New Directions at RRCHNM

Fifteen years ago a team of faculty, students, and developers here at RRCHNM began an ambitious new project. They wanted to create a browser plug-in that would allow users to capture and save things they were looking at online, but not just as a simple save of those items. They wanted to capture the metadata associated with those pages, images, datasets, .pdf files, and everything else the user was looking at, and to save it in ways that were searchable, shareable, and would allow all that data to be organized for research, writing, and teaching. In short, they wanted to kill the 3×5 card that had been the ubiquitous tool of scholars and students in the humanities (and lots of other disciplines) for decades. The result was Zotero, possibly the most successful piece of open source software ever to come out of a humanities center.

The following year, another team at RRCHNM launched an equally ambitious project–this time to create an open source content management system that smaller museums, libraries, historic sites, archives, and individual scholars could use to present their collections, their research, their data, and their analysis online without having to resort to the expensive licenses and technological and staff overhead required by the existing CMS options. The result was Omeka, now one of the most popular content management systems used in the humanities (and lots of other disciplines).

In 2013, RRCHNM spun off these two successful projects into a new non-profit corporation, the Corporation for Digital Scholarship (CDS) to manage the growth and development of Zotero and Omeka, and to provide a funding stream for our Center. In the years since 2013, RRCHNM and CDS have worked closely together on these two and several other projects, including PressForward and Tropy.

Between 2013 and 2019, the faculty researchers leading the Zotero and Omeka projects moved on to new and exciting jobs at other universities or to the National Endowment for the Humanities. Their departures meant that the people leading our work in software development were all employed elsewhere. Because our work these days at RRCHNM is focused more on history education, computational history, public digital history, and the education of our graduate students–all fields of endeavor that have been at the heart of our mission since our founding in 1994–it was time to say goodbye to software development.

This week we will complete the transition of that software development work, a transition that began when our colleagues leading these projects began to take other jobs. We are saying goodbye to five of our longest serving staff members who are moving to CDS so that they can devote all of their energy to the continued growth and improvement of Omeka and Zotero. Over the next several days we will share our thanks for all their accomplishments here at RRCHNM and some favorite moments from their years with us. It’s always hard to say goodbye to friends and colleagues, but we know they will do great things in their new roles at CDS.

In the coming weeks we will also share new directions we are taking here at RRCHNM. For now, though, we want to focus on our friends and colleagues who are leaving us at the end of the week.


the center today.
Each year, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s websites receive over 2 million visitors, and more than a million people rely on its digital tools to teach, learn, and conduct research. Donations from supporters help us sustain those resources.