Doing Digital History in August

RRCHNM continued its summer of institutes in early August when 23 mid-career American historians arrived in Northern Virginia for “Doing Digital History.” Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities, the institute began on August 4 and ran for two weeks. Few of the participants expected to keep up with the workload of the intensive curriculum, but everyone left with new skills, new understandings of digital methodologies, and a new appreciation for the work required to build and sustain successful digital humanities projects.

The “Doing Digital History” Cohort (Photo courtesy of Karen Kossie-Chernyshev)

Sheila Brennan and Sharon Leon led the group through a course designed to introduce historians, already established in their subject areas, to digital humanities scholarship, methods, and tools relevant to their own research and teaching in American history. Readings and discussions were coupled with demonstrations and hands-on work. Our participants created their own web domain, installed WordPress, and started blogging on Day 1. Megan Brett, Stephanie Grimes, Celeste Sharpe, and Spencer Roberts assisted throughout the institute by leading tutorials and supporting the participants. For example, Roberts created the “Historian’s Spreadsheet,” a guide to using simple functions in Excel for tidying data that was then widely circulated on Twitter and highlighted as a resource in the National Council on Public History’s weekly newsletter to its members.

“Doing Digital History” also featured instructors from RRCHNM and Mason’s History and Art History department who shared their digital humanities expertise with participants, including, Mike O’Malley, Lisa Rhody, Lincoln Mullen, and Joan Troyano. Fred Gibbs, formerly of Mason, returned from New Mexico to teach a day on text mining and Jeff McClurken visited from University of Mary Washington to lead a day on digitally-inflected pedagogy.

If you are interested in seeing how we crafted this curriculum, we invite you to review our schedule, read participants’ posts written during the institute, or browse the #doingdh14 tweetstream.

“Doing Digital History” was one of three institutes for advanced topics in the digital humanities funded by NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities to be run in 2014. Learn more about other grant programs at ODH,


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