Mills Kelly Named Executive Director of RRCHNM

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University are pleased to announce that Mills Kelly has been named the new executive director of RRCHNM. This year RRCHNM is celebrating its twenty-fifth year, and Kelly has been a part of the Center for eighteen of those years. He joined the department and CHNM in 2001 to work with Roy Rosenzweig, the founder of CHNM.

Photo of Mills KellyKelly has contributed to the Center’s work in several distinct ways, both as a project leader and as one of the faculty directors of the Center. A specialist in Czech history and the history of Eastern Europe, Kelly was the project leader on Making the History of 1989, an NEH-funded digital project that provides sources and narratives about the fall of Communism. Kelly was also co-project leader on World History Matters and Women in World History, two projects which were and are widely used in classrooms. Those projects won the 2007 James Harvey Robinson Prize from the American Historical Association, as well as the 2009 Merlot award for as an exemplary online teaching resource.

Kelly has become a leader in the scholarship on teaching and learning in history. In the past year he was president of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. And in 2013 he published Teaching History in the Digital Age with the University of Michigan Press, a work which was simultaneously released as an open-access web publication and a print book. Most recently, Kelly has turned to Appalachian Trail Histories, creating a digital project in spatial, social, and environmental history that began in several of his undergraduate classes at Mason and has expanded in scope as it received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

In addition to his scholarship in digital history and teaching and learning, Kelly has a proven track record as an administrator. For a time he served as the the director of the Global Affairs program at George Mason University, and at GMU he has been fellow in the offices of both the provost and the president. He has been especially active in European non-profit work, currently serving as a trustee of the Romanian-American Foundation and earlier as chair of the board of directors of the Civic Education Project, an international non-governmental organization working to promote democracy in post-Communist Eastern Europe. Brian Platt, the chair of the Department of History and Art History, commented on Kelly’s leadership: “Dr. Kelly has a long history with the Center and has been involved in a number of its signature projects. He’s also a gifted and experienced administrator. We are incredibly lucky that we have someone with his experience—and someone whose loyalty to the Center’s mission is so strong—to lead the Center.”

Asked about his appointment, Kelly said, “I came to George Mason University in 2001 to work at the Center for History and New Media and to work for Roy. I am incredibly honored to be able to carry his legacy forward and to work with so many talented people.” Kelly will lead an internationally prominent research center that is home to nearly two dozen designers, developers, project managers, staff, faculty, and graduate students.

Current Research in Digital History 2019

Today RRCHNM is publishing the second annual issue of our open-access, peer-reviewed publication Current Research in Digital HistoryThis issue features 13 essays on topics ranging from Catholic enslavers in early Maryland, women’s activism in the 1970s Black Arts Movement, and a social network analysis of the Colored Conventions, to Latter-day Saints of black-African descent, nineteenth-century postmistresses, and African American Freedom Colonies in Texas.

The issue was edited by Lincoln Mullen and Stephen Robertson, with crucial input from a program committee consisting of Elizabeth Bond, Kalani Craig, Michelle DiMeo, and Crystal Moten. Editorial Assistant Greta Swain worked throughout the summer to prepare the essays for online publication, in a platform designed by Kim Ngyuen and Ken Albers that allows for interactive visualizations, data and code appendices and other features not typically available from other humanities journals.

The primary aim of Current Research in Digital History is to encourage and publish scholarship in digital history that offers discipline-specific arguments and interpretations. By featuring short essays, it also seeks to provide an opportunity to make arguments on the basis of ongoing research in larger projects. Essays published in CRDH are first presented at an annual one-day conference at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. Authors submit their essays in the fall, and then the conference is held in the spring. CRDH is published at the end of August, less than a year after essays are submitted.

Please see the CFP for the 2020 conference, to be held on March 14, 2020 in Arlington, VA. Submissions for the 2020 conference and publication are due by October 25, 2019.

