New teaching materials on World War II in the Pacific available

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is proud to announce the launch of new materials related to World War II in the Pacific on the award-winning website Understanding Sacrifice, created in partnership with National History Day ®(NHD) for the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and the VA National Cemetery Administration (NCA) .

Personal perspective on the war

Katie Hoerner at USS Arizona Memorial

As part of the summer field study, social studies teacher, Katie Hoerner (above), and her fellow teachers visited the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii. Photo by C. Gorn.

One of the most arresting features of the site is the gallery of Fallen Heroes. This past school year, 18 teachers from around the country each selected a WWII service member or civilian buried or memorialized in an ABMC or NCA cemetery to research. The connection to the teacher might have been geographic, such as the case of social studies teacher Katie Hoerner, who chose to research the life of fellow Illinoisan Bruce Bradley who died on the USS Arizona. For social studies teacher, Matt Poth, the connection to his fallen hero, William Seiverling Jr., came from their shared Marine Corps experience. California special education teacher Jose Cumagun shared a connection to the Philippines with his fallen hero, Teofilo Yldefonzo, an Olympic medalist and Philippine Scout.

Several teachers have chosen to include their students in the research process. The teachers find that researching an individual makes the war more personal for their students and they report that their students are engaged in the historical research process.

To help other teachers embark on this type of research, the site includes a new section, Researching a Fallen Hero, which provides teachers with lesson plan ideas, tips, handouts and examples of how to conduct this type of research in a classroom. Written by Kevin Wagner, a high school social studies teacher whose students have researched the lives of service members for several years, the section also includes videos from Wagner’s classroom of the process in action.

Interdisciplinary Lesson Plans

Whitney Joyner at the Opana radar station

STEM teacher Whitney Joyner, standing in front of the tower at the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, prepares to deliver her video introduction about RADAR’s role in the Pearl Harbor attack. Photo by C. Preperato.

This year’s cohort of 18 teachers represented diverse teaching backgrounds in social studies, language arts, visual arts, and performing arts. The lessons, designed for middle and high school classrooms, reflect this diversity. For example:

  • Under Their Wing explores the impact of flight nurses in the Pacific theater through analysis of primary and secondary sources.
  • RADAR: Innovating Naval Warfare, a STEM lesson, asks students to plot an attack on an enemy convoy in order to understand how RADAR impacted the war.
  • Race and Tragedy on the Home Front, invites students to compare different versions of events related to Port Chicago, CA, the site of the worst disaster on the home front that killed 320 sailors and civilians, mostly African American.
  • The Song of War introduces students to poetry created by the Hell Hawks, a Marine fighter squadron, and invites them to create their own found poetry.

Professional Development Resources

Understanding Sacrifice also includes a new PD Resources section that includes a series of short videos related to different aspects of World War II. Featuring project historian Christopher Hamner analyzing primary sources, these videos cover topics such as African American Experiences, Comparing Cemeteries, D-Day in Documents, Race and the Enemy, Why They Fight, and Women in the Workforce, among others. Teachers can watch these short videos for professional development or they can use them in their classroom. Each video page provides links to the original primary sources discussed.

About Understanding Sacrifice

Sponsored by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) and the VA National Cemetery Administration (NCA), Understanding Sacrifice is an 18-month professional development program for secondary teachers. Working with the team from National History Day® and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, 18 teachers annually create free, interdisciplinary lessons to share with other educators. The goal is to bring ABMC and NCA resources into classrooms to help students better understand the service, experience, and sacrifice of American service members during World War II.








Scripto Update Funded by NEH

We are pleased to announce that the Omeka team has an opportunity to upgrade its popular Scripto tool with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities (NEH-ODH). Scripto is a free, open-source tool used for collaborative online transcriptions of documents and multimedia files, originally funded by the NEH-ODH in 2009, used by many.

We are grateful for this opportunity to redesign Scripto as a module for Omeka S, and to generate new documentation and guidance that will assist other cultural heritage organizations in managing their own community transcription projects.

This work will coincide with the migration of the Papers of the War Department digital documentary edition to Omeka S with funding from the American Council of Learned Societies.


