Digitizing the Graduate Research Seminar in Early American History

My primary reason for attending THATCamp right now has to do with a graduate research seminar I am teaching in the fall. I would like some help thinking about how the traditional graduate research seminar could be adapted to introduce and incorporate at least some Digital Humanities methods? What I need to stress that I do not mean the more advanced ones, which I am innocent of myself. Coding will not be happening. I would like practical advice about what they should be assigned to use, read, and do. In addition, here are some other concerns/constraints that I have.
  1. Contrary to what I had once thought, most entering history students at my midrange institution are not yet “born digital” in terms of their approach to history or writing. History almost seems to draw in the analog-oriented. Our students are on Facebook, they can Google things, and maybe they have seen JSTOR, but so far they are not generally any more comfortable with blogging, tweeting, or website-building, for scholarly purposes, than most of my colleagues, which is to say, very uncomfortable.
  2. An especially compelling reason for upgrading the digital history skills of students in my field, early American history, is the rise of online research resources, including various Founders’ papers, Early American Imprints, various newspaper databases and the large swaths of source material Google Books and the Internet Archive? Personally I have found these resources very convenient — every old book I ever checked out of Widener Library seems to have been digitized — but I have found it quite hard to manage the resulting profusion of pdfs and image files and such. The instant access to so much material also affects the research and writing process in profound ways that need to be considered. What are the best strategies for dealing with such abundance?
Categories: Digital Literacy, Proceedings of THATCamp, Research Methods, Teaching | Comments Off on Digitizing the Graduate Research Seminar in Early American History

Testing usability of digital history sites

I’d like to propose a session that covers some of the options, guidelines, and pitfalls of using focus groups to provide feedback on digital history sites at various stages of the development process, from early planning to beta testing. How can we do this in a useful way that doesn’t derail the project schedule? How do we maintain the proper tension between our goals for the site and simplicity/usability so that we make room for audience feedback and participation without devolving into watered down “groupthink?”

Categories: Project Management, Session Proposals | 1 Comment

Digital History Pedagogy

Because this got buried in my other comment, I am posting it separately here.

I would love to talk about what and how we should teach our students about digital archives. I launched a session in my history methods class last week to uneven results. I would like to talk with others about how we fit digital history into the history methods class.

Categories: General, Session Proposals | 1 Comment

Incorporating digital projects into public history teaching

Hi everyone,

I have had a logistical problem arise that means that I will arrive late to THATCamp and won’t be able to “facilitate” or run this session.  However, I would like to put the idea out there in case it might interest someone else who could facilitate it.

I would like some help in thinking through issues of how to incorporate work on digital history projects into public history teaching.  Since 2009, I have been the scholarly advisor for Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway, a digital collection co-developed with the UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.  I also teach Introduction to Public History each fall — UNC’s only dedicated public history course, which enrolls both undergraduates and a few grad students.

In the past three years, I have had students in the PH class working on projects related to Driving Through Time — in hopes of introducing them to digital history in a public history context and in hopes of harnessing some of their labor for the project.

My problem is that I have yet to scaffold their work on this in such a way as to fully realize these goals.  The technological learning curve is often steeper than I would have expected, and it’s been a challenge, too, to bring them up to speed on content quickly enough to have them produce quality work.  (All this is going on while they are also learning generally about public history.)

I’d love to hear ideas people have had that have worked well for incorporating technology-based, project-oriented work into public history teaching.  How can I scaffold effective tasks?  How can I best evaluate their work?  How can I manage the “teaching the technology” parts without overwhelming everyone?

If this fits in with interests that others have and someone else can facilitate, I’d love to join in when I arrive.  Look forward to seeing/meeting everyone!

Categories: Session Proposals, Teaching | Comments Off on Incorporating digital projects into public history teaching


As scholars, even digitally-minded scholars, even blogging scholars, we tend to ask ourselves how we can make our blogs more scholarly. We wonder how the blog can come to approximate the scholarly journal, or at least how it can reproduce its core values of evidence, citation, narrative argument, and peer-review. Even when acknowledging the inherent differences between blogs and journals, we still tend to argue for the former on the latter’s turf.

I’d like to take a session to step back from this discussion to look at public history blogs [full stop]. I’d like to take a step back from the prevailing discourse of “scholarly blogs” to talk about how the inherent affordances and values of blogging can benefit public historical work, absent any pressure to reproduce traditional forms and values. How can straight-up blogging–minus the baggage of “scholarly” aspirations–work for public history and its audiences? Is straight-up blogging enough? Or should we really be thinking about “scholarly blogging” after all?

It’s likely that this session will overlap with David’s session on the future of digital scholarly publishing.

Categories: Blogging, Session Proposals | 5 Comments

Branding and Digital Media in the History World: What Works, What Doesn’t

So we’re on Twitter, Facebook (some of us are on Google+), We blog, use Tumblr or  post on Pinterest. But as historians, how do we use these tools to tell our story, our vision of the past in a very public realm?

When we do research or write a paper we use a variety of sources to tell a particular history. Each of these sources gives a different perspective supporting or negating each other.

In our work in the non-profit sector, the federal government, as consultants, students and educators, how do we make these tools work for us–how do we use each element to create a personal/organizational brand?  How exactly do we brand ourselves as historians online?