Maritime Asia: War and Trade Launch

RRCHNM is excited to announce the launch of Maritime Asia: War and Trade, an international collaboration with Adam Clulow at Monash University/University of Texas at Austin and Xing Hang at Brandeis University. This digital world history project explores the fierce rivalry between the Dutch East India Company and the Zheng maritime network as they fought for control over key trades and sea routes. 

The project includes digital exhibits on these maritime powers, the deerskin trade and territorial claims to Taiwan, as well as a timeline, biographies of key actors, an archive with primary sources, and an annotated bibliography for further exploration. Maritime Asia also features an exciting classroom simulation exercise, “Pirates, States, and Diplomacy in a Multipolar Maritime Asia” for advanced high school and college students. This is designed to place students at the center of a turbulent maritime world in which a range of territorial powers and armed trading enterprises competed for control over key sea lanes. It explores issue of statehood, political legitimacy, trade and identity. 

Homepage of the website Maritime Asia: War and Trade

Homepage of Maritime Asia: War and Trade

Maritime Asia: War and Trade enriches our understanding of early modern East and Southeast Asian history and how trade, colonization, and armed maritime enterprises influenced world history.

RRCHNM to Digitize the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is pleased to announce that it has received a three-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support Mapping American Religious Ecologies. The generous funding comes from the Humanities Collections and Reference Resources program within the NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access.

Mapping American Religious Ecologies will digitize the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies. Every ten years from 1906 to 1946, the U.S. Census Bureau surveyed congregations, synagogues, and other religious groups in a census that supplemented the better known population census. While the Census published summary reports from that data, the forms (or schedules) filled out by each congregation have not been widely used. Only the schedules from the 1926 Census survive, and those are located in a collection at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, DC, which has been cataloged but not inventoried.

This project will photograph and make available approximately 232,000 schedules, like the one shown below. These schedules contain a wealth of information about each congregation, including its membership by age and sex, its expenditures on buildings and missions, its minister’s name and whether he or she had gone to seminary, and its denominational affiliation, which the Census Bureau cataloged into 213 different groups. Just as important, the schedules include the location of the congregations—almost always by county and city or town and in many cases the street address as well.

Sample schedule from the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies

This schedule was filled out by a Seventh Day Adventist congregation in Candler, North Carolina. Candler was an unincorporated town and was too small to be worth mentioning in the published population census of 1930, yet the Census of Religious Bodies was able to count its 84 Adventists in 1926. Taken from Box 3, Schedules of the Census of Religious Bodies, 1926–1928, National Archives Identifier 2791163, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC.

This project will associate each of the records with spatial data, linking each congregation to its state and county, and in most cases with a town or city as well. Researchers will be able to browse the schedules by denomination and place in a way that they could never feasibly do in the archives. The project team will also begin to transcribe the data contained in these records, make the rest available for crowdsourced transcription, and create maps of religion at the national and local levels. The result will be a detailed and comprehensive spatial dataset for American religion, useable by scholars in history and religious studies, by local historians, and by the public.

We envision the final project being used to look up individual congregations, to study the history of a town or county, and to better understand the religious groups that the Census Bureau surveyed. But we also think that it will provide a new angle of vision onto some of the perennial questions in American religious history. For instance, observers of American religion have often noted its pluralism, and have described how different groups often competed, sometimes collaborated, and usually coexisted in the same places. But while it is straightforward to assert, for example, that in a large city like New York or Los Angeles there were many religious groups, what about in small towns or sparsely populated places? What were the range of congregations available in, for example, the small unincorporated town of Candler, NC? Did those congregations come from similar or different denominations? We hope to turn the 1926 Census into a dataset that can provide some empirical evidence for significant questions such as these.

The core team at RRCHNM will include Ken Albers, Kim Nguyen, Jim Safley, and Greta Swain, as well as undergraduate research assistants majoring in history or religious studies. The project is led by Lincoln Mullen and John Turner. At George Mason University, the project is a collaboration between RRCHNM, its parent Department of History and Art History, and the Department of Religious Studies.

