The semester is in full swing, and I am sure that like me you are extremely busy. I thought I would take a minute to talk about a recent assignment I assigned my students utilizing a digital humanities project. This is also a request for others to share their experiences using digital humanities to get students engaged in our fields.
Briefly, I recently asked my students to use the Slave Voyages website. I assigned them a particular ship, which in this case was one that left from Boston, Massachusetts. They were then asked to compare and contrast this ship to others from roughly the same period answering the question "Was the voyage of the Neptune indicative of the slave trade as a whole?" This was intentionally open-ended to allow them to pursue their investigation in any way they saw fit.
The results were pretty mixed. Many students felt that the assignment needed more structure, or they found the database confusing. Oftentimes, they became frustrated by the lack of information available. After some reflection, I think that this assignment is useful but requires a lot more preparatory work before setting students loose in the database.
So, I am curious. Have any of you ever had an assignment that you thought would be really great, and it ended up not working out quite as well as you expected? I am curious to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Hello, Everyone! A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook the other day about obscure Medieval texts which have been translated and posted online as part of Stanford's Global Medieval Sourcebook. As I am teaching a section of History of Civilization to 1500 this semester it immediately caught my attention. What is really exciting about this project is its attempt to offer a global perspective. This first release has material from China to France. The images alone are fantastic! It is also a collaborative project that seeks to have scholars help supply context to the documents. If you are interested, check out the project here.
Let me know what you think about this new resource in the comments below. We will be adding a full review of this new resource in the near future!
It has been a while since I have blogged for this site. The spring semester got crazy, and then I spent quite a bit of my summer visiting archives and working on research projects. I spent two weeks at the end of May working in the National Army Museum archive in London and back at the British Library. I wanted to take a quick moment to encourage you all to provide a review for any archives you may have visited recently.
In other news, I am preparing two new classes for the Fall semester, so I will be adding more US focused digital archives over the next couple of months. I hope you have had a productive summer filled with research and writing, or just relaxation. Please contact us for information about contributing to the site!
It's been a while since I have uploaded a new blog entry. To be honest, I got totally swamped by the semester. I had the opportunity to teach a U.S. History survey class this semester that focused on the end of Reconstruction to the present. One of the unifying themes that my students and I have discussed is the use of racial violence to support white supremacy in the United States from the end of Reconstruction to the present. At times, this has been an emotional and fraught experience. I recently came across an article in the Smithsonian Magazine that talked about a new digital history project that maps every incident of racial violence or lynchings from 1877 to the present nationwide. It provides details about every lynching recorded. This is an amazing resource, and I cannot wait to share it with my students soon.
I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment below. Please feel free to contribute your own tips, hints, or resources in a blog entry on this site!
I hope everyone has had a great holiday season! I've spent a significant part of the break continuing to look for new digital history projects that we can discuss here at Research Freedom. I am also preparing to teach two new classes this spring, so I have been really interested in new potential teaching tools. This is where Histography comes in. It's a new interactive historical timeline, where every dot represents a significant moment in world history. The great thing about this is that it allows you to access the Wikipedia page for additional information.
I also really like the "Editorial Stories" part of the site. This provides access to videos, the Wikipedia page, and related resources. This is a more in-depth discussion of the topics. I think that this will be a great way for students to visualize history, and I am looking forward to showing my classes this Spring.
Check out Histography for yourself. Let me know what you think below.
The Liberated Africans Project explores what happened to 200,000 emancipated Africans as a part of the international movement to abolish the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The really interesting thing about this project is that it is extremely collaborative. One of the major issues with researching this topic has been that the information is spread in archives across the world and in multiple languages. The key source material for this project are the Vice Admiralty Courts. These courts handled all of the cases where the British Navy seized slave ships off the coast of Africa. This site is currently under development, but it will eventually have thousands of records from Cuba, Brazil, and Sierra Leone. Aside from the Vice Admiralty Courts, the site also contains an image library that is really useful. This is a great teaching resource.
Image Credit: The Liberated Africans Project
See our resource review here.
I came across this really interesting new Digital Humanities project called HistoryQuest DC the other day. It is an interactive GIS map that provides historic data on over 127,000 buildings. I think what I like the most about this project are the multiple layers of data available with the click of a button. It contains information on historic neighborhoods, allows you to trace the development of the city from the 1790s until now, and even lets you look at DC as L'Enfant planned it in the 1790s.
The project has its beginning with the DC Historic Buildings Permit database. According to the creators, this database provided 85% of the data used to create the maps. However, this is chronologically limited. The office issued its first permit in 1877 and ended operations in 1949. This is a project in development, and as such it will continue to become even more impressive over the next few years.
Check out the project here.
There's a really fascinating article in the Washington Post Lifestyle section about the history of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. from its original plan in 1791 to today. While this is not really "research" focused, it does make for an interesting discussion on public engagement and the use of digital sources to tell stories. The use of maps, though modern, shows how the mall transformed over the past 225 years.
The article demonstrates the many ways in which public pressure has resulted in the configuration of the Mall. It is the most sought after space in Washington, D.C. with various interest groups seeking to open their own museums/monuments to key figures. We've seen this over the last couple of decades as women seek to get permission and funds to build the Women's History Museum. There is also a significant move towards opening a Latin American history museum on the Mall. In 2003, Congress essentially called the project of the National Mall complete. Yet, we saw the opening of the African American History and Culture museum this year, and there is a new reception space opening by the Vietnam War memorial this year.
The National Mall represents one of the most important public spaces in the United States. It has been the site of the most important protests and rallies in our recent history from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech to the Million-Man March. This space has a fascinating history.
I recently saw an article in the Smithsonian Magazine that is really exciting. In April 2015, Queen Elizabeth II ordered the release of a treasure trove of over 350,000 documents from the reign of King George III including an intimate day by day, almost minute by minute, account of the American War of Independence. This provides an intensely personal account of King George III that challenges the current way we view this war. It challenges the portrayal of him as a solely political figure or as the "mad king." The really exciting news is that these will be available digitally starting in January 2017! This will be a great new resource for scholars focusing on Britain, the United States, and the Atlantic World.
I ran across this really interesting blog entry on The Junto, which is a collaborative Early American history blog. Casey Schmitt discusses the problems associated with determining the veracity of her source base, which in this case is super interesting pirate narratives. However, I think the issue is one that we all face. As we are in the archives, we are constantly faced with potentially unreliable sources. I work with soldiers' diaries, and I constantly face the same questions. Soldiers exhibited a camaraderie with each other, and they frequently took sides in disputes between officers and men. At times, one has to question how accurate the source might be. We all account for biases in our work. So, I am going to put out the same question that Schmitt asked in her blog, how should we handle sources that might not be at all truthful? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.