I would propose that we spend this session talking about lessons learned, and figuring out what the best way is to set up a digital brand dealing with history. I recently attended a conversation on personal branding for the DC Social Media club and I thought that it might be worth having a similar conversation at THATCamp about what works, what doesn’t work, and how to avoid obvious pitfalls.

Categories: Project Management, Publishing, Session Proposals, Social Media | Comments Off on Branding and Digital Media in the History World: What Works, What Doesn’t

large scale digital projects


I am interested in the issues involved in managing large scale digital projects (such as the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, which I am co-editor of). Questions that have my attention today include: how much technical knowledge do I need to develop? What are the advantages and disadvantages of going live with a project before it is complete?

On the pedagogical front, I just last week ran my first-ever session of Introduction to Digital Archives with my history methods class. I would be happy to talk about that experiment as well, and to learn from what you do in your classes to teach students about how to think about the digital world from historical perspectives.

I am also very interested in the Places that Matter proposal, which seems to fit very nicely with my own project.

Mostly I want to experience THATCamp, so I am perfectly open to going along with other people’s agendas and learning from that rather than pushing any of my own.

Categories: General, Session Proposals | 3 Comments

Gaining Control of Media Assets

I see a lot of overlap with many of the topics already posted here. For me, the question of how to manage and what to do with digital assets in collections is huge.

My interests are in how digital media resources are being searched, delivered, and consumed. In my own work as a consultant dealing with mapping digital collections, I find there are tensions between creating access to everything and the public’s desire to have digested stories, or “just give me the highlights.” If organizations are spending time and resources in creating access, is this access being used fully for a variety of audiences and in different kinds of delivery systems? Can you browse a collection and what are the points of entry? How do you develop classifications and taxonomies to represent various dimensions of the content and the interests of the potential users? Can you crowd source the metadata mark-up and how reliable will that information be? And then how do you control how that media is delivered? To have dynamic media resources opens a huge area of potential uses for often content-packed collections that I think we are only starting to scratch the surface of.

I’d be interested in hearing/discussing how others are dealing with these and other issues related to media asset management and methods of delivery.

Categories: General, Session Proposals | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Software for Online Collections: Which Tools for What Purposes?

There a lot of different tools at this point that serve a range of different purposes for organizing, storing, preserving, presenting, exhibiting digital collections. My quick initial list would include, DSpace, Omeka, Greenstone, ContentDM and Viewshare. I would likely also include more generic content management systems like WordPress and Drupal, and some sites like Flickr and Historypin that can be used to serve similar purposes. Libraries, Archives, and Museums are using any and all of these tools (and more) and it can get a bit overwhelming and a bit confusing. Which tools are useful toward what ends?

head scratching

I would be interested in talking through what tools participants are using and to what ends. We could make good use of the time by trying to talk through the situations in which one would want to chose each of these tools. As a result, I would love to leave with a straightforward short document, or draft of a document, that lays out what each tool is best used for and which tools can play nice with each other. Alternatively, we could work through pulling together a set of examples of successfully uses of each of these tools (and any others) as a kind of tour of these different software tools in use. My hope would be for everyone who participates to learn more about these (and other) tools for working with digital collections and that we could share some of the things we learn with anyone else who might be interested.

I am particularly interested in the potential for developing guidance on how these collection tools can be used to complement eachother. For example, see this draft documentation I am working up on using Viewshare and Omeka together.

So please suggest any of the following in the comments:

  1. Your general interest
  2. Other tools we should consider
  3. Ways you would like to categorize or organize these tools
  4. Examples of the tools in use that you think exemplify their best use cases
  5. Other approaches to organizing the session
Categories: General, Session Proposals | 7 Comments

“Making” New Public History Jobs in the DH

In the most recent issue of The Public Historian, editor Randolph Bergstrom writes: “As part of placing historians in public, the profession, and each of its members, must push the public to create and sustain the places for history’s practice…Graduate programs in public history have long recognized that making rather than assuming positions for historians is integral to the practice of history in public.” [Emphasis added. Bergstrom’s comments are one of the many responses public historians have had to Anthony Grafton and James Grossman’s article, “No More Plan B“].

I propose a session where we discuss how the digital humanities could present an opportunity to “make” new positions for public historians. Although many public history programs have well-established ties to related fields –archival work, library science, museum studies, public policy, and advocacy groups– relatively few (I believe) have reached out to computer science and web design. I’m not sure why. Looking at the job market, I suspect that a public historian can build a website, program an app, or lead a successful social media campaign has a huge advantage over other candidates, and, even more importantly, could create new positions in almost any cultural organization. And of course, the benefits of substantive technical training go beyond the job market; public historians with these skills should be able to pursue projects that, at the moment, only a few well-established DH centers can complete.

To be sure, some public history programs have started down this path, but I don’t think they’ve been bold enough. A single semester of training in new media or digital history (the norm, I would guess), while useful, does not provide the kinds of hands-on, keyboard-to-codes skills these professionals really need to both compete in the market and, in the long run, foster new forms of public history. With this session, I’d like to discuss what technical (and theoretical) skills public historians need to develop, how we could do a better job integrating DH into the established public history curriculum, and where we see these transformations already happening. (For the more theoretically-inclined, this may be a great session to discuss whether digital public historians should be trained in ways that differ from digital historians in general).

Categories: General, Session Proposals | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment