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.

Who Built America? to Become OER with Revamped History Matters Content

With funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities, RRCHNM is partnering with the American Social History Project (ASHP) at the City University of New York on Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s History. This project creates an updated, completely free, open education resource (OER) and continues a 38-year effort to make social and labor history accessible to the broad public — a core commitment of Roy Rosenzweig’s.

The project will update content from the History Matters website, developed by RRCHNM in 1998, including over 1,000 annotated primary sources in the site’s Many Pasts section and vital historical thinking resources in Making Sense of Evidence. The updated site will supplement the 2-volume Who Built America? textbook and ASHP’s varied multimedia teaching resources from the Who Built America? CD-ROMs to create the free online textbook. The new Who Built America? site will guarantee that the highly used History Matters resources will continue to be available and sustainable in the future for teachers and students of U.S. history.

Next Steps for Tropy

We’re delighted to announce the funding of a second phase of development for Tropy, the free and open-source software that helps humanities researchers use digital images gathered from archives.

With the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Tropy will enable cloud storage and remote access of research images, metadata, and archival templates over the next two years. Tropy will also significantly expand the range of media it imports and expose that media and metadata to computational analysis.

To introduce and demonstrate Tropy and its new features to a variety of audiences, our team will offer training workshops at regional centers of higher education in the United States and abroad. The first workshops will take place at Northeastern University in Boston on November 13.

We’ll announce new features and releases of Tropy on the project blog as they become available. Thanks for trusting Tropy with your research and for letting us know how it works for you; we look forward to making it even better with your feedback.

Workshop to Develop Digital History Articles for a Special Issue of the Journal of Social History

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and the Journal of Social History with generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seeks historians to participate in a series of workshops that will develop articles based on digital research to be published in a special issue of JSH. Scholars will receive travel funding to participate in three workshops, facilitated by Matt Karush and Sam Lebovic (editors of the JSH) and Stephen Robertson and Lincoln Mullen (at RRCHNM), to help them develop their research from digital projects into journal articles that speak to historiographical conversations in their specific fields.

The first one-day workshop in March 2019 will focus on two-page outlines prepared in advance by each participant. Those outlines will each be workshopped by the group in the course of the day, with the goal of ensuring that the authors leave with a clear framework around which to construct their argument. A second two-day workshop in August 2019 will focus on complete drafts of the articles and provide each author with a close critique and feedback to use in refining the draft for submission in January 2020. The final one-day workshop in June 2020 will be devoted to revising the manuscripts in response to the peer reviews. Authors will annotate online versions of their articles to serve as models for digital history argumentation. These will appear on a site hosted by RRCHNM. The workshops will be held at George Mason University, in Arlington, VA.

The Journal of Social History is a leading journal in social and cultural history, widely recognized for its high-quality and innovative scholarship. Since its founding in 1967, it has served as a catalyst for many of the most important developments in the history profession as a whole. The JSH publishes articles covering all areas and periods and has played an important role in integrating work in Latin American, African, Asian and Eastern European history with socio-historical analysis in Western Europe and the United States.

All submissions will be sent out for peer review to two experts in the relevant subfield. Participation in the workshop does not guarantee acceptance for publication.

Historians who are interested in participating should send a one-page description of their research which makes an initial attempt to explain how they will use digital history methods or collections to advance historiographical conversations within their specific subfields. Send materials to lmullen@gmu.edu by December 17, 2018. Scholars selected to participate will commit to traveling to the workshops and to submitting a complete manuscript to JSH. We encourage submissions from scholars at all stages in their careers, all levels of experience with digital history, and all fields of history, and from women, racial and ethnic minorities, and other individuals who are under-represented in the historical profession.

World History Commons receives NEH Award

We are delighted to announce an award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to create World History Commons in partnership with the World History Association and Associate Professor Adam Clulow of Monash University (Australia).

World History Commons, an Open Educational Resource (OER), will provide high quality, peer-reviewed resources for teaching and research in world and global history. World History Commons will introduce new humanities scholarship and pedagogy while preserving and enhancing widely-used resources from World History Matters, the award-winning, NEH-funded collection of world history websites, and the Global History Reader, a collaboration between scholars at Monash University and Warwick University (UK).

World History Commons is one of 15 Digital Humanities Advancement Grants funded through the Office of Digital Humanities.

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.


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.