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  2. Illuminating Reno's Divorce Industry

    Between 1900 and 1960, Reno, Nevada served as the divorce capital of the world. This new website seeks to make the history of divorce in Reno more accessible to the public and scholars. This new site provides a glimpse into the variety of divorce cases, both everyday citizens and celebrities, who utilized Nevada's relaxed divorce laws during this period to dissolve their marriages. The database contains hundreds of digitized images, publications, documents, and media. What to Know: The search feature is quite flexible. You can search by theme, decade, format, or keyword. This is an excellent resource for anyone interested in gender/sexuality, marriage and the family, legal, and political history.
  3. The Spectator Archive

    The Spectator first emerged in 1828 promising to "convey intelligence." This archive contains digitized copies of every edition of the newspaper from 1828 to 2008. The Spectator represents an extremely important source for political and cultural information regarding Britain and its colonies. There are two key ways to use the database. First, you can browse by issue if you are looking for a specific date. This is great for providing context. Secondly, you can search the database by keyword, topic, location, or date. The search feature is really quite good with this project. What to Know: Some of the transcriptions are not extremely accurate. Wherever possible, it is much better to actually view the scanned pages. The search feature is really useful, and it seems to do a good job of keeping results fairly accurate.
  4. Colored Conventions

    From 1830 until well after the American Civil War, Free Blacks and Fugitive slaves met in state and national "conventions" to discuss important issues such as education, labor, and legal justice. This new Digital Humanities project seeks to understand the social worlds and collective organizing potential of these conventions. While the delegations were overwhelmingly male, this project also seeks to recover black women's participation and voice. This is an ongoing project, and the developers are actively seeking assistance in transcribing session minutes and other documentation. Perhaps most useful for many of us who teach are the really useful teaching guides included on the website. What to know: This is an ongoing project, so there are areas of the site that seem incomplete at the moment. The search function is limited, but I found it very easy to browse the site.
  5. Histography

    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.
  6. The Liberated Africans Project

    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.
  7. HistoryQuest DC

    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.
  8. The Liberated Africans Project

    The British abolished the Transatlantic Slave Trade in 1807, and in 1808 they seized the colony of Sierra Leone from a company and placed it under state authority in the form of a Vice Admiralty Court. The Vice Admiralty Courts and the British Navy would spend the next six decades patrolling the coast of Africa and seizing illegally captured Africans. In total, the courts would oversee the emancipation of over 200,000 Africans. The Vice Admiralty Courts documents provide a unique lens into the lives and experiences of the enslaved and emancipated. However, they are scattered in numerous archives (throughout multiple countries) and they are often in numerous languages. This meant that it became extraordinarily difficult for one historian to make sense of everything. This is where the Liberated Africans Project comes into play. This is a collaborative project. The aim of the project is to bring together as much data as possible about the 200,000 emancipated persons. What to Know: This is an ongoing project and at this point is a bit limited. Over time, this should become an extraordinarily useful and important project. It should be used in conjunction with the Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database, Slave Biographies: The Atlantic Database Network, and the Ecclesiastical & Secular Sources for Slave Societies database.
  9. 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. Check out the article here.
  10. Studies in Scarlet provides images of over 420 separately published trial narratives from the Harvard Law School Library's extensive collections. The collection provides a number of celebrity cases from Oscar Wilde's sodomy trial to the Queen Caroline Divorce Case. However, perhaps more importantly are the trial transcripts of everyday citizens. This collection provides American, British, and Irish trial transcripts from 1815 to 1914 involving bigamy, domestic violence, seduction, breach of promise, children's custody, alongside rape and murder trials. This provides an extraordinary resource for social and cultural historians, particularly those interested in women's history of the history of gender/sexuality. What to Know: The search function is somewhat limited, but I find the browse by topic option really useful. I really like the fact that you can request to save a document to PDF. If the document is more than ten pages, the site will email you a PDF. This website is particularly suited to having undergraduates do primary source research projects.
  11. British Pathé

    This is one of the most important newsreel archives in Britain, if not in the world. It contains over 85,000 films spanning the years 1896-1976. These are of immense social and cultural importance, and they are made freely available through the website listed above and on a dedicated YouTube channel. This collection includes footage from around the world of major events, science and culture, celebrities, and fashion trends. This material is invaluable for researchers and teachers alike. This provides an intimate glimpse into the British Empire through film. It also provides important cultural, political, and social insight into global events from a unique British perspective. What to Know: You can view the films in their entirety either through the website mentioned above or their dedicated YouTube channel. The search feature works really well. I particularly like to browse by theme option. The breadth of material here is quite astounding. It really is a massively important resource.
  12. Yorkshire Film Archive

