Blog Post

Discovering the Americas and Digital Humanites Together


This semester I have the privilege of sitting in on a graduate seminar at Vanderbilt University aimed at introducing graduate students to the digital humanities. The class, co-taught by professors Holly Tucker and Lynn Ramey from the Department of French and Italian, along with Dr. Todd Hughes, Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Second Language Studies, is the first of its kind (to the best of my knowledge) here at Vanderbilt. I am excited to be participating and I will be posting/cross-posting my thoughts about the discussions we have as a class.


To give substance and focus to our foray into the digital humanities, we will be working on contributing to a larger project devoted to analyzing the multiple discoveries of (encounters with) the American continent by European explorers. Our starting point will be the travel narrative of Sir John Mandeville, a copy of which was carried by Columbus on his voyage across the Atlantic.


As we study this text, we will be exploring many digital tools that, for most of us, are completely new. We will also be discussing the broader development of the digital humanities, including a discussion next week with the university's legal counsel about issues of copyright and creative commons. Our class will be collaborating and sharing ideas via a blog at and our friends at HASTAC are invited to read and comment about what we are doing. I've also encouraged my classmates to consult HASTAC's resources for digital humanists and engage in discussion with others undertaking similar projects. I'm looking forward to an exciting semester bringing digital humanities to Vanderbilt.



Thanks to both of you for your comments. I'll be reposting the information to our blog as well. I look forward to collaborating.

Steven, I appreciate your passion for teaching. Having done my undergraduate work at a small state university, I understand that it can be difficult to interest your students in moving toward a more formalized approach of academic scholarship. Your teaching methodology reminds me of a professor whose course on Don Quixote impacted the trajectory of my own academic career, including the direction of my entire dissertation.

AnaMaria, OAAP looks like an excellent project and a great resource for what we are doing. I have to say I am impressed with the format and searchability of the online collection as well. Thanks for sharing!


Thank you for posting the information about the Discovering the America’s course/project in which you are involved.  Not only will I enjoy following your progress, but your efforts will help my students as well.

Although I teach at a community college and all of my students are freshmen or sophomores, I attempt to teach my classes like graduate courses.  Part of the challenge of this model is that my students--unlike you and your colleague--do not have significant background in either American history or with the research/writing skills employed by historians.  However, over the years, this has not been a serious problem.

My undergraduates do not have the same intellectual training as graduate students, but they do have the capacity to make decisions about what is important to them, pursue their research interests under the direction of a faculty mentor, and contribute to the class by sharing their research.

I look forward to following the progress of you and your colleagues during the semester.  When appropriate, my students and I will make our contributions to you and I hope that you will be able to contribute to our work as well.

(I reposted "Discovering the Early Americas and Digital Humanities Together" on the Early American History blog I use for a class I teach where I have also posted this reply.)



I will add my thanks for your post. Studying the Americas through digital humanities and digital archives is something I very interested in hearing more about. As a graduate assistant that has worked on the Our Americas Archive Partnership, I am excited to see where this class takes students. If you have checked out the OAAP, it might prove a very helpful resource for the class. If you haven't seen it, here is my blog post from awhile back on the project. It provides a quick introduction to the OAAP: "Building an Archive: Baking a Cake." 

We are constantly looking for new ways to make the OAAP more accessible to a range of scholars and students. I am interested to hear about the different resources that arise in this seminar, and how different digital humanities projects "discover" the Americas.