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.

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.