Digital technologies have expanded the reach of scholarship in the way historians communicate their research to an audience and present findings, as well as influenced the questions they ask. Text analysis, text mining, mapping, data visualization, and other digital methods and tools make forms of research beyond the traditional text-based article or monograph possible, while also encouraging scholars to consider issues of information storage, visual presentation, and user engagement.

This lightning round invites historians working on digital projects to share their work in a series of three-minute presentations. 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. There will be one minute for questions at the end of each presentation.

The 2018 round is now full, but we will open the floor to audience presentations for the final 10-15 minutes.

Note: The idea of the lightning round is to give more historians the chance to share their work and get feedback. We therefore encourage those presenting projects elsewhere during the meeting to leave lightning round slots open for those not already presenting. Lastly, participants should be registered for the annual meeting.


Session Information

AHA Session 29

Date: Thursday, January 4, 2018
Time: 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Palladian Ballroom (Omni Shoreham, West Lobby)
Chair: Stephanie Kingsley Brooks, American Historical Association


Note on Live-Tweeting

We recommend you use both #aha18 and #s29 when live-tweeting this session.



The Well Read President: Examining the Reading Habits of Theodore Roosevelt

Karen Sieber (Loyola Univ. in Chicago) @iamksieber

The Well Read President is a timeline and virtual bookshelf of what Theodore Roosevelt read during his first term as president, between 1901-1904. Built using documents from the Theodore Roosevelt Digital Library that mention his reading habits, it illuminates how books not only affected Roosevelt’s diplomacy, but his relationships with his family and friends as well. Each book on the timeline also connects to a digital copy of the book Roosevelt read in

Nahuatl/Nawat in Central America: A Transcription and Translation Project using Omeka’s Internationalization and Scripto

Laura Matthew (Marquette University)

“Nahuatl/Nawat in Central America” [] is a collaborative, interdisciplinary project that consolidates and promotes the study of historical Nahuatl documents from colonial-era Central America. We seek to make these documents widely accessible, provoke new questions from this understudied region, and support language revitalization efforts in El Salvador. We made significant modifications to Omeka and Scripto on a very low budget. Now that the site is launched, our challenge is how to encourage people to use the site and push the conversation forward.

The Frame: Putting Today’s Headlines in Historical Context

Allison Lange and Sarah Sutton, @Sarah_c_sutton and @aklange1

Allison Lange and Sarah Sutton are creating a news website that will put the day’s biggest stories within historical context. Unlike existing sites, this one will be shorter and wittier. For example, one of our first posts will discuss the impact of Hurricane Irma by explaining Puerto Rico’s historical relationship with the U.S. We aim to reach a general audience as well as classrooms. We are in the early stages of this project and eager to receive valuable feedback.

Creative Alternatives: Experimental Art and Grassroots Politics in Berlin, 1971-Present

Briana Smith (Univ. of Iowa) @Briana_Smith83

My Omeka-based website and Neatline maps offer a digital supplement to my book project on experimental art and grassroots politics in Berlin from 1971 to present. I first created this site in tandem with my dissertation, and included an appendix with screen shots from the digital map in the final deposit. As I continue developing the website and maps alongside the book manuscript, I am seeking new ideas or tools for making the map more comprehensive and informative and the exhibits more interactive and user-friendly.

Clio Visualizing History’s Global History and Women’s History for Scholarly and Popular Audiences

Melanie Gustafson (University of Vermont)

This presentation focuses on two Clio Visualizing History exhibits: “Lowell Thomas and Lawrence of Arabia” and “Click! The Ongoing Feminist Revolution.” Both use text, photographs, video clips, maps, and timelines. This presentation includes an introduction to Clio; exhibit walk-throughs; a discussion of what we felt was missing in the digital humanities world, why we structured the exhibits the way we did, our thinking about audiences, an overview of what we’ve learned, and a preview of what’s next.

Proud and Torn: How My Family Survived Hungarian History

Leslie M. Waters (Randolph-Macon College)

Proud and Torn: How My Family Survived Hungarian History, is an animated, digital timeline that tells the story of a Hungarian farming family who, as serfs, worked the land of the Carpathian basin and both prospered and floundered under the economic conditions and political decisions of “great men” in power. The work contains over 1,200 photographs, maps, graphics, and looping film clips that create a rich tapestry of visual historical storytelling controlled by the user via horizontal and vertical parallax scrolling.

Mapping Segregation in Washington DC

Sarah Shoenfeld, @PrologueDC

This project is documenting and exhibiting the historic means by which DC was racially segregated. To date, we have mapped around 10,000 DC properties with racial deed covenants. These properties are displayed in combination with other data via two Esri Story Maps which include primary documents, historic maps and photographs, and oral history audio clips. We recently received an NPS African American Civil Rights Grant to develop a dedicated website for the project.

