This year, the AHA is proud to present to our annual meeting attendees the Digital Projects Lightning Round. This presentation format can bring verve and enthusiasm to a conference. The idea? Getting word out about a variety of research projects in a series of brief, high-energy presentations.

All AHA17 attendees are welcome to join, whether you’re presenting or not. The round will conclude with time for informal discussion so that attendees and presenters can meet, chat, and share ideas on digital history pedagogy and scholarship.



AHA Session 199
Saturday, January 7, 2017
10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Mile High Ballroom 1b (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)

This lightning round invites historians working on digital projects to share their work in a series of three-minute presentations. With space for approximately 20 participants, this session is an excellent opportunity for scholars to get feedback on projects at any stage of development, hear about other types of projects and methods, and network with other digital historians.




Scottish Court of Session Digital Archive: Window into the British Atlantic, 1759-1834

Jim Ambuske (Univ. of Virginia) @jamespambuske
Loren S. Moulds (Univ. of Virginia Law Library) @lorenmoulds

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library at the University of Virginia School of Law is in the early stages of a project to digitize 64 linear feet of legal records produced by the Scottish Court of Session, documents that reveal hidden histories of trade, migration, and life in the British empire in the years surrounding the American Revolution. Despite its seat in Edinburgh, Scotland, the legal disputes that came before the Court often spanned the Atlantic, and this digitization project reintegrates the spaces of the British empire—Great Britain, colonial America, the Caribbean, western Africa— as they would have been understood and experienced in the 18th- and 19th-centuries. Until now, a defendant/plaintiff name index and legal subject index have provided the only means of accessing these records, effectively hiding from scholars the richer context of people, trade, and politics contained within. Digital access to these documents will enable the creation of new knowledge about life and law in the early modern British Atlantic.

American Athena: Creating Synthetic Collections in Shared Shelf

Jenny Barker-Devine (Illinois College) @american_athena

Through the Council of Independent Colleges’ Consortium on Digital Resources for Teaching and Research, Illinois College enjoys access to Shared Shelf, a cloud-based asset management system. A product of Artstor, Shared Shelf is ideal for small institutions that lack the expertise or software to manage digital collections on their own. At Illinois College, we are developing a synthetic collection on women’s education to accompany my current research project American Athena: Cultivating Victorian Womanhood on the Midwestern Frontier. Collections include the records of the Jacksonville Female Academy and Edward Beecher’s unpublished novel, Cornelia.

Super Stemma: A new way to navigate historical families

Andrew Phillips Bartlett (Colorado Univ.) @AndrewPBartlett

My project, “Super Stemma,” is a virtual family tree designed to give students a new way of visualizing the relationships between prominent historical families. Just as Google Maps is much more fluid and interactive than a world atlas, Super Stemma aims to quickly display family connections which would take hours to discover with print sources, or even text-based websites such as Wikipedia. The intended audience for my project are not just high school students, and I hope to pass the third of my three minutes showing Super Stemma’s potential to scholars, as a tool for reconciling sources, data-mining, and collaboration.

Educational Gaming for the History Classroom

Clayton Brown (Utah State Univ.)

Masters of History is a free Canvas application that allows students to compete with one another to learn about historical events or figures of your choosing. The game is played by matching a title or name with an image and a description, all of which are editable. Students automatically receive credit for completing the game, and they are ranked on the leaderboard based on their performance. Students may play as many times as they wish and in the process learn about history.

Collaborative Textual Play in the History Classroom

Swati Chawla (Univ. of Virginia)

As members of the Praxis Program cohort at the University of Virginia’s Scholars’ Lab in 2014-15, we reimagined Ivanhoe—the digital platform for roleplaying and textual intervention first formulated by Jerome McGann, Johanna Drucker, and Bethany Nowviskie. Ivanhoe began as a space for creative interaction and intervention growing out of “dissatisfaction with the limitations inherent in received forms of interpretation” (McGann and Drucker 2003).

We envisioned such a resource as building on the presently available WordPress theme designed by the previous year’s Praxis group, keeping its emphasis on sustained roleplay and mutual commentary. This flexibility provides space for players to negotiate their roles and the conditions of their participation in a variety of emergent communities of play. My presentation at the AHA will showcase Ivanhoe in its static format—as a demonstration of sessions already played within Ivanhoe, showing the capabilities of the platform.

