Blog Post

Looking for Digital History Examples

Fellow HASTACers,

This Friday I'm giving a lecture in Introduction to Public History, the class at Northeastern for which I'm the TA. The title of my talk is "Public History 2.0." My goal is to introduce the students to the world of digital history and to show them examples of how digital history can enhance the opportunities of a public historian. Hopefully I'll be discussing lots of interesting DH stuff without ever actually using the term "digital humanities." 

I'd be grateful for some help from the HASTAC community in getting awesome examples of how you use or have seen digital history par excellence. I've already amassed many examples, but I'm fully aware that there are way more good examples out there than I could ever know about. Specific areas I'm looking for:

Digital archives/manuscript collections: examples of how digital archives have more to offer than just digitization (wonderful though straight-up digitization is)

Virtual exhibits: examples of how virtual exhibits can allow a museum patron more access in addition to what he/she would see in the brick-and-mortar museum

Industrial archeology: Honestly, this one is a stretch. Anything would be great.

Any other cool DH projects that somehow relate to public history: I'm all ears. Or eyes. I'm especially looking for projects that would be impossible or improbable by means other than digital.

 

If you can help, I'd be very grateful, and my students will be too.

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12 comments

Sounds like a great lecture you are putting together Abby. 

A few of the best tools and blogs for working with digital database material that I have comes across are Paper Machines and Sapping attention. I think I already posted a link to these somewhere as well but in terms of virtual exhibits and digital history projects related to public history, Mapping Richmond's Slave Market is one good example as is Visualizing Emancipation. HASTAC Scholar Joseph Yannielli posted a particularly insightful piece on calculating your Slavery Footprint which you could show your class as well. In terms of mapping, I think that the Justice Mapping Center has some interesting (though problematically named) projects, like the Justice Atlas, that could lead to provocative discussion. Stanford's Spatial History Project has some pretty fascinating projects and the Mapping the Republic of Letters Project is another cool example to use; if early modern period is what you are after, the University of Victoria has an example of an interactive map of early modern London. I will give this some more thought pass links your way as I remember more projects. 

Wishing you all the very best for your class!

 

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Thanks, Ben! I knew about a few of these already but not many. I'll definitely be including some of them.

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Hi Abby -- If useful I have been working closely with the library at Northwestern on a project using the Berkeley Folk Music Festival archive in Northwestern's Special Collections. The topic lends itself to a robust public history dimension both becaues of the topic of "folk festival" and the ways in which we are trying to think about the power of an archive (one day a set of interconnected archives) to inspire research, teaching, and public use as connected activities. More here: http://www.michaeljkramer.net/issuesindigitalhistory/blog/?page_id=807. -- Best, Michael

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Michael,

This looks like a very interesting project! I bookmarked it so that I can continue to check on its progress. I love the idea of folk music archives.

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Hi Abby! Special Collections here at the University of Iowa have recently launched an interesting project called DIY History. This opens up some already digitised manuscripts to the public, asking them to help out by attaching text in the form of transcriptions, tags, and comments. Not only does the academic community benefit from having access to more easily searchable/sortable information, but the public is able to interact with the manuscript holdings in a new way and to have the chance to "do" history in a way they otherwise mightn't.

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Hi Yvonne,

Thanks for linking to your project. I will probably show it to my students, and perhaps some of them will even give you a hand in transcription! 

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I'll plug http://ebba.english.ucsb.edu/ which digitizes 17th-century ballads, transcribes them, sings them, and provides critical essays on the history and genre of the broadside ballad. 

Also, I haven't played with it, but the Holocaust Museum has a Second Life presence.

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Tassie, this is really cool! I love the singing part especially. I'm having trouble figuring out the navigation, though: how do you get to the actual ballads, rather than just info about them?

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Hi Abby, maybe you could find our project www.geacron.com interesting. We would like being useful for you and your students. We have developed an interactive World History Atlas and Timelines since 3000 BC.
Currently, all data shown are linked to online encyclopedias and our intention is to add more links to other historical resources like Europeana.
Our next step will be enhancing our historical information, opening the system to allow contributions from the community in the documentary section. Also, the system will allow web contributors to add their own data like economic, demographic, art, ... and visualize its evolution over time, on our maps.
Best regards,
Luis
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Hi Abby,

Sorry for the late response. Check out the Duke Haiti lab. http://www.fhi.duke.edu/labs/haiti-lab/online-projects. One of the projects is a digital archive of all documents related to Haiti:  http://sites.duke.edu/haitilab/ . The site is available in English, French and Kreyol!

 
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I know I'm probably too late! BUT, this might be helpful/interesting in the future. The Minnesota Historical Society is working with us here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a project using ARIS for an exhibit about the fur trade called Then Now and Wow. They are mixing up mobile and augmented reality to create quite an interest exhibit. Additionally, a museum is Australia is using the same platform for a travelling exhibit called Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb. Also, an example of digital history outside of a museum is Dow Day. It is a situated documentary that resituates history back into the place that it actually occured using augmented reality. Finally, I've personally used this platform to experiment with the idea of creating something similar around Northern Irish history, but don't have a product to share. Hope this helps! 

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Of possible interest, for the online journal space we are developing, Cascadia Chronicle, on the Pacific Northwest, http://www.cascadiachronicle.com/,  we've been experimenting with GoogleEarth-based geospatial tours, that move users through landscapes with narration and associated images and documents popping up. Here's a prototype little tour exploring how Woody Guthrie and Sherman Alexie very differently narrate the same stretch of the Columbia River landscape, with reference to Native American absence or presence: 

http://www.cascadiachronicle.com/pages/geospatialTours/guthrieAlexieTour.html

You'll need to download the latest version of GoogleEarth to watch this, I believe.

As in bricks and mortar museum exhibition design, there's always the question of whether or not users should be taken on a 'forced march' or if they should be left free to explore information-rich environments in any direction that they choose. I suppose we're all trying to feel our way forward on this question. 

 

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