CHNM‘s Histories: Digital History and Teaching History

Cross-posted from Stephen Robertson’s blog. This is the second in a series of posts about aspects of RRCHNM’s history written to mark the Center’s 20th anniversary.

No sooner had I published my blog post on the differences between digital history and digital humanities than I realized that I had blurred a crucial difference between digital history and digital humanities: digital history has been far more focused on teaching than digital humanities. In my earlier post I collapsed teaching projects into the broader category of presenting material online; doing so masked a sharper distinction in activity around teaching. Digital humanities, while not unconcerned with teaching, has given it far less attention relative to research than digital history, and, that attention has focused on teaching digital approaches, methods and tools. By contrast, digital history has focused on teaching history, has been “engaged in the project of improving the quality of classroom teaching practices and learning outcomes,” as Steve Brier put it, by using digital media to develop resources and professional development for teachers of K-12 and undergraduate students. The scale and reach of these projects warrants far greater attention to them than they have received in discussions of digital humanities. RRCHNM’s earliest teaching project, History Matters, (more…)

One month until RRCHNM’s 20th Anniversary Conference

RRCHNM’s 20th anniversary is now only one month away. Over 100 people have registered to attend the free, two-day event on November 14 and 15. There is still time to join us – details and the registration form can be found here. More details of the schedule will be released soon.

As part of lead-up to the conference, RRCHNM’s director, Stephen Robertson, is writing a series of blog posts highlighting different aspects of the Center’s history. The first, CHNM’s Histories: Collaboration in Digital History, explores the Center’s early collaborations with the American Social History Project.

RRCHNM Partners with National History Day for WWII Teacher Institute

National History Day (NHD) announced the 18 middle and high school teachers selected to participate in the American Battle Monuments Commission’s (ABMC) Understanding Sacrifice program. The selected teachers will conduct an in-depth study of World War II in northern Europe and create teaching activities using ABMC resources.

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is partnering with NHD in this year-long program and will design the companion website to share the classroom activities developed through the teacher institute. The goal of the project is to provide classroom activities that are:

  • Accurate: grounded in current scholarship about WWII, the evolving role of ABMC, and the commemoration of WWII;
  • Engaging: shaped by recent research on teaching and learning about the past and focused on hands-on student interaction that promotes active learning — “doing history” — as well as learning from multiple disciplinary perspectives; and
  • Relevant: cross-curricular, flexible, and adaptable for a diverse range of middle and high school classroom settings.

In late October, the group will host the first teacher workshop on Mason’s Arlington Campus and will work with teachers throughout the year to develop activities. The institute culminates in a two-week field study of ABMC cemeteries in northern Europe.

“NHD is constantly looking for new opportunities to (more…)

IMLS funds Opening Omeka for Close and Distant Reading

RRCHNM is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a National Leadership Grant for Libraries from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund Opening Omeka for Close and Distant Reading [LG-05-14-00125-14].

Over the course of the two decades since the invention of the web browser, the world’s libraries have provided digital access to a torrent of cultural heritage materials. For many libraries and special collections, Omeka has been the route to providing this kind of unprecedented public access to their holdings. While access to digitized materials is better than ever, average users do not have adequate tools to help them gain intellectual control over these materials—up close and at scale.

Libraries and archives with diverse collections need a new set of easy-to-use tools to enable visitors to engage in both distant and close reading, without requiring users to have knowledge of sophisticated programming languages. In some collections, an individual item may appear trivial and anecdotal. But, examining all items as a coherent corpus holds the promise of surfacing larger insights by evaluating large bodies of text in the aggregate. While some researchers interested in examining large-scale collections, researchers often also need to closely examine individual elements. This practice (more…)

IMLS Funds Omeka Everywhere

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, in partnership with Ideum and the University of Connecticut’s Digital Media Center, is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a National Leadership Grant for Museums from the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences to create Omeka Everywhere. Dramatically increasing the possibilities for visitor access to collections, Omeka Everywhere will offer a simple, cost-effective solution for connecting onsite web content and in-gallery multi-sensory experiences, affordable to museums of all sizes and missions, by capitalizing on the strengths of two successful collections-based open-source software projects: Omeka and Open Exhibits.

Currently, museums are expected to engage with visitors, share content, and offer digitally-enabled experiences everywhere: in the museum, on the Web, and on social media networks. These ever-increasing expectations, from visitors to museum administrators, place a heavy burden on the individuals creating and maintaining these digital experiences. Content experts and museum technologists often become responsible for multiple systems that do not integrate with one another. Within the bounds of tight budget, it is increasingly difficult for institutions to meet visitors’ expectations and to establish a cohesive digital strategy. Omeka Everywhere will provide a solution to these difficulties by developing a (more…)

A New Look, and Improved Access and Stability for the September 11 Digital Archive

On this the 13th anniversary of the September 11th tragedy, the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is proud to launch a newly upgraded and redesigned site for the September 11 Digital Archive (911DA). The new site boasts improved access to the archive’s collections and, more importantly, increased stability for the materials.

