Teachers Selected for Understanding Sacrifice: WWII in the Pacific


RRCHNM, in partnership with National History Day, the American Battle Monuments Commission, and the National Cemetery Administration, is pleased to announce the selection of 18 teachers to study World War II in the Pacific. This year’s cohort represents social studies, English, JROTC, theater, visual arts, special education and STEM teachers who come from 12 states.

This highly competitive program brings together middle and high school teachers for an 18-month professional development program that includes monthly webinars with George Mason University Associate Professor and RRCHNM affiliated faculty member, Christopher Hamner. The program culminates with a field study in summer 2017 to San Francisco, Honolulu, and Manila to see first-hand the places that influenced the outcome of the war.

As a part of the program, each teacher selects an individual to research who is buried or memorialized in an ABMC or NCA cemetery the teachers will visit. Some teachers involve their class in this research. In addition, each teacher creates a lesson plan that incorporates ABMC and NCA resources to teach about an aspect of the war. These materials are then made available on the award-winning Understanding Sacrifice website, developed by RRCHNM.

The cohort will meet for the first time in November in Washington, DC. During the two-day meeting, teachers are introduced to ABMC and NCA resources, learn techniques for researching their service member, tour the National WWII Memorial, and explore the Smithsonian’s Price of Freedom exhibit.

RRCHNM staff will lead workshops on writing for the web, photography, and videography. The goal of the workshops is to give teachers the tools they need to help capture their research and share it effectively online.

This is the third year of the Understanding Sacrifice program. The first two years focused on World War II in Europe.




Diplomacy in Action

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) is delighted to announce a new project with the State Department’s U.S. Diplomacy Center to create diplomatic simulations for a global audience of students and educators. The project, entitled “Diplomacy in Action: Diplomatic Simulations in the Classroom,” includes simulation writing, curriculum design, and video production.

RRCHNM has assembled a team of national and international educators to advise on the project, write content, and pilot test the simulations in classrooms around the world.

Diplomatic simulations immerse secondary and university students in the tools of diplomacy through problem solving, communication, alliance building, and compromise. Students role play diplomatic representatives from multiple stakeholders, negotiating international disputes and working together to find solutions.

The U.S. Diplomacy Center, scheduled to open to the public in 2018 in the Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C., will be an education center and interactive museum dedicated to telling the story, teaching the lessons, and preserving the legacy of American diplomacy.

Through the Doors of Stratford

Arlington Public Schools and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University are proud to announce a collaborative project called Through the Doors of Stratford. This series of online modules will allow Arlington government and history students to explore their community’s role in the complex history of school desegregation.

On February 2, 1959, four African American students entered Stratford Junior High School in Arlington, Virginia. On this exceptional day, Gloria Thompson, Michael Jones, Lance Newman, andRonald Deskins became the first African American students to attend Stratford and the first to attend an all-white public school in the Commonwealth of Virginia. These 7th-grade students made history despite the determined opposition of the state government of Virginia which threatened to close all schools that attempted to desegregate — a policy known as Massive Resistance.

Stratford1Through the Doors of Stratford will allow Arlington students to explore the complexities and nuances of this event and better understand its significance within the context of government and history courses. Students will build historical thinking and critical thinking skills as well as digital research and presentation skills while deepening their understanding of key topics in social studies.

CHNM is working closely with Arlington teachers Michael Palermo and Kira Jordan to create Through the Doors of Stratford. Online modules will be available to Arlington teachers for classroom use in 2017.

Collections Continue to Grow in September 11th Digital Archive

The fifteenth anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001 is upon us. We see that the legacy of those events continues to live on in current political debates, foreign and domestic policy-making, as well as for the families who lost loved ones on that day and in the conflicts that followed.

Collection Highlight: Boston FAAWe at RRCHNM continue to expand the resources in the September 11 Digital Archive (911DA) as individuals and institutions want to share their collections with us. For example, retired Federal Aviation Administration employee Brian Sullivan donated a collection that offers insight into passenger safety prior to and on September 11, 2001 in the form of reports, guides, testimonies of Federal Aviation Administration employees and airport workers, meeting minutes, memos, transcripts, and affidavits. Graduate student Alyssa Fahringer scanned and described the items in the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings collection.  The Center also recently received digital scans of visitor comment cards contributed at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in 2011. Alyssa is adding those items this fall.

As RRCHNM continues to maintain and add collections, we are also working to improve computational access to these 150,000 digital items. With support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Omeka team is developing plugins that will help users to mine the texts available in the site, and others like it build in Omeka.