Mapping Early American Elections Releases Essays, Maps, Tutorials, Data

The Mapping Early American Elections project has made their final release data, maps, and essays covering the history of elections to the U.S. House of Representatives during the First Party System. The site now includes six essays that introduce the website and the history of the politics during the early American republic. We have also released our data and tutorials on how to use it. You can start at the site by reading the introductory essay which provides an overview of the site, or read today’s blog post from the project explaining the latest release.

Screenshot of the Mapping Elections website

We are grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities and its Division of Preservation and Access for generously funding this project for three years as a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant, as well as to the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University for providing additional support.

Papers of the War Department 1784-1800 Relaunch

The Papers of the War Department 1784-1800 digital editorial project has officially relaunched with a fully redesigned user experience. This project began in 1993, when Ted Crackel and a team of researchers worked for nearly a decade to piece together the records of the War Office that burned in 1800, destroying everything inside. You can read more about the history of the War Department here. In 2006, RRCHNM took over the project, and moved the collection from CD-ROM to the web. In 2011, RRCHNM developed Scripto, a community transcription tool that allows users to transcribe the over 40,000 items in the collection.

In 2017, the Papers team entered a new phase of the project supported by an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Digital Extension Grant and a grant from the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities. Sheila Brennan led the team as our first Principal Investigator until June 2018, when our Editor-in-Chief Christopher Hamner moved into this role.

The NEH grant allowed us to upgrade the Scripto plugin, now available as a beta, to further enhance the transcription experience for Papers of the War Department and the many digital projects that rely on this tool. Over the next year, the team will continue to refine the Scripto tool as well as a Transcription theme for Omeka S. The ACLS grant facilitated the redesign of the Papers of the War Department website, including a new browsing and transcription interface and teaching modules to bring the War Department papers into the classroom. Our lead developer Jim Safley managed the migration of nearly 200 gigabytes of content to the new website and developed the new Scripto module. Our lead designer Kim Nguyen fully redesigned the website and user experience and is building the Transcription theme for Omeka S.

Alyssa Fahringer served as Project Manager during the first phase of the redesign, while Jessica Dauterive has stepped in as Project Manager since January 2019. Both Fahringer and Dauterive worked closely with Megan Brett, who serves as Outreach Coordinator, to implement a new outreach strategy for the project. The team has made several public presentations, including a teaching demonstration at the National Council for History Education meeting in Washington, D.C.; a poster session at the National Council on Public History annual meeting in Hartford, CT; and a lightning talk on the project at the Organization of American Historians meeting in Philadelphia.

We are grateful that the Papers has been able to maintain a committed base of transcribers and researchers. A new Twitter outreach plan will invite new users into this community, including genealogists, teachers, and researchers in various fields from Native American to food to federal history. You can follow us @wardeptpapers.

Who Built America? to Become OER with Revamped History Matters Content

With funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities, RRCHNM is partnering with the American Social History Project (ASHP) at the City University of New York on Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s History. This project creates an updated, completely free, open education resource (OER) and continues a 38-year effort to make social and labor history accessible to the broad public — a core commitment of Roy Rosenzweig’s.

The project will update content from the History Matters website, developed by RRCHNM in 1998, including over 1,000 annotated primary sources in the site’s Many Pasts section and vital historical thinking resources in Making Sense of Evidence. The updated site will supplement the 2-volume Who Built America? textbook and ASHP’s varied multimedia teaching resources from the Who Built America? CD-ROMs to create the free online textbook. The new Who Built America? site will guarantee that the highly used History Matters resources will continue to be available and sustainable in the future for teachers and students of U.S. history.

Participants Selected for Workshops to Develop Digital History Articles

We are pleased to announce the eight historians who will participate in the workshops to develop digital history articles for a special issue of the Journal of Social History, a project supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. They were selected from more than 50 proposals for the workshop, far more worthy applicants than could be accommodated. The participants’ projects range from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, examine settings from Brazil and Berlin to the Caribbean, Los Angeles, and Louisiana, and explore questions about the circulation of people, communities, and ideas, as well as about networks, sound and everyday life.

