Project Proposal

CBS News reporter Charles Kuralt profiled Lebanon, Ohio’s Golden Lamb inn for a 1975 On the Road segment, stating:

“If only a man could have lived long enough, he could have sat in the front room of The Golden Lamb and — glancing up once in awhile — watched the whole history of Ohio pass by.”

As Kuralt eloquently noted, Lebanon, Ohio’s historical significance has stemmed from its prime location. One day’s carriage ride north of Cincinnati and one day’s ride south of the National Road, Lebanon served as a logical stop for daily travelers and world-famous visitors, including Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and twelve U.S. presidents.

But Lebanon is more than the sum of its visitors.

Lebanon’s notable sons and daughters — including Gov. Thomas Corwin, Opera singer Laura Bellini, philanthropist William Elmer Harmon, designer Russell Wright and actor Woody Harrelson — have made an impact far beyond their hometown’s boundaries. Their contributions — and the contributions of the less prominent — will serve as the backbone of my master’s project.

As a former citizen of Lebanon, Ohio, I believe that it is important to have an appreciation and understanding of what role my hometown has played. Learning local history opens ones eyes to the fact that history surrounds us and it encourages a greater curiosity about new, less familiar places.

If Lebanon, Ohio, is so connected to state and U.S. history, then what about other small towns? Their cemeteries, churches and downtowns also offer clues if visitors look in the right places.

By presenting my content primarily in the form of a timeline, relationships between cause and effect become apparent, offering lessons that can be applied to present and future actions. Or, to quote philosopher George Santayana from his Reason in Common Sense: “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.”

Through an interactive Web site that chronicles the history of Lebanon’s noteworthy people, places and events, I intend to demonstrate its impact on the town itself and its influence on state and national levels. The intended result is to instill a sense of community pride in Lebanon’s citizens, to educate site visitors about the town’s rich history and to promote further study and tourism.

Other benefits

This project will also be beneficial to students of visual communication.

The Flash-based content, when nested within Drupal (a user-friendly content-management system), will allow authenticated users to submit additional content, such as historical events, family histories and even images. This will allow the Web site to expand in its size and become increasingly comprehensive because of visitor interaction. It also will enable visitors to feel a sense of ownership of the site, and become part of an online community.

The final product will be a model for combining the rich design aesthetics of Adobe Flash with an interactive, easily updated content-management system.

I hypothesize that the majority of site updates will be possible without even opening Flash. The exception to this will likely be the main timeline, whose buttons and events will be introduced to the Flash timeline and linked to external XML content files.

Research

The bulk of my research will come from reading books and articles on aspects of Lebanon’s history. Information also will be gleaned from the extensive archives of The Western Star, Lebanon’s hometown weekly (and the oldest continuously publishing newspaper in Ohio). Photographs and other research will be assembled through searching the files of the Warren County Historical Society and interviewing its knowledgeable staff. The Ohio Historical Society is another valuable resource for information on notable state events.

But my research will extend beyond what is necessary for the Web site’s written content.

Knowledge of Adobe Flash, its programming language Action Script 3, XML, and the content-management system Drupal will be acquired through a variety of methods. In addition to instruction from my course work, several manuals and online resources will provide me with the knowledge and necessary tools to present my research findings in a visually compelling and inviting format.

Presentation format

The results of my research will be presented to the public in the form of an interactive Web site. This will allow interested visitors from around the world to learn about Lebanon’s history and its impact. It will also allow for immediate feedback and the addition of user-generated content.

The Web site’s content will be presented in a variety of formats, each chosen for their strengths:

• The site itself will be built in an open-source, content-management system called Drupal. The benefit of this approach is Drupal’s easy-to-use user interface which will enable authenticated visitors to write comments, suggest new content and upload images. Drupal also relies on an SQL database, which will likely make the site searchable by visitors. The bulk of the written content — including articles on notable figures, places and events — will be presented through Drupal and consistently styled through the use of CSS and imported graphics and Flash content.

• Links and credits pages also will be constructed using Drupal, giving visitors places to go for more information and giving credit to people and organizations that have helped in the production of the Web site.

• One of the most important and innovative components to the site will be the pages which allow registered visitors to submit their own suggestions and family histories, which — through Drupal — can be easily and quickly added to the site’s ever expanding content.

• Articles will be tied together by a Flash-created timeline, that places Lebanon’s people, places and events into a chronology that is intertwined with state and national history. The timeline will provide a cursory overview of Lebanon’s history through a series of summary statements and accompanying images.