Congratulations to Capital Jewish Museum on Groundbreaking Festival

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, RRCHNM has been collaborating with a series of partners on its Pandemic Religion and American Jewish Life project. We have been very fortunate to have had the chance to work with these partners to collect and preserve sources about the impact the pandemic is having on American religion.

One of our partners—and neighbors—is the Capital Jewish Museum, which has also accepted a GMU student as an intern. But the Capital Jewish Museum is not even officially open yet! The work they are doing is all the more remarkable, then, and we are all the more pleased to share this announcement of their groundbreaking festival, coming up on September 12 to September 18.

These are no ordinary times. And this is no ordinary event! Be a part of an interactive, multi-day virtual festival to celebrate the Capital Jewish Museum breaking ground on what will become our permanent home at 3rd and F Streets, NW in Downtown Washington, DC. Experience a variety of free virtual events celebrating the new museum and its exploration of the intersection of American Judaism and American democracy. As the centerpiece of the festival, we will livestream the historic groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future museum, marking the official start of transforming the space into our permanent home.

The festival will feature something for everyone, from online interactive conversations with top chefs, historians, and musicians, to family programming, a film screening, virtual photobooth, trivia and so much more! Explore the full schedule and register now!

The festival will include a film screening, a Rosh Hashanah concert, a panel on the first LGBTQ synagogue in DC, a food festival, a professional development session for teachers, a session on Jewish refugee scholars at HBCUs, a session on museums as agents of change, a scavenger hunt, and at the center the livestreamed groundbreaking ceremony itself. In addition to registering for these events, be sure to take a look at the plans for the museum and how it incorporates a historic Washington, DC, synagogue.

RRCHNM is thankful to have had the chance to partner with the museum since its outset, and we offer warm wishes and hearty congratulations for the groundbreaking of the Capital Jewish Museum!

Laura Brannan Speaks at African American Museum Conference

In August, PhD student and RRCHNM graduate research assistant Laura Brannan spoke at the annual meeting of the Association of African American Museums–the organization’s first ever virtual conference. Laura writes about her experience speaking at the conference:

“Recently, I virtually presented at the Association of African American Museums conference (AAAM). I admit I was a bit hesitant; this was my first virtual conference and I was unsure what to expect. Nevertheless, my experience at AAAM demonstrated the possibilities and slight limitations of presenting and attending a completely digital conference. The AAAM staff built the conference site from the ground up via the platform PheedLoop. This recreated the conference experience to the best of its abilities, with the user able to message and video chat with anyone in the virtual “lobby” room and access all recorded sessions after the fact. In this sense, the digital format was very helpful and made me feel connected to other participants.

As a presenter, overall, I found that the various digital platforms helped me successfully prepare for my roundtable discussion. My co-panelists and I rehearsed beforehand via Zoom, shared notes via Google Docs, and communicated with our panel moderator during the presentation via the chat feature in Zoom. The roundtable was conducted as a Zoom webinar, where I was a panelist and could only see the tiles of my fellow panelists. Though strange and somewhat alienating to not see the faces of the audience members during the presentation, in a way the digital format actually helped me focus more easily on the conversation.

Alongside members of the John Mitchell Jr. Program for History, Justice, and Race from the School of Conflict, Analysis, and Resolution at George Mason, our session discussed the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) as a site of healing, pilgrimage, and controversies in the context of COVID-19 and the current racial reckoning in the U.S. today. As a scholar of race, gender, and public memory in the U.S., I pointed out the institutional legacies NMAAHC contends with as the first museum to exclusively center African, African American, and Black voices in the U.S. yet still be a part of the Smithsonian, an institution created in the mid-nineteenth century. In the current state of racial reckoning throughout the country, I also spoke of the importance for white people to visit museums like NMAAHC that center lives and stories different from theirs. Through exhibits and programming, Black-centered museums such as the NMAAHC encourage visitors to confront the history of oppression and racism in the U.S. while also serving as potential spaces to promote healing and reconciliation.

Although AAAM was not a typical conference by past in-person standards, its success serves as a model for how virtual conferences can be typical in the world of COVID-19 and remote work. More importantly, AAAM showed how digital tools can facilitate important conversations between people in different parts of the world that would otherwise not be possible.”

American Jewish Life: A Pandemic Religion Project

Today the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is launching American Jewish Life, a digital collecting project that will document and interpret the experiences of individuals and communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the Center’s larger Pandemic Religion project, American Jewish Life has been created in partnership with the Breman Museum; the Capital Jewish Museum; the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life;  Hebrew Theological College; the Houston Jewish History Archive at Rice University; and Yeshiva University. The six Jewish institutions who have partnered with American Jewish Life are broadly representative of the geographic and theological diversity of American Judaism.  

Screenshot of the American Jewish Life website

Most of the initial items on American Jewish Life represent the prior collecting of our partner institutions. Others have been contributed by visitors to the Pandemic Religion site.

You may wish to browse some of the items that have already been contribute:

Collection is only the first stage in this project. In the coming weeks and months, we will also work with our partners to richly interpret the experiences and responses of Jewish communities during this time.

