Mills Kelly honored by Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz for teaching excellence

Mills Kelly, the executive director of RRCHNM and a leading expert on the scholarship of teaching and learning for history, has been an honored guest at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz the past two weeks. Kelly has been in residence at the university, and has been honored in a ceremony signing the university’s Golden Book. The reception celebrated Kelly’s previous receipt of the Gutenberg Teaching Award, which was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Mainz, Kelly gave several lectures at the Leibniz Institute for European History and the Mainz Center for Digitality in the Humanities and Cultural Studies. His keynote lecture was titled “The Future of Teaching About the Past,” and he also led a seminar on community-engaged learning in history.

The president of the university, Prof. Dr. Georg Krausch, said (in translation), “I am very pleased to be able to welcome Mills Kelly, an outstanding and exceptionally innovative university professor known around the world. I am sure that lecturers and students at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz will benefit greatly from the exchange with him.”

A fuller story about Kelly’s award is available on the JGU website.

Welcoming Jason Heppler to RRCHNM

RRCHNM is pleased to announce that Jason Heppler will be joining us this June as a web developer. Jason is well known in digital history circles for his exciting and pioneering work on data visualization, community engagement, and environmental and urban history. His best known work which he led or to which he contributed as a developer-scholar includes Machines in the Valley, The Geography of the Post, the American Indian Digital History Project, and many other mapping or visualization projects. He is also the co-editor of Digital Community Engagement and the author of the forthcoming The Nature of the Valley: Politics and the Environment in Postwar Silicon Valley.

Jason joins us from the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he was a Digital Engagement Librarian and assistant professor of history. Earlier he worked at Stanford University as an Academic Technology Specialist, and he received his PhD in history at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 2016.

At RRCHNM, Jason will contribute across the board to our many projects. But his expertise will strengthen our emphasis on interactive scholarly works, data visualization and mapping, and engagement with communities through public history. Jason is widely recognized as a generous colleague and collaborator, and we are thrilled that RRCHNM will be his new academic home.

Congratulations to Dr. Janelle Legg

Here at RRCHNM we are very proud of our former graduate research assistant and recent Mason PhD, Dr. Jannelle Legg who has just accepted a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor in the College of Arts and Humanities at Gallaudet University where she will also be part of the team and the Schuchman Deaf Documentary Center beginning this fall. Jannelle, who defended her excellent dissertation last month, is an expert on the intersection of deaf history and digital humanities and we are looking forward to having her back in the greater DC area. Congratulations Jannelle!

Come Work With Us!

We are pleased to announce that the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is collaborating with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) to host a new postdoctoral fellowship in digital military history here at our center. The DPAA is the Defense Department agency charged with providing the fullest possible accounting for America’s missing military personnel to their families and the nation. Researchers and scientists from DPAA travel to wherever American military personnel have died or gone missing in order to provide accurate and timely information to the families of those who remain unaccounted for. Funding for this fellowship, which may be renewed, will allow an emerging scholar to work directly with DPAA staff and scientists on a variety of digital military history projects that further the agency’s mission.

Candidates should apply online via the Mason Jobs website. If you are a digital military historian and hold (or are about to hold) a PhD in history, please consider applying to this exciting postdoctoral fellowship. The successful applicant will join our team and a cohort of three other talented postdoctoral fellows working on a diverse array of topics in digital history.

Note: Commonwealth of Virginia policies require candidates to have completed all requirements for their degree prior to their first day of employment. Students with a firm defense date for their degree can apply, but cannot work at George Mason as a postdoctoral fellow unless they have completed all requirements for the degree prior to the first day of employment.

Welcome Amanda Madden!

We are very pleased to announce that Dr. Amanda Madden will be joining us here at RRCHNM this fall as an assistant professor of digital history and our Director of Geospatial History. Amanda is a digital historian and historian of early modern Italy who specializes in geospatial history and the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL). She is a former a Marion L. Brittain postdoctoral fellow in Digital Pedagogy at Georgia Tech and former research scientist at the Center for 21st Century Universities (C2IU), also at Georgia Tech. She’s Co-PI of the collaborative historical GIS project, Mapping Violence in Early Modern Italy, and has written on vendetta violence, course design, and teaching with video games. She’s currently finishing her first book, Civil Blood: Vendetta Violence and State Formation in Early Modern Italy and is working with her students to design a mobile app that provides a walking tour of unmarked historic sites central to the history of Civil Rights era Atlanta.