Digital History PhD Fellowships available for Fall 2018

We’re pleased to announce that the Department of History & Art History at George Mason University has received another round of funding from the Provost’s Ph.D. Award Program to admit two Digital History Fellows to the Ph.D. program in each of the next three years.

Fellows enrolling in Fall 2018 will receive stipends of $20,000 for two years, during which time they will take a practicum course each semester here at RRCHNM, and then a further three years of support from the Department of History and Art History. The practicum courses provide an opportunity to be part of a digital history center and to contribute to a range of projects across all three of the Center’s divisions. Syllabi for the practicum courses can be found on the Fellows’ blog, which also includes posts by all six cohorts of fellows reflecting on their experiences at the Center.

Students interested in applying to the GMU History PhD program and being a Digital history Fellow should consult the information on the department website or contact the department’s graduate director, Sam Lebovic. Applications close January 15, 2018.

Tropy 1.0 Release

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is pleased to announce the launch of Tropy version 1.0. Tropy is the software that researchers have long-needed to organize and describe the large numbers of photographs they take in archives and libraries of their sources. Tropy is free and open source, and available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Just some of the features Tropy offers:

  • Attach descriptive metadata — such as title, author, date, archive, collection — to your photos individually or in bulk, using customizable templates
  • Organize your photos using tags or lists
  • Merge multiple photos into a single item, to group photos of your multi-page sources
  • Manipulate your photos so you can read them more easily
  • Attach notes or transcriptions to your photos, or to a selection from a photo
  • Create templates that include the information you need to know about your sources
  • Search the descriptive metadata, tags, and notes to find the sources you need
  • Export your items in JSON-LD

Visit Tropy’s extensive documentation to learn how to use the software to describe your research. And please feel free to post questions, problems, and feedback to Tropy’s support forums.

Our thanks to Tropy’s awesome development team:

  • Sylvester Keil, lead developer
  • Johannes Krtek, product designer
  • Kirill Stytsenko, developer
  • Abby Mullen, project manager
  • Jim Safley, metadata consultant

And special thanks to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for funding this project, to our partner institutions for offering feedback, and to our beta users for testing Tropy throughout its development.

Annual Report 2016-2017

Our second 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 2016-2016. 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.

A copy can be downloaded here.

Amboyna Conspiracy Trial Website Wins NSW Premier’s Multimedia History Prize

NSW Premier's History Award Logo

The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial, an interactive teaching resource focused on one of the most famous legal cases of the early modern period, won the Australian 2017 NSW Premier’s History Awards Multimedia History Prize.

Created by Dr. Adam Clulow (Monash University, Australia) in collaboration with RRCHNM and the design team at Big Yellow Taxi, the Amboyna Conspiracy Trial is part of RRCHNM’s World History Matters portal offering rich resources for teaching and learning about world history.

Judges in the award competition praised the “rich trove of digitised archival material” and the interactivity that turns visitors into “investigators, lawyers and jurors tasked with understanding historical events.”

The NSW Premier’s History Awards “assist in establishing values and standards in historical research and publication” encouraging broad audiences to “appreciate and learn from” historians.

Amboyna Conspiracy Trial Website Named Finalist for NSW Premier’s History Award

The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial, an interactive teaching resource focused on one of the most famous legal cases of the early modern period, is a finalist for the Australian NSW Premier’s History Awards Multimedia History Prize.

Created by Dr. Adam Clulow (Monash University, Australia) in collaboration with RRCHNM and the design team at Big Yellow Taxi, the Amboyna Conspiracy Trial is part of RRCHNM’s World History Matters portal offering rich resources for teaching and learning about world history.

Judges in the award competition praised the “rich trove of digitised archival material” and the interactivity that turns visitors into “investigators, lawyers and jurors tasked with understanding historical events.”

The NSW Premier’s History Awards “assist in establishing values and standards in historical research and publication” encouraging broad audiences to “appreciate and learn from” historians. Winners will be announced at the State Library of New South Wales in Australia on September 1, 2017.

Doing Digital History 2016 White Paper Summary

During the summer of 2016, Sharon M. Leon and Sheila A. Brennan led a second Doing Digital History institute for advanced topics in digital humanities (IATDH) funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities together with an amazing team of graduate student mentors and visiting scholars. The final report and white paper is available.