We invite anyone who is interested in the project to make a contribution, or to offer suggestions and raise questions. You can contact John Turner (the project director) and Lincoln Mullen (the project co-director) via email at pandemicreligion@gmail.com.

Pandemic Religion Digital Stories Fellowship: Call for Participants

Lived Religion in the Digital Age, a project of St. Louis University, in partnership with the Pandemic Religion project at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, welcomes applications for a short-term Digital Stories Fellowship. The Digital Stories Fellow will work from the Pandemic Religion database to create, compose, and/or curate original material for the Digital Stories platform. The fellowship carries an award of up to $1,500.

Digital Stories prioritizes the study and practice of visual, aural, multimodal, and other embodied storytelling techniques, particularly as they are shaped, transformed, or confronted by digital life and cultures. Preferred contributions include visual essays, short documentaries, soundtracks or podcasts, data visualizations, digital exhibits, multimediated content, and short essays, among other possible modes of public scholarship. The Digital Stories fellow will have expertise in religion, theology, American studies, performance studies, visual studies, or related fields or professions and will contribute a series of original entries to the site during the funding period.

This fellowship is expected to begin immediately and be completed by December 31, 2020.

To apply, please submit a letter of interest (1–2 pages), current CV or resume, and brief writing or multimedia sample (links to digital content are encouraged).

Please submit fellowship application materials or general queries to LRDA Administrator Dr. Samantha Arten at livedreligion@slu.edu. Applicants may also apply through this form. Applications received by June 15 will receive full consideration.

In addition to this fellowship, Digital Stories welcomes contributions on a rolling basis. Please contact Digital Stories Editor, Dr. Adam Park (adam.park@slu.edu) for questions and submissions.

Download this CFP as a PDF.

ACLS Digital Extension Grant for World History Commons

The American Council for Learned Societies has awarded our World History Commons project a digital extension grant. “Expanding the Commons: Supporting Emerging World History Scholars and Community Colleges through the World History Commons OER.” This grant will extend the reach and impact of World History Commons, which provides valuable resources to teachers, students, and researchers, including scholarly essays, teaching materials, historical thinking strategies, and curated primary sources. Expanding the Commons expands on the current project in two key ways. The first is by recruiting early career scholars to write new scholarly essays and incorporating their cutting-edge historical research into the project.  The second is by partnering with experienced community college faculty to connect World History Commons to the community college curriculum and to promote its use among community college world history teachers and students, increasing both access and visibility. Led by former Kelly Schrum, Nate Sleeter, and Jessica Otis, this project will provide a valuable resource to world history educators for many years to come.

RRCHNM Joins Nonprofit Finance Fund Cohort

We are pleased to announce that the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media has been selected to join an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded cohort of six digital humanities organizations in a three-year initiative focused on building financial resilience in the digital humanities. This initiative, managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund, will be structured around helping all six DH organizations become more adaptable and financially resilient while staying true to our individual  missions. Since our founding in 1994, RRCHNM has been committed to open access and open source, but these commitments make it challenging to create a business model that provides sufficient resilience in a rapidly changing world. Through the support of this project, we look forward to finding new ways to continue our mission of democratizing access to historical information while also strengthening our financial model and becoming a more adaptable organization. We are also very excited to be part of a cohort that includes the Hathi Trust, the HBCU Library Alliance, Humanities Commons, Rhizome, and the South Asian American Digital Archive. The best ideas in the world come from collaborations among diverse groups of people who bring new ideas and perspectives to the table. We couldn’t be happier about being part of this cohort of such excellent organizations.

RRCHNM to Create Classroom Simulations on History of Diplomacy

RRCHNM is excited to announce a new project with the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) made possible by generous funding from the Una Chapman Cox Foundation. This project will create three classroom simulations based on significant events in the history of U.S. diplomacy that teachers in high school and post-secondary can use with their students. These simulations will build on the success of diplomatic simulations previously developed by the NMAD and RRCHNM which explored present-day foreign affairs topics such as peacebuilding, wildlife trafficking, and crisis in the oceans, among others. The historical diplomatic simulations to be developed as a part of this project will include primary sources, interviews with historians to provide context, and an easy-to-follow guide for implementing the simulations with students. The project will conclude in January of 2022. The NMAD is dedicated to telling the story of the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State and also receives support from the Diplomacy Center Foundation.

Pandemic Religion Project to Document Changes in American Religion

As the world undergoes wrenching changes—some temporary, some permanent—in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, religious communities in the United States have also been deeply affected. Many have hastily moved services online: a change which has been influenced by the hugely varying liturgical, theological, legal, and financial resources available to different groups. Of course a few religious groups have made it into the news by challenging government-mandated shutdowns. Some people are attending online services at communities that are not local and of which they are not members, perhaps to share an experience with family from whom they are distant. Others are finding their religious community in relatively new forms, such as Facebook groups. As the pandemic more seriously affects older people, religious communities have grappled with their ministry to the elderly and to the sick. The pandemic has disproportionately killed racial minorities and left them disproportionately unemployed: Black religious traditions are no exception. These changes have happened at the same time that Jews have celebrated Passover, Christians have celebrated Easter, and right before Muslims celebrate Ramadan.

