HIST 471C3: Digital History

TR, 9:30-10:45
Spring 2012
Monroe 211

Jeffrey McClurken
Office Hours: 9-11 AM, MW; 1:30-2:30 PM, TR, or by appointment.

See also (request access) or just see the device outside my office door for updates to office hours.

Course Description

This seminar will focus on the process of creating digital history. The course readings, workshops, and discussions will be aimed at exposing students to the philosophy and practice of the emerging field of History and New Media. The course will be centered on the creation of four digital history projects, all of which are related to making local resources available online. The creation of a digital exhibit on original political cartoons located at the James Monroe Museum (ranging from 1880s to 1940s) (JMMPC); the building of a digital archive on James Farmer (specifically, working to digitize and create an accessible set of his lectures from when he taught Civil Rights at Mary Washington) (JFDA); researching and presenting on the buildings on campus and the people for whom they are named (UMWB); reworking and expanding a site on state historical markers in the Fredericksburg/Stafford/Spotsylvania area (SHM).  This course counts in the History Major, the American Studies Major, and the Museum Studies Minor.

Departmental Learning Objectives

  • Ability to utilize technological resources in research, data analysis, and presentation.
  • Appreciation of the diversity of methods and processes.
  • Ability to make discipline-specific oral presentations to groups.
  • Ability to communicate in a group setting.
  • Ability to conduct research in multiple sites.

Course Requirements

Every student and group will:

1) Complete a group project based on a contract made between the group and the professor

2) Post weekly progress reports on your own blog

3) Regularly present to the class about the status of your project

4) Participate in class discussions of readings, videos, and the process of creating digital history

5) Participate in class workshops related to specific programs

6) Create a digital résumé or e-portfolio for yourself.

7) At end of the semester, complete a brief paper/blog post reflecting on the process and defending your project as contracted

Students are expected to attend all classes, read all assigned texts, and participate in class. Laptops are not required, but it will often be easier to have your own computer here as you learn new skills, hear about various tools, explore particular web sites, and work on your own digital projects. [Projects are due at the start of class (9:30 AM) on the day they are due. Assignments are considered late if turned in/posted anytime after that. Late projects will be penalized one full letter grade or, after 24 hours, not accepted.]


Students are expected to attend all classes having read the assigned material. Class participation includes actively participating in daily discussions and responding to class presentations. To that end, for each class for which there are readings/videos, students should also prepare a list of comments on the material (parallels, problems, factual questions, reminders of past readings, connections to ideas from other classes or from “real life”) so that they have those points in front of them for the discussion. Although I have no current plan to collect these comments, I reserve the right to do so at some point during the semester.


Narrating the planning, research, and implementation processes via your blogs is a central part of the class and a way for me to measure your effort, your creativity, and your progress as digital scholars. Blog about your problems as well as your successes. Be sure to comment on each others’ blogs and help each other out. This is a community of people going through similar efforts that you can tap into, so do so. Weekly posts & comments are a minimum expectation of the class.



Daniel J. Cohen & Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (2006). Available at .

Other texts for this semester are also available on-line.


Final Grades

Final grades will be determined based on class participation (including blogging, mini assignments, and regular presentations to the class) (35%), on performance on the group contract (5%) and group project (50%), and on the quality of the final formal presentations on the group projects (10%). [Unsatisfactory mid-semester reports will be reported for anyone with a grade of D or below at that time.]

Honor Code

I believe in the Honor Code as an essential, positive component of the Mary Washington experience. You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will fail, and I will take you to the Honor Council, so do not do it. On the other hand, I also believe that having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of the Honor Code (assuming the writing itself remains yours). If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to me sooner rather than later.


Group Projects — See Project Outlines.


Group Contracts

Each group will create contracts with me about their projects. The contracts are due Monday, February 13, though each will need to be approved by me & may need to be tweaked before that happens. Each contract must include:

– Mission statement (describe project)

– Tools planning on using

– Schedule of milestones (when critical pieces are ready to present)

— Basic division of labor


NOTE: These contracts may be revised as the semester goes on, though only with good reasons and only after a meeting with me.