    The Yorkshire Film Archive is housed at the York St. John's University. The project seeks to preserve all moving images made in or about Yorkshire with a collection of over 50,000 titles dating from the 1890s to modern day. At the moment, there is about 80 hours worth of film available online. The rest of the collection can be viewed in person, provided that you schedule an appointment in advance. What to Know: The search feature is quite good. I particularly like that you can search by theme. The 80 hours of content online provides an excellent teaching resource to provide a local perspective to often national surveys.
  13. Punch Archive

    Punch was one of the most popular and important newspapers of 19th Century Britain. The magazine began publication in 1841 and continued until 1992. There was a brief attempt to revive publication, but this failed in 2002. This archive seeks to catalogue digitization projects across a broad range of platforms. It forms the closest thing to a central repository of digitized editions of Punch as currently exists. For those unfamiliar with the magazine, Punch was an illustrated satirical and political newspaper published originally by Henry Mayhew (of "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon" fame) and engraver, Ebenezer Landells. The first edition appeared in 1841. The newspaper is best known for its amazing cartoons, really creating the idea of the political cartoon as we know it today. However, the editors insisted on a high literary content as well. The newspaper discussed topics of interest both domestically and throughout the empire. It frequently satirized politicians, particularly Benjamin Disraeli and the Conservatives. It arose during the Chartist movement and entered its golden age in the 1860s and 1870s. This is an absolutely essential source for anyone interested in Victorian social and cultural history. What to know: This site is really just a repository for other digitization projects. There is no search feature. They do not have the full run of Punch. For that, you would need to visit the British Library. However, they have very good coverage from 1850 to 1922.
  14. Historic Hansard, 1803-2005

    This is the official record of the British Parliament from 1803 to 2005. It is important to note that the website provides a limited search function, and the material is presented in a very basic format. Despite these issues, this is an incredibly important resource for anyone interested in British history. This contains records of every parliamentary debate. You can search by year, by individual, or keyword. The site also contains some limited personal information regarding Members of Parliament.
  15. Voluntary Hospitals Database

    This project sought to provide a spatial and temporal analysis of the voluntary hospitals between the 1890s and 1940s. The key questions were: first, how did patterns of provision and utilisation differ by area, and how did these change over time? Second, how did the distribution of charitable financing vary by place, and what were the trends in income and expenditure? John Mohan and Martin Powell, along with their team, created the database between 1996 and 1999 using Oracle at the University of Portsmouth in the UK. In 2008/2009, the database was moved to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The project draws on Burdett’s Hospitals and Charities: The Year Book of Philanthropy and Hospital Annual, published between 1892 and 1930, and then The Hospital's Yearbook, published from 1928. For the period 1921-1928, the team used the following sources: Order of St John’s Third - Ninth Annual Report on the Voluntary Hospitals in Great Britain (excluding London) and the King Edward's Hospital Fund for London, Statistical Summary. What to Know: This is primarily quantitative data. There is no qualitative data provided regarding the hospitals. However, the amount of quantitative data available is extremely impressive. The search feature requires you to find the hospital on a map. This can be frustrating at times.
  16. Thomas and Jane Carlyle were extraordinarily important members of the British literary elite. Their contemporaries were figures such as Charles Dickens, and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Both individuals were born in Scotland, though to very different families. They married in 1826, and then moved to London in 1834 where they became famous. This project argues that this couple is representative of everything that we conceive of as "Victorian." The project contains thousands of pages of correspondence between the Carlyle's and their many correspondents. It is possible to browse letters by recipient, subject, or by date/volume. This is an extraordinarily useful resource for anyone interested in social/cultural history of the early to mid-nineteenth century. What to Know: You cannot view the original letters through this database, so you do have to rely on others transcriptions. The search function is quite good. You can search by keyword and limit by date. There is also a "fuzzy search" option.
  17. Internet Library of Early Journals

