Category Archives: digital history

My Day of DH 2016: or, Why I’m Not at OAH, not to mention why this post isn’t on the Day of DH blog

It’s not about OAH, it’s about the fun of scheduling an international workshop/conference. And I’ll go to OAH tomorrow. So please don’t hate me.

For the past couple of days, my colleagues and I have been deeply absorbed in discussing transcription and markup of what I’ve elsewhere referred to as historical financial records. I have been doing what I can to tweet out at least minimal information about the presenters and their titles. We have been using the hashtag #MEDEAWC.

This week’s conference follows up on one that our group held in Regensburg in October (#MEDEARGB).  And I’m enormously pleased to have been able to expand our group of participants this time to include additional historians from Europe, North America, and Asia.

The purpose of this post is only to recognize in this space the facts that we are doing DH on Day of DH and doing Digital History (perhaps as an unofficial concurrent session?) during OAH. And to note that MEDEA (Modeling semantically Enhanced Digital Edition of Accounts) is part of the larger scholarly communities concerned with accounts, history, and digital methods.


This project is supported jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) is the central, selfgoverning research funding organization that promotes research at universities and other publicly financed research institutions in Germany. The DFG serves all branches of science and the humanities by funding research projects and facilitating cooperation among researchers.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the United States government dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

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Filed under digital history, MEDEA

Getting Started with Digital History in the Classroom

Here is the information from my introductory level workshops at this year’s Getting Started in Digital History workshop at the AHA Annual Meeting. Since WordPress and PowerPoint don’t play well together, I have distilled the pretty slides with the ink blots into an annotated list of resources.

An Important Book

T. Mills Kelly, Teaching History in the Digital Age (University of Michigan Press, 2013).

Kelly considers how digital tools can helps us teach students how to think historically and takes the reader through progressively more sophisticated questions from website analysis through “Making Sense of a Million Sources” to presenting and making.

And Catherine Denial at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, has a great handout on website analysis.

Presenting and Making: Is There a Difference?

Lying about the Past, T. Mills Kelly, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia

Hannah Atlas: Becoming African and American, Julian Chambliss, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida

Critical Making or Open Design

Matt Ratto, University of Toronto

Tools and How Some People Have Used Them

WordPress (plus…)

Michelle Moravec, Rosemont College, Rosemont, Pennsylvania


Jeffrey W. McClurken, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia

W. Caleb McDaniel, Rice University, Houston, Texas

History Harvest, Open Access, Oral History

Jack Dougherty, Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut


An Omeka Plugin from Scholars Lab at the University of Virginia


Wheaton College Digital History Project

Kathryn Tomasek, Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts

TEI, History Engine,

Texas Slavery Project

Andrew J. Torget, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas

Visualizing Emancipation

Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia

Pick Your Poison

Questions, Partners, Explorations

Collaborate with Librarians

Contingent Faculty Members, Host a Domain or Use

Use this Process Checklist that Rebecca Frost Davis and I put together in 2011.

Embrace Imperfection

Fail Better

Have Fun!

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Filed under digital history, digital tools, teaching

Omeka Follow-Up

This post is inspired in part by Ryan Cordell’s ProfHacker post on developing strategies for writing productivity. He describes his current writing group’s use of Wendy Belcher‘s Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks and some of the principles he is putting into practice. Those are tools I used a few years ago, and I’m watching with interest to learn how well they work for Ryan and his colleagues.

Another inspiration for this post lies in growing interest in developing principles for evaluating digital scholarship, an interest that I see expressed not only in the American Historical Association’s ad hoc Committee on the Professional Evaluation of Digital Publications by Historians, on which I have the privilege of serving, but many other places as well. Most notable today is the Google doc that Adeline Koh has started for establishing “ideal language for assessing promotion and tenure for digital scholarship.”

And a final inspiration comes from a wish to document the kinds of work I am doing during my sabbatical and the time it takes to do them. This latter comes in part from some things I have noticed as a result of the kinds of work Ryan describes in the ProfHacker piece. For me, narrating the process of research and writing as I engage in them helps me with that engagement. A trick I developed when I was using Wendy Becker’s very helpful tools back in 2011 was just writing about the writing process as a warm-up to my daily fifteen minutes.

