Publication Date

August 31, 2017

Perspectives Section

Perspectives Daily


Digital Methods

Since first publishing in August 2016, Teaching w/ #DigHist has offered a range of teaching tools to instructors interested in using digital history in the classroom. In particular, the series has highlighted how teaching with #dighist can provide new ways to present classroom content and develop transferable skills like critical thinking and data literacy. As the new school year begins, we encourage K–12 and higher education faculty to browse through our resources and to see how they could teach w/ #dighist this year. 

European and world history teachers will find reviews of ORBIS and The Making of Charlemagne’s Europe of particular interest. Teachers can use ORBIS, which is akin to Google Maps for ancient Rome, to lead discussions on the historical uses of data, and the way environments shape both trade and empire building. Kalani Craig’s review of The Making of Charlemagne’s Europe—a database containing metadata from more than 1,000 medieval charters—shows how the project can be used to push students to examine what legal documents and metadata can reveal about the lived experience of the past. Thinking critically about the role of metadata is growing more and more important as every aspect of students’ lives becomes quantified.

Gapminder, one of the digital tools reviewed in the Teaching with #DigHist series, is a graph-based visualization tool that charts more than 50 different historical indicators on a Cartesian x-y axis over the course of 200+ years of world history.

Bridging European, US, and world history, reviews of Voyages and Gapminder examine processes that spanned hundreds of years and transcended multiple continents. An incredible digitized archive of the transatlantic slave trade, Voyages offers students a chillingly immersive look at the slave trade that can foster conversations about the trade’s horrors and about the problems of visualizing tragedy. Gapminder, a time-lapse graph of more than 50 historical indicators including per-capita income, birth rate, and life expectancy, visualizes important world historical trends over the past 200 years. Classroom use invites discussion of databases and encourages students to think about how they can become more critical consumers of data visualizations.

In part due to my own teaching and research focus, US history is particularly well represented in Teaching w/ #DigHist. A review of American Panorama, a digital atlas created by the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, discusses how #dighist offers the tools to explore the brutality of America’s economic and territorial expansions during the 19th century. Viral Texts’ review looks at how a digital project that uses the National Digital Newspaper Program can help students place historical events in a broader cultural context, connect the past with the present, and reveal how information was spread during the 19th century.

For teachers looking to teach about African American freedom and rights struggles, Teaching w/ #DigHist offers several options. Last December, we highlighted the Colored Conventions Project, an impressive work that has located, digitized, and analyzed minutes from more than 150 conventions. The CCP uncovers an oft-ignored part of America’s past, and offers students a chance to explore the connections between 19th- and 21st-century activism. Teachers looking to teach the Civil Rights Movement might find Lauren Tilton’s review of SNCC Digital Gateway especially helpful. Tilton shows how the project avoids the common pitfall of framing the liberation struggle through its most prominent leaders, and instead pushes students to think about the role of the grassroots in the Civil Rights Movement.

Taken collectively, these eight projects go beyond the standard “great men” narrative and engage students in a cultural, social and economic understanding of the past. Over the course of the last 12 months, with the help of two guest authors, Kalani Craig and Lauren Tilton, Teaching w/ #DigHist reviewed 8 projects and created 14 assignments on subjects ranging from ancient Rome to contemporary America. Over the next 12 months more guest authors will lend their expertise to the series. They will discuss mapping, local history, and digitization. I hope you’ll continue to follow us as we work to broaden the series and offer more support to teachers using digital history.

An unstated goal of Teaching w/#DigHisthas been to highlight both the work of underrepresented practitioners of #dighist and the lives of too-often ignored historical actors. We will continue to strive to achieve this goal in the coming year. I am particularly conscious of the lack of geographical diversity of the projects reviewed, and would welcome suggestions of projects focusing explicitly on Asia, Africa, or Oceania. Comment below, or tweet me @johnrosinbum. In the meantime, we’ve compiled a list of DH projects that teachers can use to incorporate diverse histories in their classrooms:

  • As the debate over monuments and memorials rages in the United States, the War Memoryscapes in Asia Project (WARMAP) examines war remembrance in Asia through mapping, images, short documentaries, and more.
  • The Equal Justice Initiative’s Lynching in America, and Monroe Work Today, document the horrors of lynching and offer students ways to understand the practice’s reach and history.
  • Brown’s Animated Atlas of African History visualizes 123 years of African political history, graphically demonstrating the rise of European colonization, decolonization, and governmental shifts throughout the continent.
  • A fascinating way to integrate local and public history into your curriculum, Clio encourages students to find, document, and engage with the history all around them through an innovative mapping system and app.
  • Yale’s Photogrammar organizes more than 170,000 photographs of the United States taken between 1935 and 1945 into an interactive map to better visualize American life during the Great Depression and World War II.
  • An outstanding example of collaboration between universities in Kenya and the United States, MaCleki | Curating Kisumu, is a model for how students and faculties can forge a transnational partnership to document a city’s history, culture, politics, and society. Instructors might find the investigators’ white paper on their experience particularly helpful.
  • Teachers of the Age of Revolutions will welcome Slave Revolt in Jamaica’s cartographic narrative of the 1760–61 insurrection.
  • Click! The Ongoing Feminist Revolution provides a host of textual and audio-visual resources for exploring the modern feminist movement in the United States.
  • The Mapping Colonial Americas Publishing Project offers a way to examine the development of print culture and publishing in North and South America between 1535 and 1800.
  • An exciting convergence of fashion, queer, and activist history, Wearing Gay History highlights the rich diversity of the LGBT movement all across the United States.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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