Individual items contributed to 911DA have rich personal stories to tell that call for a close reading of the text or examination of contributed images. In some cases, a more powerful story emerges by examining the aggregate, with the promise of surfacing larger insights through “distant reading,” an analytical procedure by which researchers evaluate large bodies of text in the aggregate as a way to discern otherwise opaque patterns and meanings. To enable both close and distant reading, simple annotation and word analysis plugins are in development. The Omeka team will use the vast collections of 911DA as a case study to demonstrate the benefits of using the new plugins and to publish new insights found in this corpus of materials.

Anniversaries offer time for us to reflect and think back on events from the past, and we again ask for you, your family members, your students to share how your life has changed since September 11, 2001. If you recently visited the September 11th Memorials in New York, the Pentagon, or Shanksville we want to hear about your experiences. By collecting reflections at this commemorative moment, we hope to further the life of the September 11th Digital Archive as one that not only includes the most immediate reactions to the attacks, but also shows change over time as individuals reflect at different points in the post-9/11 world.

A New Website for RRCHNM

Today we’re officially launching a redesigned website for RRCHNM. We’re also taking the opportunity to move it to an updated url: rrchnm.org.

The site’s last major redesign was in 2008. As Dan Cohen noted at that time, a website redesign is “is a painful and long process, full of compromises.” This time around we did not attempt a full reimagining of the site, but rather the key focus was on presenting a clearer picture of the Center’s organization, staff, and how to work with us.

Visitors can now employ faceted search to explore our projects and get to know our staff, and use a form to contact us about collaborations and contract work. There is also a social media Hub that captures activity from across the Center’s projects.

The new site was designed by Kim Nguyen, building on initial work by Chris Raymond.

If you’re interested in how the Center’s site design has evolved, there is an exhibit of the Center’s previous websites at RRCHNM20

First CHNM websiteSecond CHNM websiteThird CHNM website2008 CHNM website

Mapping Early American Elections Begins with NEH Funding

The National Endowment for the Humanities, Division of Preservation and Access, announced in March 2016, that it had awarded a three-year grant of $200,000 to support a new project to be housed at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Mapping Early American Elections will offer enhanced access to the early American election returns that are currently contained in the New Nation Votes database. The project will create new interactive maps of selected local, state, and national elections from 1788 to 1825 as well as produce materials that will allow individual researchers to generate their own maps.

The New Nation Votes dataset is the only comprehensive record of elections in existence for the early American republic. Scattered in newspapers, state archives, and local repositories around the country, the elections returns have been painstakingly gathered over the past forty-five years by Philip J. Lampi of the American Antiquarian Society. A succession of NEH grants over the past decade has allowed the AAS, in conjunction with Tufts University, to create an online database containing the results for over 23,600 local, state, and national elections. In these elections, over 44,000 candidates participated in contests for offices ranging from town council, to county coroner, to state assembly, to US Congress, to presidential elector.

The next phase of the project entails moving the raw data into a format that will make the election returns more accessible to broader audiences. The project will be led by Sheila Brennan  and Lincoln Mullen, together with Professor Rosemarie Zagarri as the project’s lead historian. The project will produce a series of interactive maps for selected congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative elections. Explanatory essays will describe the historical context in which the maps should be understood. The team will also prepare the entire election dataset for translation into a mapping program and provide online tutorials that teach users—including journalists, teachers, and researchers–how to map the data for particular elections for themselves.

Early American elections offer a window into the formative era of American politics. The era from the time of the federal Constitutional Convention to the election of John Quincy Adams witnessed the emergence of the perennial questions of American political life: Who could vote, and at what rates would they turn out at the polls? Which parties and candidates would they support? How did various states and different regions vote in the same election? Maps provide the most vivid, visually appealing, and immediate answers to such questions.

The Mapping Early American Elections project will enable a variety of users to ask questions about past elections. By allowing users to trace the evolution of American democracy, the project hopes to encourage Americans to become more actively engaged in current-day elections in their hometowns, counties, and the nation.

Understanding Sacrifice Wins National Award


The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (CHNM), National History Day (NHD), and the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) are pleased to announce that the web project, Understanding Sacrifice, won first place in the Digital Media category for the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) 2016 Interpretative Media Awards.

Understanding Sacrifice is an 18-month professional development program for middle- and high-school teachers. Working with the team from NHD and CHNM, 18 teachers create free, interdisciplinary lessons to share with other educators each year. The goal is to bring ABMC resources into classrooms to help students better understand the service, experience, and sacrifice of American service members during World War II.

