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.

Workshop to Develop Digital History Articles for a Special Issue of the Journal of Social History

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and the Journal of Social History with generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seeks historians to participate in a series of workshops that will develop articles based on digital research to be published in a special issue of JSH. Scholars will receive travel funding to participate in three workshops, facilitated by Matt Karush and Sam Lebovic (editors of the JSH) and Stephen Robertson and Lincoln Mullen (at RRCHNM), to help them develop their research from digital projects into journal articles that speak to historiographical conversations in their specific fields.

The first one-day workshop in March 2019 will focus on two-page outlines prepared in advance by each participant. Those outlines will each be workshopped by the group in the course of the day, with the goal of ensuring that the authors leave with a clear framework around which to construct their argument. A second two-day workshop in August 2019 will focus on complete drafts of the articles and provide each author with a close critique and feedback to use in refining the draft for submission in January 2020. The final one-day workshop in June 2020 will be devoted to revising the manuscripts in response to the peer reviews. Authors will annotate online versions of their articles to serve as models for digital history argumentation. These will appear on a site hosted by RRCHNM. The workshops will be held at George Mason University, in Arlington, VA.

The Journal of Social History is a leading journal in social and cultural history, widely recognized for its high-quality and innovative scholarship. Since its founding in 1967, it has served as a catalyst for many of the most important developments in the history profession as a whole. The JSH publishes articles covering all areas and periods and has played an important role in integrating work in Latin American, African, Asian and Eastern European history with socio-historical analysis in Western Europe and the United States.

All submissions will be sent out for peer review to two experts in the relevant subfield. Participation in the workshop does not guarantee acceptance for publication.

Historians who are interested in participating should send a one-page description of their research which makes an initial attempt to explain how they will use digital history methods or collections to advance historiographical conversations within their specific subfields. Send materials to by December 17, 2018. Scholars selected to participate will commit to traveling to the workshops and to submitting a complete manuscript to JSH. We encourage submissions from scholars at all stages in their careers, all levels of experience with digital history, and all fields of history, and from women, racial and ethnic minorities, and other individuals who are under-represented in the historical profession.

Annual Report 2017-2018

Our short annual report has recently been mailed out to RRCHNM’s friends and supporters. Produced in collaboration with the Development Office of College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the annual report describes project launches and grants for new projects in the academic year 2017-2018. In it you can find brief descriptions of five of those new projects, and of a busy year of teaching, training, and professional development.  A report on the Center’s endowment completes the document.

You can download a copy of the Annual Report here.

ABMCEducation Reimagined

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media has recently completed revisions to
the educational site American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).

Life of a Soldier, designed by social studies teacher Katie, challenges students to understand the personal stories of those who fought in World War I.

Formerly focused solely on World War II, the updated site now includes World War I activities. Teachers developed the activities following their participation in a professional development program to research a fallen servicemen and women. Trips have been to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific. Each teacher’s activity features a number of sources including videos, interactive sites, books, and historic photographs.

One of the new features on the site are “Teacher Voice” pieces for some activities. These provide a teacher’s impressions on their experience with teaching the activity in their classroom and includes suggestions for adapting the activity according to time restraints or specific classroom needs. Activities offer different levels of challenge, adaptations, and methods for extension. There is also a a backpack feature that allows the user to bookmark items.

The ABMC maintains American military cemeteries outside the United States to commemorate the service, achievements, and sacrifice of U.S. armed forces.

Teaching History Refresh

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is pleased to announce the launch of the updated Teaching History website. 

Teaching History, a Teaching American History project funded by the U.S. Department of Education, provides educational resources and materials in U.S. history to K-12 students and teachers.

Homepage screenshot of
Teaching History has a renewed focus on the site’s most important content:

  • Teaching Materials — teaching guides, lesson plan reviews, and ELL resources
  • History Content — historical knowledge, teaching resources, and website reviews
  • Best Practices — teaching in action, examples of historical thinking, and techniques for promoting historical inquiry
  • Digital Classroom — digital tools and platforms to use in the classroom

This streamlining highlights current educational projects and technologies for the 21st-century classroom. Teaching History features the following new content and site changes:

  • Website reviews of current digital educational projects, including the Beyond Words project at the Library of Congress and Eagle Eye Citizen
  • Tech for Teachers step-by-step tutorials on using new digital tools and projects in the classroom, such as TimelineJS, a tool that allows students to create multimedia timelines
  • Refreshed navigational menus that enable easier access to educational materials across the site
  • Updated multimedia to work across operating systems and browsers

With these new changes, Teaching History will continue to provide exciting and interactive educational content for K-12 students and teachers studying U.S. history.


Dying for Equality: African Americans in Alexandria

United States Colored Troops in Alexandria, Virginia. Source: Private collection of Charles Joyce; used with permission.

“’Entreat me not to leave thee, for whither thou goest I will go’, ‘and where thou fightest I will fight’, and ‘where thou diest I will die’, and ‘there will i be buried’, and for this, your humble petitionars will ever pray.”– USCT, L’Ouverture Hospital, 1864

In 1864, a group of United States Colored Troops (USCT) wrote and signed this Patients’ Petition for burial in Soldiers’ Cemetery, later Alexandria National Cemetery (ANC) in Alexandria, VA.  Before they were considered citizens of the United States and a century before the Civil Rights Movement, these men were determined to secure the equal honor and respect earned by those who died for it.

Julia Wilbur, a volunteer at the Freedmen’s Cemetery, kept a diary that recounts the conditions and opposition faced by the USCT. Source: Haverford College, Quaker and Special Collections.

In 1862, Congress authorized the Quartermaster Department to establish fourteen national cemeteries around the nation and allowed those “of African descent” to join the military.  However, neither units nor burial grounds were integrated; rather the Union established separate units and maintained separate cemeteries.  Union occupied Alexandria, Virginia, accommodated numerous hospitals and cemeteries.  The USCT regiments continued to be separately buried in the nearby Freedmen and Contraband cemetery for former slaves despite their sacrifice as soldiers.  In nearby L’Ouverture General Hospital, sick and/or injured USCT on the black ward wrote a petition for burial in the Soldiers’ Cemetery.  Within the month, General Montgomery Meigs, commander of the Quartermaster Department, received the petition and made the decision to integrate that would set the precedence for equality and respect in cemeteries across the country.

Through this story, ANC offers an insight into the complexities of racial prejudice that has persisted throughout American history.  A century before the Civil Rights Movement, the actions of these USCT demonstrated the struggle for equality in U.S. history.  For Us the Living: Learning from the Stories of Alexandria National Cemetery is an interactive site that allows high school students to focus on this and other national themes, such as women in the military and civil duty and sacrifice.  Fighting Side by Side, the USCT module, presents students with primary sources to guide them through historical discovery and learning.   Through analysis of these documents students learn stories that highlight the history of ANC and draw connections to American history.

Launching in Fall 2018, For Us the Living is a free resource available for students and teachers around the country. This project is supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) National Cemetery Administration (NCA) as part of the Veterans Legacy Program.