Now, I also have the incentive of wanting to think through and be able to express for my colleagues in many contexts the joys and challenges that come with having chosen digital platforms as the best media for publication of the research and teaching that I have been doing for the past ten years. When I began to explore digital scholarship, I did not realize how much I would need to learn myself about the technologies that underlie pretty presentation on the inter webs. And some of my colleagues–including my co-author–have attempted to dissuade me from thinking that I need to learn XPath, XSLT, and a host of other languages that my humanist brain is less than ideally suited to understand.

But I am even more convinced now than I was in 2011 when I started to learn a little bit about WordPress that being able to do the sorts of things I want to do with and for digital scholarship entails learning how to do some technical things for myself rather than relying on technical “experts” to do them for me. (I find myself wanting to do an embarrassing girl power dance here….)

So finally, today’s sabbatical narrative is this:

After I completed the Dreamhost one-click installation of Omeka to this domain yesterday, I recalled something I had already learned when I performed the same task for last year. That one-click installation is for Omeka 1.5.3, and Omeka 2.0+ has been operating for some time now.

As has been the case ever since I started teaching myself applications in the mid-1980s (that was WordPerfect, in case anyone is keeping score), becoming comfortable with each new tool is an iterative process. Bumbling through setting up a sub-domain and a db.ini file and the various other set-up details does get easier over time, even though I do forget how to use each tool in between moments when I take the time to engage with them.

I became reacquainted with this process when I started to learn TEI. Although I say this as though it is a joke, it really did take three times sitting through the Introduction to TEI with Julia Flanders and Syd Bauman before I began to feel comfortable enough with XML/TEI to work with the files. And taking the full week to do that at DHSI with my research assistant Lauren Pfendner helped a lot.

So having taken roughly a week to set up my new Omeka repository and still having ahead of me installing the update feels more like success than it does a setback to me. I have learned that this tortoise-like progress is progress nevertheless. The installation of the update will go more quickly, and the iterativity of my learning is simply a fact of the life of the digital humanist, or at least of the kind of digital humanist I choose to be.

Over the next couple of days, I will be installing the Omeka upgrade, converting TIFs to JPGs, uploading them, and then turning to an old version of a TEI transcription that I will need to update for compatibility with the contextual files that I have been working on with a different research assistant–John Burnett–over the past couple of years.

Doing the work of a digital humanities project happens with almost unbelievable slowness when your day job is teaching at a residential liberal arts college. I document that work here in the hope that it will serve to assist my colleagues who are transforming our understanding of scholarship for our ever more digital age.


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Filed under digital history, digital humanities, productivity

Digital History at AHA 2014

Now that the focus on holiday giving is almost over (see this short humorous bit from the New Yorker on Boxing Day and its meanings for a sideways indication of what I mean by “almost”–boxing up goods for the unfortunate, what a concept!), I am turning my attention to wrapping up preparations for AHA 2014.

It’s been a long time since I’ve attended the AHA annual meeting.  I thought I might compare my avoidance to  Miriam Posner‘s, but then I realized that her first AHA was in 2004.  I interviewed for my current job in 1992.  Sigh.  

My own avoidance began with an early-career academic’s sense that the annual meeting was for those involved in job searches from one side or the other.  And more recently, I found myself having other obligations during the first week in January, obligations associated with my involvement in digital humanities and initiatives focused on integrating digital humanities into the undergraduate curriculum.  I’m very pleased to say that this year my ongoing explorations in digital humanities and digital history have come together to bring me back to the AHA.

In November’s Perspectives the new AHA Director of Scholarly Communication and Digital Initiatives, Seth Denbo,  contributed a piece on digital history at AHA 2014.  There are numerous sessions during the meeting proper, as well as a pre-conference workshop on “How to Get Started in Digital History” and THATCamp AHA2014 on the final day of the conference, Sunday, January 5.

I’ll be presenting in one of the digital history sessions focused on the various places we use digital tools to teach history, both in and out of the classroom.  I’m looking forward to hearing what my fellow panelists Steve Lubar and Julian Chambliss have to say about their work in public history and local history projects respectively.

I’m also excited to be presenting my work on TEI-compatible markup for financial records during the poster session on Saturday, January 4.  I’ve gotten great feedback on this work from my colleagues in the TEI community, and I’ll be pleased to discuss it with other historians at AHA.


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Filed under digital history