09 February 2013

New Design & The Evolution Of Old Virginia Blog

After 8 years with basically the same blog design, I've recently been in consultation with a couple of designers to help me "step up" my blog. First of all, regarding the design, I wanted something customized instead of using something that other bloggers use and have access to. In other words, I wanted the design to be unique and professional looking. I believe I've accomplished that with the new design. Secondly, I wanted the design to reflect, symbolically, the principles, ideals, and interests I write about. I believe I've also accomplished that.

I started this blog in May of 2005 with several goals in mind. First, as I was anticipating the release of my 3rd book, I wanted a platform to promote and discuss it. Secondly, I simply wanted to write about things which interest me: Virginia history, Southern culture, faith, family, homeschooling, and politics. Initially, it was not my intent to be nearly as confrontational as my posts sometimes get. But I didn't start the confrontation, others did. I simply began responding. The blog has evolved far beyond what I originally intended - that's ok, just not what I expected. I write what I'm passionate about. Going forward, I'm going to continue to do that, but will attempt to be more "disciplined" about certain topics. We'll see how that goes ;-)

After the book about Stonewall Jackson and his black Sunday school was published, I immediately began work on the Still Standing documentary, which was based on the book. After both of these projects went through the normal marketing cycle and publicity, I became rather burned out as far as taking on new projects. I also began turning down most speaking invitations. (I'm still doing that, though I've recently accepted two.) In regards to writing and research, I concentrated primarily on blogging, artifact recovery, and some family research. Of course, all of that will  continue.

But I've now got some of the old writing "juice" back in me and hope to pump out several books over the next few years, and possibly another documentary or two. I'm now 55 and realize I'm not getting any younger. I want to complete some projects before the Lord calls me home. The Lexington book will be out in March and I've already begun work on the next book (more on that later). I have several others in the "thinking about it" stage as well.

Thus, as I begin this new stage in my life, I thought a new blog design and focus was appropriate. Allow me to explain some of the reasons behind the design and image choices in regards to symbolism.

The name of the blog, as always, reflects the emphasis on Virginia and tradition. I love the land of my birth and the native sod that holds the dust of my ancestors - some reaching back to Jamestown. I despise fads and many aspects of popular culture. I respect many of the old ways of my ancestors and wanted, in a small way, to honor and acknowledge that respect as it relates to history, my heritage, and Southern culture. In the words of Alphonse Vin:

From Virginia sprung the Southern Mind, a mind which favoured the local community, Burkean conservatism, the folkways of ancestors, an unwavering orthodox Christian faith.

Thus, Old Virginia.

The map which serves as the background for the header is from an 1891 map published by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company and is titled "Battlefields of Virginia." According to the map, it is "compiled from official war records and maps." This imagery symbolizes a number of things I write about - Virginia, the Civil War, as well as my interest in archaeology, Civil War artifacts and their recovery and preservation. I've spent many wonderful hours and recovered artifacts from several of the battlefields (on private property) shown on that map.

The image on the left of the header is of a charging Confederate Cavalryman - slashing and charging his way through a battlefield against a numerically superior opponent. In regards to my writing and frequent criticism of certain academic historians and their perspectives, I found it quite an appropriate metaphor. Consider it my Quixotic symbol if you like. ;-) The image was scanned from an old document that belonged to my father.

The image on the right of the header is, of course, taken from an old Virginia flag - one which was actually captured by yankees during the WBTS. It shows Virtus . . .

  . . . the genius of the Commonwealth, dressed as an Amazon, resting on a spear in her right hand . . . her head erect and face upturned; her left foot on the form of Tyranny represented by the prostrate body of a man, with his head to her left, his fallen crown nearby, a broken chain in his left hand, and a scourge in his right. Above the group and within the border conforming therewith, shall be the word "Virginia", and, in the space below, on a curved line, shall be the motto, "Sic Semper Tyrannis." [Thus always to tyrants] Quoted from Wikipedia
This older version is what I consider the "pre-assault" version - the Amazon's breast is not exposed as it is on the flag after the Civil War was over and Virgina lay in ruins. The symbolism as it relates to this blog and America's modern struggles needs no explanation.

Then we have the background image. This was taken from a digitized version of George Mason's first draft of Virginia's Declaration of Rights:

The Declaration of Rights drafted in 1776 by George Mason for the state constitution of Virginia influenced both Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. It clearly states that rights are "the basis and foundation of government." The Virginia Declaration of Rights also influenced the drafting of the Bill of Rights added to the U.S. Constitution as the first ten amendments.

Again, the symbolism as it relates to this blog and my interests needs no explanation.

So, there you have it. Personally, this came together in a way that is as close to perfect as I could have hoped for. The designer is still working on issues with enlarging the font in the posts (I have to do this manually now in each post) and may have to change the template, but the basic design, imagery, and background will remain as you see it now. As time goes on, I may tweak the design here and there somewhat, but the fundamental layout is set for the foreseeable future. As you have probably figured out, I don't like change just for the sake of change.

Thanks to all those who continue to read and comment here, both fans and critics. It's been an interesting journey.

About my designer:

I can't recommend Richard Taggart highly enough. He has been more than patient with my nit-pickiness and quick to make requested changes and adjustments. I am very pleased. His prices are quite reasonable and he knows what he's doing when it comes to web designs. Read more about his experience and services here.


StaceyJeannette said...

I really like the new look of your blog!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Stacey!

13thBama said...

Would that charging cavalryman be Turner Ashby?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

That would work - could also be Stuart, Mosby - good Virginians all.

Brother Juniper said...

"but will attempt to be more "disciplined" about certain topics"

Richard, we don't come here to get the watered-down view of history. Plenty of other places for that.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Bro J. - not to worry. That won't change. I'm referring specifically to the overt political rantings. Those will still be here as well, but likely not as frequent. However, my Scots-Irish blood could overrule. ;-)