RRCHNM to Create Classroom Simulations on History of Diplomacy

RRCHNM is excited to announce a new project with the National Museum of American Diplomacy (NMAD) made possible by generous funding from the Una Chapman Cox Foundation. This project will create three classroom simulations based on significant events in the history of U.S. diplomacy that teachers in high school and post-secondary can use with their students. These simulations will build on the success of diplomatic simulations previously developed by the NMAD and RRCHNM which explored present-day foreign affairs topics such as peacebuilding, wildlife trafficking, and crisis in the oceans, among others. The historical diplomatic simulations to be developed as a part of this project will include primary sources, interviews with historians to provide context, and an easy-to-follow guide for implementing the simulations with students. The project will conclude in January of 2022. The NMAD is dedicated to telling the story of the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State and also receives support from the Diplomacy Center Foundation.

Pandemic Religion Project to Document Changes in American Religion

As the world undergoes wrenching changes—some temporary, some permanent—in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, religious communities in the United States have also been deeply affected. Many have hastily moved services online: a change which has been influenced by the hugely varying liturgical, theological, legal, and financial resources available to different groups. Of course a few religious groups have made it into the news by challenging government-mandated shutdowns. Some people are attending online services at communities that are not local and of which they are not members, perhaps to share an experience with family from whom they are distant. Others are finding their religious community in relatively new forms, such as Facebook groups. As the pandemic more seriously affects older people, religious communities have grappled with their ministry to the elderly and to the sick. The pandemic has disproportionately killed racial minorities and left them disproportionately unemployed: Black religious traditions are no exception. These changes have happened at the same time that Jews have celebrated Passover, Christians have celebrated Easter, and right before Muslims celebrate Ramadan.

To document these changes, today the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is launching Pandemic Religion: A Digital Archive. This project will collect and preserves experiences and responses from individuals and religious communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Screenshot of the Pandemic Religion website

We invite contributions from people of any religious tradition, community, or perspective. We encourage contributions either from your individual perspective, or documenting what is happening in your religious community. We hope you will contribute items like these:

  • Stories about how your religious practice has changed
  • Photos of you or your religious community practicing your religion
  • Communications within your religious community
  • Documents about decisions or changes your religious community has made
  • Links, recordings, or screenshots of religious practice moving to online spaces, such as video and social media
  • Stories about how you or your community is helping during, or being hurt by, the pandemic

You may wish to browse some of the items that have already been contribute:

We are undertaking this gathering of materials in partnership with other institutions. The Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at IUPUI has generously agreed to partner with RRCHNM to help disseminate the project among their scholarly network. A group of advisors, both scholars and leaders of religious communities, have given counsel and helped share the project. For example, the Rev. Mary Anne Glover of the Virginia Council of Churches has distributed the project to their member churches. We hope to strike up other such partnerships in the coming days.

Collection is only the first stage. As we gather these materials and reach out to religious communities, we will also begin work on interpreting the experiences of American religion during this time. The questions listed above only scratch the surface of what can be learned about American religion during this time. Working with CSR&AC, we will be exploring how best to organize this interpretative effort.

This project stands in a long line of digital history projects aimed at collecting and preserving materials for the use of future historians. RRCHNM pioneered some of these early efforts with the September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank. Other institions have often followed this playbook. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, some notable collecting projects have included A Journal of the Plague Year: An Archive of COVID-19 from Arizona State University, COVID-19 Memories from the Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, and many more local projects, such as the COVID-19 MKE: A Milwaukee Coronavirus Digital Archive project from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. Pandemic Religion is RRCHNM’s effort to help preserve the past about an area of study in which we specialize, and by doing so to give back to the scholarly and local communities of which we are a part.

We invite anyone who is interested in the project to make a contribution, or to offer suggestions and raise questions. You can contact John Turner (the project director) and Lincoln Mullen (the project co-director) via email at pandemicreligion@gmail.com.