The H-Net Commons: Building Open-Access Digital Communities for Scholars

Jesse Draper (H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online) @HNet_Humanities

Our vision is of the humanities and social sciences transformed by the immense potential of digital technologies and oriented around moderated intellectual exchange, collaborative production, and the open dissemination of knowledge. I’d like to talk briefly about what it is we are trying to do with this new platform, particularly with regards to creating new open-access digital resources for scholars, and the challenges we have faced getting scholars to buy into the new platform.

From Sophomores to Public Historians

Evan Faulkenbury (SUNY Cortland) @evanfaulkenbury

When should history departments begin training their undergraduates in digital history? In a new public history course at the State University of New York at Cortland, we aim to make public historians out of sophomores. Using WordPress, our platform (Cortland Public History) prompts students to research, collaborate, blog, and design a digital history exhibit. In Fall 2016, students completed a project of student newspapers at SUNY Cortland. This teaching model stretches students early as practitioners of public history.

The Restoration of Nell Nelson: An Investigation of the Chicago Times’ Series: “City Slave Girls”

Rebecca Parker (Univ. of Pittsburgh)

Helen Cusack’s muckraking that exposed the unsanitary working conditions and cruel mistreatment of the women in Chicago’s manufacturing industry was published under the pseudonym Nell Nelson in her series “City Slave Girls” printed by The Chicago Times in 1888. Cusack’s witty exposé created an immediate social agitation. Yet, Nelson’s series is frequently excluded from the discussion of American industrialization and investigative reporting; superseded by Upton Sinclair and Nellie Bly. The Restoration of Nell Nelson project aims to change this through the digitization and computational analysis of Cusack’s series.

Early Stuart Diplomatic Service: Prosopography and Networks

Thea Lindquist (Univ. of Colorado) @lutefisk812

This project gathers, analyzes, and visualizes biographical, event, and network data associated with early Stuart diplomats (1603-1649) to achieve a greater understanding of English foreign policy and related government institutions. The core data set is sourced from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. One of the project’s goals is produce a combined, enhanced data set that can readily be linked to and shared with related projects through the use of standard identifiers and common data formats and structures.

Human Rights Documentation: The Politics and Dynamics of Digital Preservation

Bernard Reilly (Center for Research Libraries)

I will highlight three recent efforts to preserve and expose on the web historical documentation of late twentieth-century human rights violations. Efforts to digitize and independently host the Guatemalan National Police Archive, records of the military dictatorship in Brazil in the 1960s-1970s, and the legal legacy of corrupt regimes in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, illuminate some of the challenges and lessons of recent work in this volatile field.

Protest Spaces: Peace Movements in Germany and the United States, 1920-2000

Shelley Rose (Cleveland State Univ.) @shelleyerose

Protest Spaces maps protest events in the United States and Germany between 1920 and 2000 using Omeka and Neatline. The transnational research team brings sources from multiple archives under a common spatial framework. To this end, the database provides protest movement scholars with a tool for interdisciplinary spatial analysis of protest events, an understudied area in the historiography. Protest Spaces currently includes three categories of protest events: issue-specific events, location-specific events, and transnational events.


Gillet Rosenblith (Univ. of Virginia)

Clockwork is a project that deals with one of the most fundamental aspects of history as a discipline—the study of time. My Praxis cohort was interested in expressing or representing time through sound and sonfications, in hopes of encouraging those who engaged with the portal/site to think about how different monetary values attributed to people’s working time impacts their experience of the passage of that time. Given this, Clockwork lends itself well as a classroom tool that can help students rethink their assumptions and understandings of time. For budding historians, this can mean recognizing assumptions about time within the discipline of history and therefore (hopefully) thinking more critically about what change over time means for different peoples and institutions. Our cohort built this project with the classroom in mind in a variety of formats. First, we created tutorials for students interested in making their own sonifications. Undergraduate historians could use the tutorials to creating their own sonifications with historical data as a means of making or strengthening arguments about a particular set of data at one time versus another. For example, if students could use the data we drew from with the Bureau of Labor Statistics to make an argument about the value of minimum wage workers’ time from one period to another. Additionally, we documented some of the critical thinking that undergirded our selection of the data. We provided a list of questions that we asked along the way (in the Documentation page) as well as a conversation (in the Learning section) about the shortcomings of quantitative data as the basis of humanist inquiry. In fashioning and building these tools into Clockwork, we envisioned our project as, perhaps foremost, a teaching tool to engage students with DH, time theory, critical thinking about the meaning, making, and ethics of “data.” Students of history must learn to interrogate their sources and our emphasis on what we called questioning information provides an example of what an interrogation of sources can look like.

