AHA Today

Teaching Local History using Digital Methods

Seth Denbo | Dec 21, 2017

“British Again Striking Hard on Somme Front Capture Two Lines of German Trenches” reads a banner headline in the Harrisburg Telegraph from September 22, 1916. Other headlines from the front page that day include everything from a parade and open air dance in the market square to a report on the US Department of Justice antitrust proceedings against “the Reading coal ‘barons.’”

A view of Market Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1910.

A view of Market Street in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1910.

The front page is available online as part of Digital Harrisburg, a digital public history project that explores “the history, society, and culture of Harrisburg, PA.” Bright and early on January 5th, a group of historians associated with the project will gather together at the 2018 AHA annual meeting in Washington, DC, to discuss how it serves students, the local community, and the institutions it emerged from. A collaboration between Messiah College and Harrisburg College, Digital Harrisburg has been running for several years and contains materials digitized by students in history and the computer sciences. With its attention to local history, Digital Harrisburg engages undergraduates in digitization, transcription, and creation of datasets; teaches GIS and data science skills; and allows students to work collaboratively across disciplines to better understand their city’s history.

This session is not alone in its attention to the themes of place and locality. A number of sessions at the annual meeting explore how digital history in the classroom can be valuable to the community, the institutions, the departments, and the undergraduate students involved. AHA18 attendees interested in undergraduate project-driven learning should also head to the session on the History Harvest. Begun at the University of Nebraska, History Harvests combine public history, digital methods, and local community engagement. They can be held anywhere by anyone and involve digitization of objects brought to a “harvest” by members of the local community. At this roundtable session, participants will talk about the pedagogical and historical aims of the projects and offer practical advice about holding a harvest. (For an inside view of what a History Harvest looks like, check out the March 2017 issue of Perspectives on History.)

Digital Humanities and Pedagogy: Three History Projects in the Classroom” also provides examples of digital pedagogy projects that have a local emphasis. The session will explore the efficacy of implementing these projects in the classroom and what their benefits and pitfalls might be. Along similar lines, “Teaching Hidden History: Learning by Developing Digital Modules” takes an in-depth look at a graduate digital history course for K–12 social studies teachers.

As has become the norm, digital history is a big part of the offerings at the annual meeting this year, and there are sessions that will appeal to scholars and teachers who are interested in implementing digital methods in the classroom, as well as those interested in other approaches to digital scholarship. Digital history at this year’s AHA annual meeting is methodological, historical, historiographical, public, and pedagogical. In addition to those I’ve highlighted there are a range of sessions that explore the impact of the digital on historical knowledge and scholarship and the ways in which argumentation in digital history works. There are also research-focused presentations, such as the one I’m chairing on 3D virtual reconstruction.

All sessions and related activities, including such nontraditional formats as the digital projects lightning round, the digital drop-in where scholars can get advice on digital tools, and of course the reception for all things digital, can be found in this guide to Digital History at the Annual Meeting.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.


Tags: AHA Today 2018 Annual Meeting Digital History Teaching & Learning Resources and Strategies


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