RRCHNM and Covid-19

Like every other organization everywhere in the world, here at RRCHNM we are feeling our way forward during this year of the Covid-19 virus. George Mason University is closed and we’ve been booted from our offices, so we have moved to 100% remote work. Between the various virtual connections we have — Basecamp, Slack, WebEx, Zoom, email, and good old-fashioned phone calls — we’ve managed to say connected and we continue to work on our many digital projects.

I would be lying if I said that this transition has been seamless or easy for us. Each of us feels the stresses of this moment in different ways and at different times — sometimes several different ways on the same day. We’re finding new locations in our homes where we can work, figuring out how to balance our own health with the needs of those we love, and trying to get used to never seeing one another except as little faces on a Brady Bunch style screen. None of us is old enough to have lived through a moment like this one, so we are creating new benchmarks on a daily basis. A few of us report being just as productive as ever, others less so.  For now, what we can do is what we can do.

We are very thankful that our various external partners have been so flexible with their expectations of us and have been willing to accept adjusted work plans and in some cases to extend funding windows. Without that flexibility, we’d really be struggling. With expectations adjusted, we are on schedule and on budget.

In addition to keeping up with our existing work, we have our own responses to the Covid crisis. The first of those is that we are in the process of standing up a new collecting history project in the vein of past projects like the September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank. The “Pandemic Religion” project will collect, preserve, and contextualize the major changes happening to American religious congregations and institutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and grows out of the prior work in religious history by RRCHNM Director Lincoln Mullen and our partner in crime, Prof. John Turner from Mason’s Department of Religious Studies.

We are also pleased to be providing back end support to the Covid-19 Archive project at Arizona State University. RRCHNM is assisting this excellent project with site planning, site hosting, and general project support as it gets off the ground and we are very happy to be collaborating with Mark Tebeau and his team.

Finally, we are working hard to support K-12 and college teachers with the many educational projects we have created over the years. Making history education resources available for free to a broad audience was how RRCHNM started 25 years ago. Who knew how important that mission would be today when students can only access learning resources online?

When the new year began none of us could have predicted a moment like this. We’re happy to be doing our part to help collect and preserve the history of this moment and to help teachers, students, and parents navigate a new world of online only learning.


RRCHNM Partners with Shapell Manuscript Foundation to Develop Teaching Materials

RRCHNM is excited to announce an agreement with the Shapell Manuscript Foundation (SMF) to develop education materials that will make use of the Foundation’s rich and engaging digital collection. RRCHNM will create four teaching modules for secondary school teachers that will be hosted on the Shapell Manuscript Foundation website. Each module will feature teaching strategies including differentiation for diverse learners, a sample lesson plan, ideas for assessment, a Document-Based Question activity for AP courses, the national history standards met by each module, and links to related SMF resources. The Shapell Manuscript Foundation features an impressive collection of primary sources related to United States presidential history, the history of Israel and the Holy Land, as well as rare letters from prominent figures in American literature including Mark Twain and Herman Melville. The modules should be available for teachers by the end of the year.

RRCHNM Faculty Fellow CFP

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason is seeking applications for a faculty fellow at the Center for the Fall 2020 semester. The purpose of the fellowship is to help individuals conceptualize digital humanities projects that have the potential for significant external grant support and that will be realized in partnership with RRCHNM.

With the generous support of the Dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, RRCHNM faculty and staff will work with the fellow on the planning of such a project and the submission of grants to support the work. The fellowship carries a one course teaching reduction for the Fall 2020 semester along with technical staff support at the Center.

Sample project categories include but are not limited to:

  • Text mining
  • Geospatial humanities
  • Network analysis
  • Software tools for humanities research and analysis
  • Augmented and virtual reality
  • Computational humanities
  • Public digital history
  • Educational projects in the digital humanities
  • Agent modeling and simulation

Full time faculty members in any discipline and at any rank are encouraged to apply for this fellowship. Applications should consist of a one-page description of the project idea with reference to possible external funding and a two-page cv. Applications should be submitted by 5:00 pm on Friday, March 16, via email to Mills Kelly, Interim Executive Director of RRCHNM: tkelly7@gmu.edu.