To help meet this goal, the Understanding Sacrifice website provides access to lesson plans, primary source materials, videos, and stories of fallen service members who are buried or memorialized at ABMC cemeteries.  The intended audience is teachers, students, and others interested in military history.

Professionals in the field of interpretation and media development judged the entries according to the following criteria:

  • The entry exhibits outstanding application of interpretive principles.
  • The entry communicates its intended message most effectively and in an appropriate manner.
  • The entry engages users through effective use of art and technology.

The NAI judges noted: “This is a thought-provoking website which demonstrates the ways in which educators and interpreters can collaborate to produce outstanding and complex learning opportunities for students from apparently static monuments.”

Applications are now being accepted for next year’s Understanding Sacrifice program, World War II in the Pacific. Teachers will visit San Francisco [CA], Honolulu [HI], and the Philippines in summer 2017. Please visit http://abmceducation.org/apply for more information and an application packet. Applications are due September 2, 2016.





Doing Digital History 2016 is a Wrap

In July, RRCHNM welcomed 24 American historians to Mason’s Arlington campus for two intensive weeks of the National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored summer institute, Doing Digital History 2016. Sheila Brennan and Sharon Leon led the group through a course designed to introduce historians, experts in their own subject areas, to digital history scholarship, methods, and tools relevant to their own research and teaching in American history.

Doing DH 2016 Participants and Team

Doing DH 2016 Participants and Team

Participants began as self-identified digital novices unsure of their abilities to keep up with the workload and left with their own web domains, experience working in the statistical programming language R, and many ideas for new teaching assignments, research projects, and digital publications. Most important, each participant became more confident engaging with and reviewing digital scholarship, advising students wishing to do digital projects, and in learning to tinker with and ask questions of digital methodologies.

Throughout the two weeks, readings and discussions were coupled with demonstrations and hands-on work. Each participant established their own web domain, installed open source software (WordPress, Omeka, R, Audacity); implemented best practices for managing their research; made visualizations; built simple maps; learned how to plan a digital project; edited sound files, planned digitally-inflected lessons for their classes; and considered the implications of the changing field of scholarly communications. Doing DH benefited from an enthusiastic corps of RRCHNM graduate students, Alyssa Fahringer, Eric Gonzaba, Jannelle Legg,  and Spencer Roberts, who developed tutorials and use cases for incorporating different digital tools into teaching and research. They also provided moral and technical support to the participants, and managed the Twitter backchannel conversations under #doingdh16.

Doing DH also featured guest instructors from Mason’s History and Art History Department, Mason Library, and neighboring institutions. Lincoln Mullen shared his extensive expertise doing computational research over three days and Michael O’Malley led a day on sound studies. Jeri Wieringa of the Mason Publishing Group shared trends in scholarly communications and digital publishing initiatives. Denise Meringolo, a participant in Doing DH 2014, returned to discuss how her public history work at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, became digital. And, Jeff McClurken visited from University of Mary Washington to lead a day on digitally-inflected pedagogy.

By the end of Doing DH 2016, participants were tired, but also invigorated with ideas and three action items to implement over the next six months.

In Memory of Lt. Col. Ronald J. Martin, USMC, Retired

Lt. Col. Ronald J. Martin, USMC, RetiredOn July 14, 2016, the Rosenzweig Center lost Ronald J. Martin, a longtime and valuable member of our team, to his struggle with cancer. Ron came to the Center in 2008 to serve join the team of scholars editing the Papers of the War Department, 1784-1800, and was integral to our work with the National Park Service on the history of the War of 1812. He was an enthusiastic partner in our work to share early American history with the public, and we mourn his passing.

Serving as PWD’s only full time  staff person, Ron began as an assistant editor, but soon he moved into the role of Associate Editor. From that position, he worked with the assistant editors to complete the basic description (author, recipient, and date) of the full collection, more than 18,000 of the total 42,800 documents. Then, in 2010 he and the staff turned their attention to offering a more full description of a key subset of the collection. During the next three years, Ron shepherded the process of creating enhanced description, including people, places, and items mentioned and a general description of the document, for more than 27,000 items. Ron alone completed the description for more than 5,000 documents annually. In the end, the team exceed their description goals by 3,000 documents. As a result of this work, researchers, students, teachers, and members of the interested public have vastly improved access to the inner-workings of the early national federal government, to day-to-day correspondence on issues related to Native Americans, active military, veterans, and their families.