NMAAHC/HBCU History and Culture Access Consortium

We are very proud to announce that the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media will be playing a lead role in the HBCU History and Culture Access Consortium announced today. The Consortium brings together the National Museum of African American History and Culture and five Historically Black Colleges and Universities with the goal of making public the riches of the special collections and archives at these five institutions: Tuskegee University, Clark Atlanta University, Jackson State University, Florida A&M University, Texas Southern University.

NMAAHC/HBCU Project Logo

In addition to building the digital infrastructure for the project, we will work with our HBCU partners to identify those items in their special collections and archives they want to highlight on their websites and to think through how they want those websites to reflect their institutional missions and values. Finally, we will help train professionals and students at the partner universities in digital humanities methods so that they can expand the community of practice they create during this effort. We are thrilled to be part of such an exciting and important group of institutions. As Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch said during the project launch today, this project will be, “A model for what positive change looks like.” We couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that change.

Material Histories of the Indian Ocean World, 1500-Present

Join RRCHNM for an exciting new series, organized and hosted by Dr. Deepthi Murali, on “Material Histories of the Indian Ocean World, 1500-Present.”

The Material Histories of the Indian Ocean World webinar brings together scholars from different disciplines that work primarily on the study of artistic materials produced, circulated, and used in and through the Indian Ocean World (IOW) post the advent of European mercantile powers in this part of the world. This webinar seeks to look at the study of transcultural and transoceanic objects, architecture, and material culture through an interdisciplinary perspective. Using their expertise in different types of materials, regions, and methdological questions related to the IOW, participants will discuss their own research experiences and methdological approaches while also providing insight into the challenges of such research. The series runs from March 24, 2021 – April 22, 2021.

You can register to join the webinar at its website.

RRCHNM Receives NEH Chairman’s Grant

We are pleased to announce that RRCHNM has received an National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman’s Grant. Funding from this grant will help us assist Dr. Jewon Woo, Associate Professor of English at Lorain Community College (Ohio), with her digital project on the 19th-century Black press in Ohio. Her project, which is also supported by the NEH, is titled, “Rhizomatic Democracy in the Nineteenth-Century Black Press of Ohio.” Professor Woo will be using digital humanities tools to illuminate the distinctively collaborative editorship of these newspapers and through that research will help us better understand the complexity of 19th century African American communal life. We are pleased to be collaborating with Professor Woo on this exciting project and are very grateful to the NEH for making that collaboration possible.

Releasing a Web Monetization module for Omeka S

Today RRCHNM is announcing the release of a module for Omeka S that will allow cultural heritage institutions to enable Web Monetization on their digital collections, so that users can stream micropayments for their support.

That was a lot of jargon. Let’s back up a few steps.

First, a principle: We believe that cultural heritage institutions (like RRCHNM!) should align their mission with the users that they serve. It would be ideal, in other words, if what was financially good for an institution aligned with what was best for its constituents. It is very rarely the case, however, that providers of digital content are supported by their users. More often they have a different revenue stream. While this is not all bad, it can lead institutions to be funder-driven rather than mission-driven. And it does leave institutions vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of their funding.

Second, an opportunity: the economy around “content creators” in the past several years has changed rather dramatically. Where once it was the expectation that services or content would be provided for free, it is now understood that those services come with a cost (usually your privacy). But users and subscribers are now more willing now to support the people who provide the content they use: witness the growth of podcast memberships, Patreons, and the like.

Finally, a technology. Web Monetization is a JavaScript API that allows users to stream small payments to the websites that they visit. For example, if a user visits a museum website or an educational resource, then small amounts of money are paid to the website, if it has Web Monetization enabled. We see this as a potential way to connect cultural heritage institutions to their users, and allow users to automatically donate to the institutions they frequent.

Many cultural heritage institutions, including RRCHNM, use Omeka S to host their collections. Our Web Monetization module allows them to enable these donations on their websites.

For example, an institution could add an unobtrusive banner at the top of the page, requesting that users support the site by enabling web monetization and providing a link with an explanation. Users can sign up for a Coil account to enable streaming payments.

Users who already had Web Monetization enabled would then be able start sending automatic payments to the site whenever they browsed it. It is also possible to configure the module so that users with Web Monetization enabled will start donating automatically.