Text Mining 18th Century American Correspondence

Ashley Sanders (Claremont McKenna College)

This lightning talk presents a text mining and analysis project that explores the complicated, conflicting, and, occasionally, complementary objectives of American settlers and the nascent United States government.I will share visualizations of findings from the comparative analysis of collections of settler and political leaders’ correspondence (1776-1787). This comparison reveals that “competency” was the fundamental principle motivating the actions of both settlers and political leaders during the first two decades of conquest and settlement in the trans-Appalachian west.

DH Against Archival Violence: Bellevue Almshouse Case Study

Anelise Hanson Shrout (California State University, Fullerton)

In the nineteenth century, thousands of Irish immigrants landed in New York. Many of these men, women and children were forcibly sent to Bellevue – the city’s only public almshouse. They were “diagnosed” as “recent emigrants” and incarcerated in hospitals across the city. This presentation uses data visualizations of Bellevue’s records to reveal the institutional forces working on immigrants within the public health system. In the process, it gives voice to immigrants whose experiences have been obscured by bureaucratic data.

“Using Linked Data to Unreel History & Facilitate Discovery in NPR’s Audio Archives”

Julie Rogers (Research, Archives & Data Strategy, NPR) @npr_rad @nprchives

NPR’s Research, Archives & Data Strategy team (RAD) was awarded funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitally preserve master recordings of public radio’s first national program, All Things Considered (ATC). ATC is a rich aural primary source and the associated descriptive metadata is an invaluable data-set. As NPR RAD historian, I am experimenting with semantic technologies and linked data to amplify the voices of less-prominent historical figures and surface important stories that are hidden in the archive.

Moving Beyond ‘Rags to Riches’: Using Digital History to Uncover the Lost Stories of New York’s Famine Irish Immigrants

Tyler Anbinder (George Washington University)

“Moving Beyond ‘Rags to Riches” is a digital history project providing access to thousands of primary source documents relating to the lives of Irish immigrants who settled in New York in the era of the Great Irish Famine. Visitors to the project website can choose from two dozen “curated document sets.” Each set traces the lives of twenty immigrants over several decades after their arrival in America, including how much money each immigrant accumulated in his or her account at the Emigrant Savings Bank.

Clio @thecliodotcom

Pamela Curtin (West Virginia State University)

Clio is a GPS-enabled website and mobile application that connects thousands of people to nearby historical sites each day. The platform includes special features and instructional videos that make it easy for professors to create individual entries and complete walking tours with their students. In addition to text and media, Clio entries include links to related articles, books, and digital projects. Hundreds of universities and organizations have created nearly 30,000 entries and 250 walking tours.

Lotte Jacobi in the USSR, 1932-33: A GeoHumanities Photography Project

Eleanor M. Hight (University of New Hampshire)

This project focuses on 500 photographs that the German-American photographer Lotte Jacobi (1896-1990) made in the Soviet Union in 1932-33. Interactive maps, photo galleries, texts, and scholarly essays contextualize Jacobi’s trip by train from Berlin to Moscow and to cities in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, such as Bukhara and Samarkand (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites). The website explores how Jacobi’s photographs visualize issues related to the construction and deconstruction of national, religious, and ethnic identities in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

Digital Deck Logs: Breaking Tradition to Change How Historians Study the US Navy

Karolina Lewandowska (Naval History & Heritage Command)

Naval deck logs provide chronological official daily records of the operation of ships. I process anywhere from 30,000 to 50,000 pages a week. Yes, pages. Yes, paper. And yes, I know it’s 2017. But this is the Navy, and this is the tradition. Last year, I was asked to revise the current guidelines governing preparation of the deck logs; under these revisions, future deck logs will be prepared digitally. In the meantime, I am digitizing the handwritten documents and envision a day when the digitally created records will allow historians to study these records in new ways. My presentation will examine the challenges of moving beyond a traditional preference for handwritten records and instituting digital creation of the deck logs–the first step in allowing us to do text analysis, text mining, deep learning, and possibly developing machine learning algorithms.

Pouring Old Editorial Wine into New Digital Bottles – the Pinckney Papers Projects

Constance B. Schulz (University of South Carolina)

For the past 9 years we have been editing the papers of the South Carolina Pinckney Revolutionary Era Family in 2 “born digital” scholarly editions, both published by UVA Press’s Rotunda digital imprint. We edited the papers of the women first, and are currently working on a 3000-document selective edition of the “Pinckney Statesmen.” How does a “born digital” edition differ from traditional bound “letterpress” editions and why should scholars think about creating and using such an edition themselves?

NEH Support for Digital History Projects: What’s New for 2018?

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.