NOTE #2: Although each group will receive one shared grade for their contract, on the final project everyone will earn an individual and a group project grade, which will be averaged together to make each person’s project grade.

Digital Résumé/E-Portfolio  

During Week 8, we will discuss ways of showcasing your work (digital and otherwise) in an electronic portfolio.  Each student will be expected to create their own digital résumé by Thursday, March 15 Tuesday, March 20.

Regular Presentations (Updates)

Starting in week 6, each group will be expected to make weekly status updates in class on Thursdays on its progress toward their projects. Although some weeks 3-5 minute updates will be sufficient, every other week groups will need to present a more thorough update. See the schedule for more details on when your group does which presentation.

End of the Semester (Public) Presentations

At the end of the semester (either in the last week of class or during the exam period) each group will make a 8-10 minute presentation summarizing their project. More on this later in the semester.

Reflection post/defense of contract

In the last week of the semester, each person will be expected to write a brief blog post or paper (your choice). This paper (~1-2 pages/~500 words) should reflect on the process and defend your group’s project as contracted.


If you receive services through the Office of Disability Resources and require accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. Bring your accommodation letter with you to the appointment. I will hold any information you share with me in the strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise. If you need accommodations, (note taking assistance, extended time for tests, etc.), please consult with the Office of Disability Resources (x1266) about the appropriate documentation of a disability.

Course Schedule*

Week 1

Jan. 17 — Introduction and Digital Workshop – UMWBlogs, intro to Google’s World

Jan. 19 — What is Digital History?  [What are the Digital Humanities?  How are the two different?]

— Brief Group Meetings

Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Introduction, Ch. 1; Information R/evolution; Seefeldt & Thomas, What is Digital History?; Digital Humanities Definitions by Type; Wikipedia definitions of Digital History & Digital Humanities

Assignments over the weekend:

— Write and publish first blog post

— Add your blog to the class blogroll using the add link widget on this blog.  Password is Hist0ry

— Use Google Reader to subscribe to the blogs of the people in class and two digital humanities blogs from the DH Compendium.

–Optional: Set up a Twitter account (or use an existing one) and follow me (@jmcclurken) and/or your classmates and/or some of the scholars from the DH Compendium.  If you tweet about our class use the hashtag #ADH2012.

Week 2

Jan. 24 — Digital Workshop – Omeka, Zotero, & Timeline

Jan. 26 — Exploring Other Digital History Projects;

— Brief Group Meeting

Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital HistoryChapter 2Chapter 4

Briefly check out the following websitesValley of the Shadow, French Revolution,, The Emancipation Project;  Gilded Age Murder. Review list of Omeka-based sites and pick one to explore more fully.

Assignments: Blog about:

1) some creative uses of the tools we’ve learned about so far. [e.g., how might you use Zotero for something other than citation/research? What could a blog be used for other than personal reflection? What creative ways can you think of to use RSS or Omeka? How might you use these tools in combination with each other or with others you’ve used outside of class. [Be playful with your ideas here.]]

2) Based on your review of the Digital History websites above: Think about what you like about these websites as a whole, and what you don’t.  What works and what doesn’t?  What elements would you want to incorporate and which do you want to avoid in your own project?

Week 3

Jan. 31 — Digital Workshop – Advanced Google-Fu

Feb. 2 — Digital Archives and Issues of Digitization

— Brief Group Meeting

Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital HistoryChapter 3Chapter 6Tony Grafton, “Future Reading,” New Yorker, Nov. 5, 2007.

Check out the following websitesHurricane Digital Memory BankSeptember 11 Digital ArchiveFootnote.comJSTORInternet ArchiveA House Divided: America in the Age of LincolnFamous Law trialsCriminal Intent. Lists of other digital archives and digitization efforts can be found at and .

Assignments: Go to and pick out one tool that could be helpful for your project. Pick one tool you learned about in class on Tuesday that can be helpful for your project.  Discuss both tools in a blog post.

Build a basic map in Google Maps and in Google Earth.  Blog about the experience and about how you might use this in your project.