These are the workshop participants and the working titles of their articles in progress:

  • Leonardo Barleta, PhD candidate, Stanford University: “Spatial Genealogies: Mobility and Settlement in the Brazilian Backlands, 1650-1800.”
  • Genevieve Carpio, Assistant Professor, UCLA, and Andrzej Rutkowski, Visualization Librarian, USC: “Critical Cartography as Social History: Black Motorists in Postwar Los Angeles.”
  • Mariola Espinosa, Associate Professor, University of Iowa: “Yellow Fever Knowledge Beyond the Boundaries of Empire in the Caribbean: 1650–1900.”
  • Jacquelyne Howard, PhD candidate, Fordham University and Manager of Technology Services, Tulane University: “Plotting Households: Using Technology to Map and Visualize Kinship Structures in Early French Louisiana’s Lower Borderlands.”
  • Rachel Midura, PhD candidate, Stanford University: “Mapping the Post: Networks of Published Postal Itineraries, 1545–1747.”
  • Erin Sassin, Assistant Professor, and Florence Feiereisen, Associate Professor, Middlebury College: “Sonic Gentrification in Berlin.”
  • Lauren Tilton, Assistant Professor, University of Richmond: “Reviewing the Archive: Documenting Everyday Lives During the Great Depression and World War II.”
  • Nathan Tye, PhD candidate, University of Illinois: “Hobo Labor, Railroad Mobility, and the Contours of a Transient Geography.”

Matt Karush and Sam Lebovic (editors of the JSH) and Stephen Robertson and Lincoln Mullen (at RRCHNM) will facilitate the workshops, the first of which meets on March 15, 2019 to discuss article outlines.  The group will reconvene in September 2019 to workshop complete drafts, and then again in June 2020 to respond to peer reviews and to annotate articles to serve as models for digital history argumentation. Articles accepted for publication will appear in the journal and annotated on a site hosted by RRCHNM.

The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike Website Has Launched

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is excited to announce the launch of a new digital history project, The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike. Working with two scholars in Australia, Bain Attwood at Monash University and historian Anne Scrimgeour, this project brings together the rich and multi-layered history of the strike that began in the Pilbara region of Western Australia in 1946. Fighting for better wages and working conditions within a settler colonial system, the strike ultimately resulted in positive changes for the Aboriginal community, as well as influencing nationwide advocacy for Aboriginal rights. The website is part of the first major scholarly study of the strike as one of the most important, yet often overlooked, events in Australia’s indigenous history.

The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike features digital exhibits that foreground Aboriginal voices through oral history recordings, biographies of the different people involved in the strike, such as community leaders, portraits of the organizations involved, including government ones, as well as an interactive timeline and digital archive. The project is aimed toward Aboriginal communities, humanities scholars, and post-secondary students, offering a nuanced history with many perspectives and over 500 primary sources to explore, including oral histories, newspapers, photographs, and film footage.

Homepage of The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike

Homepage of The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike.

The Pilbara Aboriginal Strike project highlights the actions of the Aboriginal people who fought for their rights and influenced the campaign for Aboriginal rights across Australia.

Next Steps for Tropy

We’re delighted to announce the funding of a second phase of development for Tropy, the free and open-source software that helps humanities researchers use digital images gathered from archives.

With the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Tropy will enable cloud storage and remote access of research images, metadata, and archival templates over the next two years. Tropy will also significantly expand the range of media it imports and expose that media and metadata to computational analysis.

To introduce and demonstrate Tropy and its new features to a variety of audiences, our team will offer training workshops at regional centers of higher education in the United States and abroad. The first workshops will take place at Northeastern University in Boston on November 13.

We’ll announce new features and releases of Tropy on the project blog as they become available. Thanks for trusting Tropy with your research and for letting us know how it works for you; we look forward to making it even better with your feedback.