    This was an early digitization project that sought to create an online library of 18th and 19th century British journals and magazines from collections housed at Oxford, Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester Universities. The project ended in 1999, so the quality of digitization is limited in part because of the age of the project. The goal sought to provide twenty year runs of six popular 18th and 19th century British journals. For the 18th century, the project has the following resources: Gentlemen's Magazine, The Annual Register, and Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. For the 19th Century: Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Notes and Enquiries, and The Builder. What to Know: The limited scope means that the utility of the project is also restricted. The search function works, but it is not advanced. Technology has changed rapidly since 1999, so the quality of the digitization is not fantastic.
  18. Darwin Online

    This is the largest collection of Darwin materials published online. This website allows you to view the full texts of each of Darwin's publications and his personal papers and manuscripts. This is a great resource if you are from a small school with limited resources, as it allows you to assign the full text of any of Darwin's works from The Origin of Species to The Descent of Man. Perhaps more importantly, the website includes a large amount of Darwin's personal manuscripts. This is essential for anyone who studies the History of Science. What to Know: The sites design is not the most user-friendly. There are a number of search options. The search function works quite well. The site also includes every translation of Darwin's work.
  19. Darwin Correspondence Project

    This is a project sponsored by the University of Cambridge, which provides full-text searchable records of over 8,500 pieces of correspondence Darwin wrote before 1871. There are an additional 6,500 letters that have not been fully digitized. Darwin wrote to more than 250 individuals from the 1840s until his death. The letters are only digitized and included on the website four years after they appear in the print version of Correspondence. Therefore, there is a bit of delay between the published and digitized versions. The letters rarely have date or information regarding the recipient, so the editors have used a number of different methodologies to account for this omission. The letters provide a fascinating insight into the life and work of Darwin. Many of the key correspondents were other Victorian scientists and naturalists. Darwin frequently used his correspondence to work through complicated theories and hypotheses. If you work in the history of science, you will likely recognize many of these names. However, it goes beyond merely professional acquaintances, and I think the most important contribution are Darwin's letters to his family and relatives. This provides insight into the personal life of one of the most important Victorians. What to know: This is an incredibly important project that provides insight into Darwin's life not otherwise available. While they clearly discuss the most important works, the focus on correspondence provides a more intimate view. I really like the learning resources tab. They provide examples for how to use the database for every level of education.
  20. Colonial Film Catalogue

    This site is a collaborative project between the British Film Institute, the Imperial War Museum, the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, and the University College of London and Birkbeck. It has detailed information on over 6,000 moving images (films) from throughout the British Empire. You can view in their entirety 150 films, and the team has created critical notes to accompany an additional 350 moving images. The site allows you to search for films by country, date, topic, or keyword. The database contains films from 1895 to 1997. Geographically, it is strongest in Africa and India. However, it does have films from Australia/New Zealand, Canada, and the Caribbean also. What to Know: The website requires Flash to work properly. There is not an easy way to see which films are available for viewing and which just contain a synopsis.
  21. Charles Booth was a prominent social reformer who sought to understand the relationship between poverty and crime in London from 1886-1903. Booth went on to found the Salvation Army as a result of his work in the London slums. Booth's 450 notebooks and maps provides one of the best sources for social/cultural historians. This material is now digitized and available to students and scholars from around the world. It is an absolutely essential resource for anyone working in this period. One of my favorite rooms in the Museum of London is the room with Charles Booth's maps on the ground floor. I love standing in the room and looking at all of the intricate details. This project makes those maps available from the comfort of your home or office. What is most fascinating about this project is that it is easy to see the mixture of classes in the late 19th century. In one block, you find middle and upper classes alongside the "vicious, semi-criminal poor." This provides a new spatial orientation when considering/researching/teaching about the late 19th and early 20th century London. The notebooks are divided into three categories: Police notebooks, Stepney Union casebooks, and Jewish notebooks. The Police notebooks are really useful as Booth sent his representatives along with the Metropolitan Police on patrol to observe the various neighborhoods of London. You can browse these by notebook or by neighborhood. The Jewish notebooks are equally valuable as they provide insight into the lives of the Jewish community in London at the turn of the century. What to Know: This is an absolutely invaluable teaching tool. I use it when we discuss poverty, crime, and class in 19th century London. The search and browsing features work really well. I really like the ability to browse by neighborhood.
  22. Broadside Ballads Online

