29th:

The research phase will have concluded, and the team will have drafted copy for the timeline, map, event pages, and activist bios. Estefany and Majel will have developed a draft outreach and social media plan that includes contacts for community members and organizations who will be notified when the site is live. The map and timeline functionality will be finalized and ready for content to be added, and the developers will shift their efforts toward front-end development. The visual design will be ready for implementation.

By April 19th:

The content will have been added to the site, map, and timeline. The social media accounts linked to the project will launch, with preview/promotional content. Elizabeth will develop a Q/A process that includes functionality testing and proofreading.

By April 26th:

We will have completed the Q/A process.

By May 3rd:

The site will be live.

On May 10th:

To commemorate the showcase and official launch, we will email our community partners to encourage them to visit the site and follow the social accounts.


More than Surviving Week 1 – Elizabeth

Since our class last week, I’ve been reflecting on the responsibility that comes with signing on to a project designed by someone else, especially one as meaningful as Majel’s. It’s intimidating, especially this early on in my DH studies — I know that the point of this class is learning by doing, but it still feels strange to embark on a project like this knowing that I don’t yet have all the technical skills needed to pull my part off.

It’s not quite time to get into the technical details yet, so I’ve been focusing on gaining background knowledge. The bit of reading I’ve done this week — a book chapter Majel sent us on enslavement of Indigenous people in colonial New England, some background information on the Mashpee and Aquinnah tribes, some documents in the research folders Majel has already pulled together — has made me even more aware of how little I learned about Indigenous history in school, and how biased and deliberately narrow the education I did get was. This excerpt from a Smithsonian article about efforts to change the way American schools teach Native history aligns with my own experience:

Most students across the United States don’t get comprehensive, thoughtful or even accurate education in Native American history and culture. A 2015 study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that 87 percent of content taught about Native Americans includes only pre-1900 context. And 27 states did not name an individual Native American in their history standards. “When one looks at the larger picture painted by the quantitative data,” the study’s authors write, “it is easy to argue that the narrative of U.S. history is painfully one sided in its telling of the American narrative, especially with regard to Indigenous Peoples’ experiences.”

The linked study that mentions the lack of post-1900 content actually discusses how rare even post-1830s coverage is:

Few research studies, however, address the frequency and contexts of Indigenous Peoples’ histories, cultures, and current issues in U.S. history standards. First, Journell found that state standards halt their coverage of Indigenous cultures and histories after the implementation of forced relocation policies in the 1830s and prescribed “to a traditional version of history that identifies American Indians as victims and marginalizes them by failing to identify key individuals or examples of societal contributions”

It seems fitting that this project picks up where most state curriculum standards leave off, and that the focus on Wampanoag agency and activism deliberately counteracts the “traditional version of history” described here.  I’m excited to get started and to keep learning along the way.


Skillset – Elizabeth

I’m so glad to be back in class with all of you, and I can’t wait to hear the pitches and get started on a project.

My professional background is in education, writing, and instructional design, and my central humanities interests are literature, history, and archival practice. I hope to use what I learn in this program to help create public history projects that include open educational resources.

Here are the skills I could bring to a project:

Writing and Editing: My day job involves a lot of instructional writing for a general audience, as well as editing (for clarity, style, and accuracy) others’ work. I’ve also scripted videos and written website copy.

Project Management: I have experience managing my own freelance projects, as well as complex team projects. My work projects usually involve dozens of interconnected assets that need to be created or revised using a multi-step process that includes interviews with subject-matter experts, multiple rounds of drafts and revision, stakeholder and compliance approval, and publication. I’m not naturally detail-oriented, but I’ve learned to keep track of all the pieces, and I know how to structure a project with meaningful milestones and deadlines. I’ve used Basecamp and Excel/Google Sheets for project management.

Research/Information Gathering and Synthesis: My instructional design work requires me to teach myself about a process or concept, then synthesize the information and figure out how to teach it to others. I would enjoy doing background reading, finding relevant academic papers, locating and reading historical documents, etc. — anything needed to help build the humanities foundation for a project.

Instructional/Learning Design: I would be able to create educational materials or lesson plans/ideas as part of the outreach for a project.

Web Development: I have basic skills in web development (HTML and CSS authoring) and am very comfortable with web authoring/WYSIWYG tools like WordPress, Squarespace, etc.

Graphic Design/Illustration: Digital illustration is a hobby of mine, and I’ve designed logos, marketing materials, and show posters for friends and family. I’m not a professional illustrator or designer, but basic graphic design is part of my day job, and I know how to select design elements and give projects a clean, cohesive look. I’m proficient with Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketch, and Procreate.