To document these changes, today the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is launching Pandemic Religion: A Digital Archive. This project will collect and preserves experiences and responses from individuals and religious communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Screenshot of the Pandemic Religion website

We invite contributions from people of any religious tradition, community, or perspective. We encourage contributions either from your individual perspective, or documenting what is happening in your religious community. We hope you will contribute items like these:

  • Stories about how your religious practice has changed
  • Photos of you or your religious community practicing your religion
  • Communications within your religious community
  • Documents about decisions or changes your religious community has made
  • Links, recordings, or screenshots of religious practice moving to online spaces, such as video and social media
  • Stories about how you or your community is helping during, or being hurt by, the pandemic

You may wish to browse some of the items that have already been contribute:

We are undertaking this gathering of materials in partnership with other institutions. The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI has generously agreed to partner with RRCHNM to help disseminate the project among their scholarly network. A group of advisors, both scholars and leaders of religious communities, have given counsel and helped share the project. For example, the Rev. Mary Anne Glover of the Virginia Council of Churches has distributed the project to their member churches. We hope to strike up other such partnerships in the coming days.

Collection is only the first stage. As we gather these materials and reach out to religious communities, we will also begin work on interpreting the experiences of American religion during this time. The questions listed above only scratch the surface of what can be learned about American religion during this time. Working with CSR&AC, we will be exploring how best to organize this interpretative effort.

This project stands in a long line of digital history projects aimed at collecting and preserving materials for the use of future historians. RRCHNM pioneered some of these early efforts with the September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank. Other institions have often followed this playbook. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, some notable collecting projects have included A Journal of the Plague Year: An Archive of COVID-19 from Arizona State University, COVID-19 Memories from the Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, and many more local projects, such as the COVID-19 MKE: A Milwaukee Coronavirus Digital Archive project from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. Pandemic Religion is RRCHNM’s effort to help preserve the past about an area of study in which we specialize, and by doing so to give back to the scholarly and local communities of which we are a part.

We invite anyone who is interested in the project to make a contribution, or to offer suggestions and raise questions. You can contact John Turner (the project director) and Lincoln Mullen (the project co-director) via email at pandemicreligion@gmail.com.

RRCHNM and Covid-19

Like every other organization everywhere in the world, here at RRCHNM we are feeling our way forward during this year of the Covid-19 virus. George Mason University is closed and we’ve been booted from our offices, so we have moved to 100% remote work. Between the various virtual connections we have — Basecamp, Slack, WebEx, Zoom, email, and good old-fashioned phone calls — we’ve managed to say connected and we continue to work on our many digital projects.

I would be lying if I said that this transition has been seamless or easy for us. Each of us feels the stresses of this moment in different ways and at different times — sometimes several different ways on the same day. We’re finding new locations in our homes where we can work, figuring out how to balance our own health with the needs of those we love, and trying to get used to never seeing one another except as little faces on a Brady Bunch style screen. None of us is old enough to have lived through a moment like this one, so we are creating new benchmarks on a daily basis. A few of us report being just as productive as ever, others less so.  For now, what we can do is what we can do.

We are very thankful that our various external partners have been so flexible with their expectations of us and have been willing to accept adjusted work plans and in some cases to extend funding windows. Without that flexibility, we’d really be struggling. With expectations adjusted, we are on schedule and on budget.

In addition to keeping up with our existing work, we have our own responses to the Covid crisis. The first of those is that we are in the process of standing up a new collecting history project in the vein of past projects like the September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank. The “Pandemic Religion” project will collect, preserve, and contextualize the major changes happening to American religious congregations and institutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and grows out of the prior work in religious history by RRCHNM Director Lincoln Mullen and our partner in crime, Prof. John Turner from Mason’s Department of Religious Studies.

We are also pleased to be providing back end support to the Covid-19 Archive project at Arizona State University. RRCHNM is assisting this excellent project with site planning, site hosting, and general project support as it gets off the ground and we are very happy to be collaborating with Mark Tebeau and his team.

Finally, we are working hard to support K-12 and college teachers with the many educational projects we have created over the years. Making history education resources available for free to a broad audience was how RRCHNM started 25 years ago. Who knew how important that mission would be today when students can only access learning resources online?

When the new year began none of us could have predicted a moment like this. We’re happy to be doing our part to help collect and preserve the history of this moment and to help teachers, students, and parents navigate a new world of online only learning.

 

RRCHNM Partners with Shapell Manuscript Foundation to Develop Teaching Materials

RRCHNM is excited to announce an agreement with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation (SMF) to develop education materials that will make use of the Foundation’s rich and engaging digital collection. RRCHNM will create four teaching modules for secondary school teachers that will be hosted on the Shapell Manuscript Foundation website. Each module will feature teaching strategies including differentiation for diverse learners, a sample lesson plan, ideas for assessment, a Document-Based Question activity for AP courses, the national history standards met by each module, and links to related SMF resources. The Shapell Manuscript Foundation features an impressive collection of primary sources related to United States presidential history, the history of Israel and the Holy Land, as well as rare letters from prominent figures in American literature including Mark Twain and Herman Melville. The modules should be available for teachers by the end of the year.