Teaching with #DigHist

John Rosinbum (Arizona State Univ.) @JohnRosinbum

Teaching with #DigHist is a new digital history and pedagogy series on the AHA Today blog that reviews a different digital history project each month with an eye towards how it can be used in the classroom. Interested in projects both big and small whose subjects span the globe, the series will alternate between reviews by John Rosinbum and guest authors. This lightning session will introduce the series to potential partners and demonstrate how it has been used since its inception.

Up On The Hill: The Labor Camps of The Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company

Christopher Sawula (Univ. of Alabama) @csawula

This project examines the social impact of southern industrialization through five hundred photographs taken by the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company. The photographs depict the lives of free black and white laborers, African American convict laborers, child laborers, and their families as they worked to transform Birmingham into the Pittsburgh of the South. The project maps the sites of these labor camps and reveals the harsh working and living conditions families accepted to escape sharecropping.

Eagle Eye Citizen: Interactive Engagement with Primary Sources

Kelly Schrum (George Mason Univ.)

Engage with Library of Congress primary sources on the history of Congress, the Constitution, civil rights, legislation, and citizenship by solving and creating interactive challenges. This digital project emphasizes development of historical thinking skills, such as such as close reading, critical thinking, sourcing, and contextualization, and digital skills. Created by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University with funding from the Library of Congress.

Visualizing the Red Summer: Facilitating Scholarship Through the Digital Exploration of Documents Related to the Race Riots of 1919

Karen Sieber (Loyola Univ. Chicago) @iamksieber

Visualizing the Red Summer is a digital archive, timeline and interactive map that aim to facilitate more comprehensive research on the race riots of 1919, a rarely told story in American History. The collection includes over 700 documents related to the riots from institutions across the US. Users can filter documents based on riot location or research interest or explore the events through a map or timeline. Now live, the next goal is to prep the site for classroom use.

Mapping Women’s Networks: Recipe Exchange and the “Social Sphere” in Mary Rappe’s Cookbook, 1810-1840

Rachel A. Snell (Univ. of Maine)

Manuscript recipe books are more than a collection of recipes and household advice; they are a record of a woman’s life. These sources allow the historian to retrace the web of women’s social interactions and, when viewed spatially using mapping software, provide a lens for reevaluating the nature of women’s experience in the nineteenth century. This new perspective suggests the continued importance and geographic scope of women’s friendships as well as the emergence of the home as a social sphere.

The Ecclesiastical and Secular Sources for Slave Societies (ESSSS)

Angela Sutton (Vanderbilt University) @DrAngelaSutton

The ESSSS archive digitally preserves over 600,000 endangered documents related to Africans and Afro-descended peoples in the Americas. The archive went live in 2003 and has been steadily expanding ever since on an increasingly irrelevant digital platform. With documents concerning the lives of 4-6 million Africans and their descendants, it is now the largest repository of its kind. This project uses SobekCM to increase functionality and accessibility of the archive, while making it inter-operable with the latest digital preservation and dissemination projects.

A Sky Full of Stars: Girls and Space-Age Cultures in Cold War America and the Soviet Union

Roshanna Sylvester (De Paul Univ.)

This Scalar-based project contextualizes and annotates fan mail letters from US and Soviet schoolgirls to Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, and Valentina Tereshkova. It enables cross-cultural comparison, contributing to the historiography on childhood cultures and agency in the Cold War. It considers the extent that girls’ self-images were shaped by parents, teachers, peers, top-down policies, and mass culture. Most importantly, it recovers the voices of real girls who at the dawn of human space flight saw a future for themselves in a sky full of stars.


David Trowbridge (Marshall Univ.)

Clio is a website and mobile application that offers walking tours, push notifications, and search features to connect the public with nearby historical and cultural sites throughout the United States. Recognizing the limitations of physical markers carved into stone and metal, Clio’s digital markers typically offer 4-6 full paragraphs of information along with images, oral histories, videos, and links to related primary and secondary sources. Clio is free for everyone and offers special administrative accounts for credentialed scholars, libraries, historical societies, and instructors who can create entries with their students. Clio has grown to over 10,000 entries but we are just scratching the surface of what it possible.

NEH Support for Digital History Projects: What’s New for 2017?

Jennifer Serventi (National Endowment for the Humanities)

Jennifer Serventi from the NEH Office of Digital Humanities will provide a brief overview of the many opportunities available throughout the Endowment for historians using digital methods, tools, and approaches to advance scholarship and teaching and to engage public audiences. She will highlight some past NEH awards and discuss new initiatives and grant programs. And finally she will give a quick tour of the NEH website to show where to find resources about our grant programs and professional development opportunities for digital history.