A National Park Services’ Saving America’s Treasures grant has made it possible to migrate the materials from their original digital repository to the most recent version of Omeka. The result is that the materials are significantly easier to navigate, browse, and search. Additionally, a range of video collections are available that were not being served previously. The site offers range of data feeds (RSS, ATOM, XML, JSON), and eventually we will be offering API access for researchers and developers who would like to explore the collections in new applications and interfaces.

For the past three years, Jim Safley has painstakingly engineered and executed the complex work of this data migration. As a veteran of the project, no one knows the collections the way that Jim does, and his careful attention to detail has assured the integrity of this data as it has made its journey from a labyrinthine hand-coded (more…)

Virginia Child Custody Project

ChildCustodyProjectThe Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is pleased to announce the launch of the Virginia Child Custody Project. This freely available website explores child custody in Virginia and nationally within a broad historical and legal context with the goal of providing an impartial, interdisciplinary resource grounded in humanities scholarship.

With funding from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University, the website presents framing essays by leading scholars and practitioners on key issues in the complex field of child custody. Essays address topics such as the history of child custody in Virginia, the definition of family and child custody issues, child custody in the media, alternative dispute resolution, and the “best interests of the child” standard.

Authors include:

Doing Digital History in August

RRCHNM continued its summer of institutes in early August when 23 mid-career American historians arrived in Northern Virginia for “Doing Digital History.” Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Digital Humanities, the institute began on August 4 and ran for two weeks. Few of the participants expected to keep up with the workload of the intensive curriculum, but 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.


The “Doing Digital History” Cohort (Photo courtesy of Karen Kossie-Chernyshev)

Sheila Brennan and Sharon Leon led the group through a course designed to introduce historians, already established in their subject areas, to digital humanities scholarship, methods, and tools relevant to their own research and teaching in American history. Readings and discussions were coupled with demonstrations and hands-on work. Our participants created their own web domain, installed WordPress, and started blogging on Day 1. Megan Brett, Stephanie Grimes, Celeste Sharpe, and Spencer Roberts assisted throughout the institute by leading tutorials and supporting the participants. For example, Roberts created the “Historian’s Spreadsheet,” a guide to using simple functions in Excel for tidying data that was then widely (more…)

Art Historians, Rebuilding their Portfolios

RRCNHM hosted an enthusiastic group of 22 art historians, librarians, and museum professionals for “Rebuilding the Portfolio,” a digital art history institute sponsored by the Getty Foundation. The self-identified novice participants began the institute on July 8, 2014 nervous and worried about the workload, but emerged two weeks later as confident, digital ambassadors.

During the institute, nicknamed “bootcamp” by some of the participants, Sheila Brennan and Sharon Leon led the cohort through an intense course designed to introduce art historians to digital humanities scholarship, methods, and tools, while also directly connecting with their own work in art history. Readings and discussions were coupled with demonstrations and hands-on work. Megan Brett, Stephanie Grimes, Celeste Sharpe, and Spencer Roberts drew on their own digital work as graduate students in the history and art history program by leading demonstrations and supporting the participants in countless ways.

Rebuilding the Portfolio cohort, annotated in ThingLink by participant, Gina Tarver

Each participant registered a new web domain of their own; installed Zotero, WordPress, and Omeka; and learned to annotate, plot maps, tidy data, and visualize that data in different forms. Personal reflections of Rebuilding the Portfolio participants were aggregated and are available on the course site, with help of (more…)

Inside Higher Ed Blog Post on Online Education

Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media graduate research assistants, Nate Sleeter and Celeste Sharpe, and education division director Kelly Schrum will collaborate on a series of blog posts for Inside Higher Ed on the possibilities for student-centered online learning in the humanities. Drawing on experiences from RRCHNM-developed online courses for teachers including Hidden in Plain Sight http://edchnm.gmu.edu/hidden/, the series of three posts will explore the possibilities of online courses in the humanities.

As the authors write: “We will share lessons learned about what online learning environments can offer students. Thinking beyond the MOOC-related hype, what opportunities exist in online education? Does online education push us to rethink and re-envision our approach to teaching and learning? How do we take advantage of online classes for teaching history?”

Given that these courses are increasingly offered by universities as options for students whose schedules might not permit weekly attendance in a traditional course the authors believe it is vitally important to move beyond notions like “flipping the classroom” and the often acrimonious debate over MOOCs to serious discussions over online pedagogy in the humanities. Read the first post of the series here: http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-beta/beyond-flipping-classrooms.