Doing Digital History 2016 offered 24 mid-career American historians an opportunity to immerse themselves in two intensive weeks of training focusing on the theories and methods of digital history. The results of the institute were impressive, with participants increasing their technical skills, their digital literacy, and their comfort with evaluating digital work.

The team was able to rely on the lessons learned from 2014 during the planning and design phases of the curriculum and the evaluation structure for 2016. By the end of the two weeks, 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.

A major goal of the Doing Digital History institutes is to make a targeted impact on history faculty, their students and departments, and the field at-large. To measure the overall effectiveness of the institute on changing attitudes and practices we asked four questions related to our goals at the beginning and the end of each institute:

  • If you were asked to review a digital project for a professional journal in your field of expertise, would you feel comfortable saying yes to the request?
  • If you were asked to review a colleague’s digital work for promotion, would you feel comfortable assessing its scholarly impact?
  • Do you feel comfortable presenting or discussing digital history work with your colleagues?
  • Do you feel comfortable supervising students who want to use digital tools in their history scholarship?

By comparing the 2014 and 2016 institute data, we can see some interesting differences in the cohorts. Prior to DoingDH, the 2016 cohort was much more comfortable reviewing digital work for promotion than the 2014 group, but less willing to review digital projects for journals. The 2014 cohort was slightly more at ease in supervising students incorporating digital tools into their work, and more than half of each group felt comfortable discussing digital work with colleagues.

Caparison chart 2014 and 2016 results

The post-institute surveys show that the 2016 cohort left with more overall confidence across each goal and achieved slightly more positive change in growth than the 2014 group. Even still, both groups experienced an impressive amount of personal and professional growth in two weeks!

In May 2017, we surveyed the DoingDH 2016 cohort one last time to gather some data about how each of them incorporated what they learned into their teaching, research, and professional development during the 2016-17 academic year:


  • 61% used online publishing in their teaching
  • 61% used geospatial methods in their teaching
  • 28% used text analysis techniques in their teaching
  • 33% introduced data management concepts in their teaching
  • 28% blogged about their teaching


  • 61% launched a digital project related to their work
  • 72% revised their own data management and research methods practices
  • 28% blogged about their research

Professional Advancement and Service

  • 78% talked to their administration about supporting DH work
  • 39% participated in a DH unconference or workshop
  • 33% taught a workshop for their colleagues based on things they learned at DoingDH 2016
  • 67% collaborated with a colleague on DH project
  • 17% reviewed a DH project for a journal or online publication

The results are impressive. Our other aspirations of moving the field will take longer than a year and will require some additional research in a few years to more adequately assess the long-term impact.

After finishing our second IATDH introduction to digital history, we can affirm some of our findings from our 2014 white paper. Based on the applicant pools from 2014 and 2016, we see that there are still relatively few training opportunities at the novice level for faculty, and yet, it has not prevented history departments from asking their faculty members—prepared or not—to teach digital history courses. Preparing faculty to teach these courses, just like in public history, means more than simply reading the literature. It’s a methodological shift and we continue to believe that it is irresponsible of departments, colleges, and universities to assign faculty to teach digital history courses without providing the time and resources for professional development.

Interestingly in 2016, we received more applications from junior faculty and new PhDs seeking digital training to prepare them for the job market, because their graduate programs offered no courses or opportunities to learn digital methods. Some of these applicants wrote desperately hoping that they could participate in DoingDH 2016 to help them obtain a tenure-track job.

The Doing Digital History institutes are an effort to provide scholars with a very preliminary introduction to the theories and methods of digital history. As such, they are only a beginning. Our evaluation shows that they have made a significant impact in the field, but we all have much work left to do to raise the digital literacy of the core of mid-career colleagues.

Eagle Eye Citizen takes flight at National History Day

What happens when you combine more than 3,000 students who love history with an online challenge-making contest using primary sources from the Library of Congress and then sweeten the pot with a $50 Amazon gift card? That is what we wanted to find out at the National History Day® (NHD) Contest held June 11-June 15, 2017, at University of Maryland, College Park.