The module offers a number of customization options, and it has been integrated into commonly used Omeka S themes.

We hope that this module will be of use to cultural heritage institutions. You can find it on both GitHub and the Omeka module repository. The module was created by Jim Safley and Kim Nguyen, with an assist in testing from God’s Will Katchoua. The module was created thanks to Grant for the Web, which funded its development.

It is still early days for this technology, but we think it offers a great deal of promise for connecting cultural heritage institutions to their users, and for users to become supporters. In a future post, we will explain how we are rolling it out to RRCHNM websites, and how we are encouraging our users to support us in this way.

Collecting These Times: American Jewish Experiences of the Pandemic Invites Communities to Contribute to Collections Documenting Jewish Life During Pandemic

For Immediate Release

DATE 3/8/2021

Contact: Jason Edelstein, 510-239-1102

Collecting Projects Led by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and the Council of American Jewish Museums Are Accessible to All

Washington, DC — A new web portal connects American Jews to Jewish institutions and collecting projects that are gathering and preserving materials related to Jewish life during the pandemic. The interactive website, Collecting These Times: American Jewish Experiences of the Pandemic (CollectingTheseTimes.org), was developed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University in partnership with the Council of American Jewish Museums, the Breman Museum, the Capital Jewish MuseumHebrew Theological College, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools

This new website offers an easy way for people to find collecting projects and contribute images, videos, audio recordings, documents, and oral histories to institutions in different parts of the U.S. Users can also browse curated contributions from different Jewish communities, covering everything from Jewish ritual practices to schools,  summer camps, businesses, and many other aspects of Jewish life during the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Collecting These Times is accessible to anyone who wants to share their experiences or better understand how Jewish life in the U.S. has changed over the past year,” says Jessica Mack of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University.  “We have much to learn about how individuals, families, and communities have used creativity and tenacity to reimagine so many Jewish experiences during the pandemic, and we hope that the site will be an educational resource both now and in the future. The collections will continue to grow as more people contribute content and tell their stories.”

“The website represents an extraordinary confluence of interest and determination by everyone involved,” says Zev Eleff, chief academic officer of Hebrew Theological College. “Our shared aim is to democratize our knowledge and wisdom of the current pandemic to deepen learning and scholarship on contemporary Jewish life.”

Collecting These Times currently connects users to over 70 collecting projects, including American Jewish Life, a digital collection developed last year by RRCHNM in collaboration with six Jewish partner organizations. To find a collection and contribute your own materials, visit collectingthesetimes.org and click Find a Collecting Project. The list of collections will continue to expand as the project aims to connect to and host additional collecting projects from different Jewish communities and institutions. Libraries, archives, researchers, educators, students, and others can access all content at no cost and share content with each other. Funding for the project comes from a group of Jewish funders, the Chronicling Funder Collaborative, that are supporting efforts to document diverse Jewish experiences of the pandemic. The Collaborative also awarded a grant to the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM), enabling it to partner with 18 member institutions to lead a broad-based oral history collecting initiative.

The Funder Collaborative is composed of Lippman Kanfer Foundation for Living Torah, Jim Joseph Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, and The Russell Berrie Foundation.

Efforts to elevate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are integral to both the web portal and oral history collecting campaign. Both entities seek to engage populations that are rarely included in this type of collecting and interpretation, lending valuable insights into a diverse range of Jewish pandemic experiences. Both projects will be working with DEI consultants and an advisory board in approaching this work with an inclusive lens and strategy. 

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Since 1994, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media has created websites and other digital media with the goal of democratizing history for scholarly, public, and educational audiences. RRCHNM brings together scholars, web developers and designers, and graduate and undergraduate students to accomplish that mission. In addition to democratizing history for the over two million people who visit its websites each year, RRCHNM is passionate about enabling the work of other institutions, especially through its ability to develop websites and software, host technical infrastructure, and manage projects and grants. RRCHNM is a research center at George Mason University, the largest public research university in Virginia and one of the most diverse universities in the United States.

The Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) is an association of institutions and individuals committed to enriching American and Jewish culture and enhancing the value of Jewish museums to their communities. It offers programs, networking, and learning opportunities to the Jewish-museum field, and highlights issues pertaining to the presentation and preservation of Jewish culture. It is the leading forum for Jewish museums in North America.