For more information on the nuts-and-bolts process of digitization, see

Week 4

Feb. 7 — Digital Workshop – Audio/Video Editing

Feb. 9 — Group Meeting

Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Ch. 5 (we’ll discuss this next week, but it’s important to read before you complete your group contracts).


Group Contracts are due via Google Doc from each group on Monday, February 13


Week 5

Feb. 14 — Group Meeting and Planning — discussions of contract proposals

Feb. 16 — Thinking About and Building an Audience — Discuss C&R, Ch. 5


Week 6

Feb. 21 — Copyright and Wikipedia: What’s the Big Deal?

Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Ch. 7;; Stanford’s guide to fair use; Jimmy Wales (2005) How a Ragtag Band Created Wikipedia (watch at

Other resources: Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video; 2007 documentary on copyright (and music and video remixing); 30+ places to find Creative Commons media;

Assignment: Look at the History and Discussion tabs of several Wikipedia history entries and blog about what you see.

Feb. 23 — JMMPC, JFDA present 10-15 minute progress reports; UMWB, SHM present 3-5 minute progress reports

Week 7

Feb. 28 — Group Meeting and Planning

Mar. 1 — UMWB, SHM present 10-15 minute progress reports; JMMPC, JFDA present 3-5 minute progress reports


Week 8

Mar. 13 — Building a Digital Résumé or E-portfolio; Digital Identity

Readings: Read/look at three of these and post on five lessons you learned from them about digital identity.


Mar. 15 — JMMPC, JFDA present 10-15 minute progress reports; UMWB, SHM present 3-5 minute progress reports [Class visit by Dr. Bryan Alexander of NITLE]

Assignment: Create your own Digital Résumé

Extra Credit: Attend Dr. Bryan Alexander’s talk and blog about it.


Week 9

Mar. 20 — Group Meeting and Planning

Mar. 22 — UMWB, SHM present 10-15 minute progress reports; JMMPC, JFDA present 3-5 minute progress reports

Week 10

Mar. 27 — Text Mining, N-Grams and Searching in History

Reading: Peter Norvig talk ( — Skim); Carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid? (2008); Dan Cohen, “From Babel to Knowledge” (; William Turkel, “Searching for History,” Digital History Hacks (12 Oct 2006). “Applying Quantitative Analysis to Classic Lit,” Wired, Dec. 2009; Cohen, Google Books, Ngrams and CulturomicsMining the Dispatch.

Mar. 29 — JMMPC, JFDA present 10-15 minute progress reports; UMWB, SHM present 3-5 minute progress reports

Week 11

Apr. 3 — Group Meeting and Planning

Apr. 5 — UMWB, SHM present 10-15 minute progress reports; JMMPC, JFDA present 3-5 minute progress reports

Week 12

Apr. 10 — Impact of Digital History on Historians and on the Practice of History

Reading and Assignment: See this set of articles in the AHA’s Perspectives (2007) and Writing History in the Digital Age (2011)  [Pick two or three articles and blog about them.]  See also, the footnotes pages for a print volume, The Age of Lincoln, as well as reading the Archives 2.0 article I’ll sent you.

Apr. 12 — JMMPC, JFDA present 10-15 minute progress reports; UMWB, SHM present 3-5 minute progress reports


Week 13

Apr. 17 — Group Meeting and Planning Research and Creativity Day Presentations

Apr. 19 — UMWB, SHM present 10-15 minute progress reports; JMMPC, JFDA present 3-5 minute progress reports  Group Meeting and Planning.


Public presentations of projects will be in the last week of classes. More on this in class. 3 pm on April 27 in Monroe 210

Projects due April 24 at the start of class. Reflection paper/blog post due April 26

Week 14

Apr. 24 — Projects due

Apr. 26 — Brief paper/blog post due (~1-2 pages/~500 words) reflecting on the process and defending your project as contracted.

Exam Period

A Summary Discussion of History and New Media

* Many of my choices for readings here are indebted to the work and teaching of Bill TurkelDan Cohen and Ethan Watrall, as well as the excellent collections found in Writing History in the Digital Age and Learning through Digital Media.


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