During the NHD Contest, RRCHNM held a challenge-making contest for Eagle Eye Citizen, a new interactive website that uses primary sources from the Library of Congress to help develop students’ civic understanding and historical thinking skills. The contest created a buzz among students and teachers who love history and invited students to create challenges before the upcoming project launch.

Students from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, China, Korea, and South Asia came to this year’s contest. Each year, more than half a million students create historical research projects in one of five categories: documentaries, exhibits, papers, performances, or websites.

NHD EEC winner

Kyle Nguyen, a rising junior from Palm Harbor University High, Florida won the Eagle Eye Citizen challenge making contest at NHD.

A panel of NHD judges reviewed each Eagle Eye Citizen challenge entry and selected Kyle Nguyen, a rising junior from Palm Harbor University High, Florida, as the winner of the Amazon gift card. Kyle created the challenge, Breaking Free, that invites users to decide whether selected primary sources represent the 1st or the 13th Amendment. Sources included a copy of the Bill of Rights, an 1866 piece of sheet music titled “Protect the Freedman,” an 1840 broadside for “Friends of Harrison and Reform,” and a pie chart showing the composition of church membership from the 1890 census. Kyle’s success stemmed from his reflection on why he selected these sources along with his accompanying hints. He clearly demonstrated his goal of helping users look closely and find clues within each source. Student reflections are built into every Eagle Eye Citizen challenge and are helpful for teachers to assess understanding.

Students received limited-edition Eagle Eye Citizen buttons to collect or trade at the NHD Contest.

EEC button at NHD contest

Students that made Eagle Eye Citizen challenges received this limited edition button to keep or trade during the NHD contest.

The NHD contest also provided the opportunity to share Eagle Eye Citizen with teachers from around the globe. On June 12, Graduate Research Assistant, Sara Collini, and Digital Teaching and Learning Specialist, Nate Sleeter, introduced Eagle Eye Citizen to about 40 teachers during a NHD professional development session. Teachers shared their enthusiasm for the project and appreciated how the site could help differentiate challenges to meet students’ interests and abilities.

Eagle Eye Citizen is supported by a grant from the Library of Congress. The full site will launch for the 2017-18 school year. Stay tuned!




ACLS Digital Extension Grant to Migrate Papers of the War Department

We are excited to announce that the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) awarded Sheila Brennan and RRCHNM one of five digital extension grants to migrate the Papers of the War Department 1784-1800, (PWD) an online documentary edition comprising nearly 43,000 digital documents, to Omeka S to revitalize and stabilize this legacy digital humanities project. The migration will allow for an efficient upgrade of the infrastructure and will provide a path for long-term preservation and access, while also allowing the team to redesign the user interface thus enabling greater use and discoverability of these early federal documents.

On November 8, 1800, fire destroyed the US War Department office and the records held within. For over 200 years, the records of one of the first federal agencies, representing much of the early government’s work, were unavailable for research and learning. The papers do not merely record military matters, but also how the Department handled Native American affairs, veterans’ pensions, and procurement from merchants across the nation. The War Office was the nation’s largest single consumer of fabric, clothing, shoes, food, medicine, building materials, and weapons of all kinds.  Ted Crackel and staff at East Stroudsburg University led a decade-long effort to digitize and unite copies of nearly 43,000 lost documents,  and then transferred those assets to RRCHNM in 2006. The Papers of the War Department (PWD) website presents digitized copies and richly-described metadata of the papers, together with community-contributed transcriptions.

Once fully migrated to Omeka S, the project’s existing metadata, which includes the names of thousands of individuals and geographic places referenced in correspondence, will be connected across the semantic web as linked open data. Jim Safely, PWD’s original web architect, will lead the migration process, and Kim Nguyen, RRCHNM’s Lead Web Designer, will redesign the PWD user experience.

PWD’s Editor-in-Chief, Christopher Hamner will work with Brennan to develop four learning modules for use in upper-level high school and introductory undergraduate courses. Enhanced documentation and outreach combined with a new system will make the Papers of the War Department more intuitive and inviting as it expands the project’s user base of scholars, students and teachers, history enthusiasts, and genealogists, and researchers of all levels.

We are extremely grateful to ACLS for this opportunity to extend and sustain access to these important documents from the early American republic.