Beginning in 2010, Ron started to share his unparalleled knowledge of the PWD collections with the public through a series of blog posts. In the end, these short pieces covered the range of historical issues and events contained with in the collections. Ron wrote biographical sketches of key individuals, including Andrew Pickens, William Blount, Tobias Lear, and George Izard. He offered explanations for different kinds of documents, outlined important events in early national military history, and provided insight into the development of the Navy. Once RRCHNM began work on community sourcing the transcription of the Papers in March 2011, Ron carefully selected a set of documents that would be interesting candidates for public work. These documents included letters from Judith Sargent Murray, the Jay Treaty, materials on the beginning of the Quasi War, and orders for supplies related to muskets being manufactured by Eli Whitney—each one fascinating in its own way, and all reflective of different elements of the early national experience.

Upon the completion of the description for PWD, in 2013, Ron turned his attention to the War of 1812. Working with Christopher Hamner and Spencer Roberts, he created a significant amount of the historical content on the National Park Service’s website dedicated to the war’s bicentennial. The team for the 1812 work decided on content strategy that was more suited to the digital engagement habits of contemporary users, that stressed the cultural and social context of the war along with the more traditional materials on major military events, and that highlighted both contingency and diversity. Rather than presenting a series of longer essays that focus on key themes, the team developed 70 modules that users could explore by following their own interests and questions. “Voices” modules began with a quotation from a specific individual to offer users many human experiences and perspectives. “Moments” modules focused on a specific event to give users a sense of the key milestones of the conflict.”Perspectives” modules targeted the experiences of and impacts on the many diverse communities touched by the war. This approach allowed the team to present the history of the War of 1812 in new way while working within the constraints of the National Park Service’s technological infrastructure.

It was while he was finishing up his work on the War of 1812 that Ron fell ill. We at the Center have missed his kindness and generosity over the past year and a half, and we are deeply saddened at his death. Ron was so much more than a good historian—a Marine, a husband, a father, a champion hockey and football player—but, we knew him best through his hard work and his dedication to early American history. Given that commitment, Ron’s family has requested that memorial donations be made to RRCHNM. We will use those contributions to sustain our digital collections, including the Papers of the War Department project.

A Liberian Journey Launches

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is pleased to announce the launch of A Liberian Journey: History, Memory, and the Making of a Nation <liberianhistory.org>, developed in partnership with the Liberian Center for National Documents and Records Agency (CNDRA), the Indiana University Liberian Collections, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with generous support from the National Science Foundation.

Liberian President attends opening ceremonies

Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, attends launch ceremony at CNDRA.

The project officially launched in Monrovia at a ceremony on Monday, March 21 with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in attendance, together with members of her cabinet and the Liberian legislature.

This new digital public history site is meant to inform, raise questions, and invite stories about a transformational moment in Liberia’s past by making historical sources available for the first time in one place related to a 1926 Harvard scientific expedition to Liberia. The website features an exhibit on Chief Suah Koko, a noted woman leader in Liberia’s history; digital collections containing nearly 600 photographs, more than two hours of motion picture footage, oral histories, and documents linked to an interactive map. This effort marks the beginning of a recollection of Liberia’s lost history and for CNDRA represents a very important step in reawakening the Liberia national consciousness.

In 1926, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company secured a ninety-nine year lease for nearly one million acres of land from the Liberian government to establish one of the world’s largest rubber plantations. To help the company understand the conditions and challenges it faced, Firestone sponsored a team of Harvard University scientists and physicians to conduct a four-month-long biological and medical survey. Loring Whitman, a Harvard medical student, served as the expedition’s official photographer, and his work includes the earliest known surviving motion picture footage of Liberia. The moving images and still photographs offer a perspective shaped by the early-twentieth-century, “Western,” world-view of the American scientists. At the same time, the footage and photographs offer a valuable historical record of the peoples, cultural traditions, and landscapes of Liberia at a time of rapid economic, cultural, and environmental change.

A Liberian Journey homepage
RRCHNM’s Sheila Brennan and Ken Albers collaborated with the team for nearly three years to develop this digital public history and community-sourcing site. The site is designed minimally for mobile devices first, in the Omeka platform, to ensure that anyone can access the site especially in areas with limited internet connectivity. A Liberian Journey adds to the Center’s portfolio of global digital humanities projects.

In the coming months, CNDRA will invite individuals to share meaningful stories and images about Liberia’s past. Additional online exhibits will combine community contributions with the Firestone expedition sources to give voice, meaning, and historical context to the lives, cultures, and histories of the Liberian people.