Mills Kelly Named Executive Director of RRCHNM

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University are pleased to announce that Mills Kelly has been named the new executive director of RRCHNM. This year RRCHNM is celebrating its twenty-fifth year, and Kelly has been a part of the Center for eighteen of those years. He joined the department and CHNM in 2001 to work with Roy Rosenzweig, the founder of CHNM.

Photo of Mills KellyKelly has contributed to the Center’s work in several distinct ways, both as a project leader and as one of the faculty directors of the Center. A specialist in Czech history and the history of Eastern Europe, Kelly was the project leader on Making the History of 1989, an NEH-funded digital project that provides sources and narratives about the fall of Communism. Kelly was also co-project leader on World History Matters and Women in World History, two projects which were and are widely used in classrooms. Those projects won the 2007 James Harvey Robinson Prize from the American Historical Association, as well as the 2009 Merlot award for as an exemplary online teaching resource.

Kelly has become a leader in the scholarship on teaching and learning in history. In the past year he was president of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. And in 2013 he published Teaching History in the Digital Age with the University of Michigan Press, a work which was simultaneously released as an open-access web publication and a print book. Most recently, Kelly has turned to Appalachian Trail Histories, creating a digital project in spatial, social, and environmental history that began in several of his undergraduate classes at Mason and has expanded in scope as it received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

In addition to his scholarship in digital history and teaching and learning, Kelly has a proven track record as an administrator. For a time he served as the the director of the Global Affairs program at George Mason University, and at GMU he has been fellow in the offices of both the provost and the president. He has been especially active in European non-profit work, currently serving as a trustee of the Romanian-American Foundation and earlier as chair of the board of directors of the Civic Education Project, an international non-governmental organization working to promote democracy in post-Communist Eastern Europe. Brian Platt, the chair of the Department of History and Art History, commented on Kelly’s leadership: “Dr. Kelly has a long history with the Center and has been involved in a number of its signature projects. He’s also a gifted and experienced administrator. We are incredibly lucky that we have someone with his experience—and someone whose loyalty to the Center’s mission is so strong—to lead the Center.”

Asked about his appointment, Kelly said, “I came to George Mason University in 2001 to work at the Center for History and New Media and to work for Roy. I am incredibly honored to be able to carry his legacy forward and to work with so many talented people.” Kelly will lead an internationally prominent research center that is home to nearly two dozen designers, developers, project managers, staff, faculty, and graduate students.

Current Research in Digital History 2019

Today RRCHNM is publishing the second annual issue of our open-access, peer-reviewed publication Current Research in Digital HistoryThis issue features 13 essays on topics ranging from Catholic enslavers in early Maryland, women’s activism in the 1970s Black Arts Movement, and a social network analysis of the Colored Conventions, to Latter-day Saints of black-African descent, nineteenth-century postmistresses, and African American Freedom Colonies in Texas.

The issue was edited by Lincoln Mullen and Stephen Robertson, with crucial input from a program committee consisting of Elizabeth Bond, Kalani Craig, Michelle DiMeo, and Crystal Moten. Editorial Assistant Greta Swain worked throughout the summer to prepare the essays for online publication, in a platform designed by Kim Ngyuen and Ken Albers that allows for interactive visualizations, data and code appendices and other features not typically available from other humanities journals.

The primary aim of Current Research in Digital History is to encourage and publish scholarship in digital history that offers discipline-specific arguments and interpretations. By featuring short essays, it also seeks to provide an opportunity to make arguments on the basis of ongoing research in larger projects. Essays published in CRDH are first presented at an annual one-day conference at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. Authors submit their essays in the fall, and then the conference is held in the spring. CRDH is published at the end of August, less than a year after essays are submitted.

Please see the CFP for the 2020 conference, to be held on March 14, 2020 in Arlington, VA. Submissions for the 2020 conference and publication are due by October 25, 2019.

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.