    This is a project sponsored by Oxford University's Bodleian Library. The library has digitized their vast collection of English ballads, which frequently appeared in newspapers and other published sources. These ballads cover everything from romantic love to political satire. They are an excellent source for cultural/social historians or those with an interest in English literature/poetry. The search feature makes this a particularly useful resource. I particularly like that you can search by theme. However, the system also allows you to do more sophisticated searches if you are looking for something in particular. The creators of this project have recently also introduced a limited image search capability. What to Know: This is a great resource for teaching. It allows you to give students direct access to primary sources, and then have fun analyzing them together. The topics covered in this database are extensive. There is something for any project you might be working on.
  23. 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. Check out the article here.
  24. Digital Transgender Archive

    The Digital Transgender Archive began as an idea developed at a conference in Canada in 2008 when Professor K.J. Rawson met Nick Matte. The goal of the project is to increase the accessibility of transgender history by collecting all sorts of materials related to trans-history. The program is based at the College of the Holy Cross in 'Worcester, Massachusetts. However, it has now expanded to a collaborative project involving more than twenty institutions. This has meant that the materials available have been greatly expanded in the last couple of years. This really is the best resource for anyone interested in transgender history. There is an amazing collection of photographs of drag balls and trans-people. The material is very heavily focused on twentieth century, particularly post-1950. There is also a great deal of specialty press material. What to know: The use of transgender refers to a number of practices related to "trans-ing" history, not an identity. The focus here is on pre-2000 materials. The most frequently used terms in the database are "cross-dressing" and "cross-dressers."
  25. 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. Check out Casey Schmitt's blog here.
  26. I had the opportunity to hear from the creators of the Legacies of British Slave-owning Practices at an incredibly profound plenary session for the North American Conference of British Studies at the National African-American History and Culture Museum in Washington, D.C. this past weekend. I cannot quite describe the experience of sitting in the Oprah Winfrey Theatre and listening to scholars I have long admired discuss the context, findings, and future of this extremely important digital humanities project. This blog post is going to be a bit longer than most, but I want to share what I learned with everyone so bare with me. Catherine Hall, a prolific historian primarily of Jamaica and the British Empire, is the lead contributor to this project. At the core of the LBS project is the desire to re-inscribe race at the center of place. Hall argued that race must be center in everything we do as historians, especially those of us who focus on the Early Modern and Modern periods. Indeed, Hall argued that slavery is the cornerstone of modernity. She challenges the position of abolition in our teaching of the British empire. She continued to suggest that the trauma of slavery is not yet over. The key point of the LBS project is undoing the white-washed histories that have so long dominated British history. The LBS project focuses on the silences, and in the process validates the argument that Eric Williams made in Capitalism & Slavery in the 1940s. Keith McClellan serves as the Digital Humanities specialist for the LBS project. The first phase of the project, now complete, focused on tracing those British slaveowners who sought compensation in 1834. The British Government paid out £20 million (almost £16 billion in todays money) to 46,000 persons. The project documents who they were and what they claimed. The first finding is that 3,500 absentee landowners (people who had plantations in the Caribbean, but lived in England) represented ten percent of the claimants, but they received fifty percent of the compensation. These individuals were members of the Middle and Upper classes and were spread throughout the United Kingdom. Perhaps most surprisingly, almost 40-45% of the people who received compensation were women. This suggests the importance of marriage and family alliances. Phase II is currently underway, and in this part of the project the team is focused on expanding the information available both temporally and geographically. They hope to trace the records, although more incomplete, back to the mid-18th century. Nicholas Draper sought to explain the impact this had on Britain. The data contributes to an ongoing historiographical debate regarding the importance of slavery to Britain and the British Empire. The answer provided is unequivocally that slavery was absolutely essential to the formation of an industrialized and expanding Britain both domestically and imperially. The team has only released about one-half of what they have so far, and one of the key aspects of Phase II is the move to a more dynamic database. They have been able to use the information accumulated to work with the Oxford Dictionary of National Bibliography to provide more information on individuals who owned slaves, and to ensure that this is an important part of their bibliography. They have also started working with the British National Portrait Gallery to identify works that were obtained or commissioned by British slaveowners. This project is one of the most important digital humanities projects to come about since the field began. It continues to provide important and necessary insights that should change the way that we research and teach. It is without a doubt the gold-standard for digital humanities, and a model that we should all use as we conceive of our own projects. Check out our review of the LBS project here.
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