Omeka S 1.0 Beta Release

Omeka S LogoThe Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University is pleased to announce the public beta release of Omeka S (1.0), the next-generation, open source web-publishing platform that is fully integrated into the scholarly communications ecosystem and designed to serve the needs of medium to large institutional users who wish to launch, monitor, and upgrade many sites from a single installation.

Though Omeka S is a completely new software package, it shares the same goals and principles of Omeka Classic that users have come to love: a commitment to cost-effective deployment and design, an intuitive user interface, open access to data and resources, and interoperability through standardized data.

Created with funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Omeka S is engineered to ease the burdens of administrators who want to make it possible for their end-user communities to easily build their own sites that showcase digital cultural heritage materials.

  • Colleges and universities that want to encourage their faculty and students to develop online publications that make use of special collections and digitized materials will find Omeka S
  • Museums and historical societies that would like to create a digital exhibit to accompany the many physical exhibits and installations at their institutions can turn to Omeka S as way to efficiently administer that digital work and reuse digitized collections.
  • Individual researchers interested in publishing linked open data will find Omeka S a reliable solution for creating and maintaining research collections, and for publishing new scholarship.

While the Items remain the core of Omeka S, the new software is designed to capitalize on linked data standards for item description. Omeka S uses JavaScript Object Notation-Linked Data (JSON-LD) as its native data format and ships with popular RDF vocabularies, which make it possible to enmesh Omeka S in the semantic web and to connect to aggregators like the Digital Public Library of America.

After users create and describe their items or import materials from a range of external repositories for access in a shared pool of items, Omeka S allows them to create and publish individual sites. Sites are built by creating pages, selecting from a range of layout blocks for those pages, and attaching items or media from the pool of resources selected for use with the site. As Modules extend Omeka S functionality, they can also add page layout blocks, such as a map or a collecting form. Site Themes can be customized in a number of ways, including with the addition of a logo and the selection of colors for styling elements.

Developers will appreciate that Omeka S’s Read/Write REST API enables all of the major software actions, such as the creation of users, items, item sets, and sites. This infrastructure makes it possible to easily create modules that extend Omeka S’s core capacities.

Omeka S users will find extensive documentation written for developers and end users to guide them in learning more about working with the software.

The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial Website

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is pleased to introduce The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial website, an interactive teaching resource focused on one of the most famous legal cases of the early modern period.

The Amboyna trial took place on a remote island in Southeast Asia where Dutch authorities accused a group of English merchants and Japanese mercenaries of plotting to seize control of a Dutch East India Company fort. The trial, which culminated in a mass execution in the public square in front of Amboyna castle, poisoned relations between two emerging European superpowers, the Dutch Republic and England, and changed the course of the spice race in Asia. The site explores the events on Amboyna, the race for spices, and the politics of torture and waterboarding.

amboynaThe Amboyna Conspiracy Trial is the product of a long-term collaboration between Dr. Adam Clulow (Monash University, Australia) and RRCHNM. It was funded by the Research Accelerator Program at Monash University.

There are several ways to navigate The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial. Exhibits offer a curated path through the case, key participants, controversy over torture, and the long aftermath of the trial. A timeline allows visitors to explore how the trial played out day by day. The Archive provides access to relevant primary sources, including official documents, legal sources, and images. Teaching presents strategies for using Amboyna in the classroom, modeling ways to build on student fascination with trials and forensic investigation to explore the past.

The heart of the site is Your Verdict, an interactive trial engine that places students in the role of juror. For close to four hundred years, the debate over what actually happened on Amboyna in 1623 has continued. English scholars have insisted that there was no plot and that the trial constituted nothing more than the judicial murder of innocents, while Dutch historians argue that a conspiracy existed and hence that the legal proceedings were justified. Your Verdict draws website visitors into the heart of the case, offering evidence and the responsibility of weighing that evidence to determine guilt or innocence. Watch students who pilot tested the site discuss their deliberations.

The Amboyna Conspiracy Trial is part of RRCHNM’s World History Matters portal offering rich resources for teaching and learning about world history.

Meet the Gerda Henkel Postdoctoral Fellow for Digital History

Gabor TothIn early September, the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media welcomed Gabor M. Toth, Assistant Professor at the University of Passau, as the first Gerda Henkel postdoctoral fellow in digital history. This fellowship is intended to support junior scholars working in the field of digital history.

Prior to arriving in the US, Toth was a visiting fellow of the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities. He completed his PhD at the University of Oxford in 2014 specializing in the history of the Italian Renaissance.

During this academic year, Toth will be using computational linguistics and text mining techniques to analyze oral history transcriptions of Holocaust survivors. He wants to explore the memory of the Holocaust by investigating heterogeneity and homogeneity in the interview data, while attempting to answer questions about the ways memory changes over time, and how gender and age shapes recollections in oral histories.  Importantly, he will look for recurrent linguistic patterns in the ways people remember and speak about trauma and persecution.

For those interested in applying for a Henkel Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2016-17, applications are now open:


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:

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 for more information and an application packet. Applications are due September 2, 2016.