Getting Started in Digital History 2015: Resources and Schedule

Resources from 2015

2015 Getting Started in Digital History Workshop

Other AHA 2015 Digital History Sessions, Storified


Introductory Track

This track gives you 45-minute overviews of the role digital humanities plays in your choice of 2 of 5 various academic settings: data in historical research, teaching with digital tools, the intersection of digital and public history, spatial history, and text mining. These quick sessions provide introductions to the tools and methodologies are out there. You'll go home with some ideas on how you might integrate these tools into your research and teaching practices, but no experience is necessary because these aren't hands-on training sessions. If you are just getting into the world of digital history for the first time, or if most of your computer experience is with email, word-processing and social media, these sessions will introduce you to the basics of digital history and provide a few tool overviews so you'll have a better idea of how it might fit into your research and your classrooms.

Data for Historical Research

Thomas Padilla, Digital Humanities Librarian. This session is for people looking for an introduction to data for historical research. Emphasis will be placed on discussion of data as a concept, establishing distinctions between types of data, and identification of affordances that can be leveraged to answer historical questions. Methods will also be introduced for getting data into a condition that is amenable to various forms of computational analysis.

Teaching with digital tools

Kathryn Tomasek, Associate Professor of History, founding co-director of the Wheaton College Digital History Project. This introductory workshop focuses on first steps towards integrating digital projects into undergraduate courses. We will discuss how to make room for such assignments in a syllabus, how to tie digital projects to a course's learning outcomes, and how to scaffold both technological and content learning to allow students to make positive contributions to a larger digital project. Participants will leave with a set of pedagogical strategies for thinking about digital projects, preliminary plans for assignments for their own courses, and suggestions for how to find collaborative partners in library and technology services for such projects on their home campuses.

Digital history in/and public history

Mark Tebeau, Associate Professor of History, Director of Public History at Arizona State University. This workshop explores the rationale for building digital history and public history projects, as well as how such projects can enhance core history research. We'll consider the challenges involved in engaging public audiences in your digital history project, and/or building a digital component for your public project. We'll cover all the basics for developing your project, including the following: selecting a content management system, building effective partnerships, using technology (old & new media) to engage publics, creating effective digital stories for public audiences for partners, the lifecourse of a public project, including strategies for sustainability.

Spatial history

Scott Nesbit, Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities, University of Georgia. This session is an introduction to doing spatial history with digital tools: what spatial history is, the basics of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and the software that is available to support spatial history. This session will give a broader introduction to more tools than the intermediate-level "hGIS and making your own maps" session, but will allow for a little less hands-on experimentation.

Text mining for use with other digital-history tools

Ben Schmidt, assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, core faculty in the NuLab for Texts, Maps and Networks. Historians are above all curators and creators of texts and artifacts, and that's especially relevant in the use of text mining-from ngrams and corpus linguistics to topic modeling and natural language processing-in historical research. This short intro to text mining will look at how digitization affects what sort of sources we use, what sort of research these text-mining approaches let us do and how text mining output can be shared and prepared for use in other digital forms.

Intermediate Track

This track is hands-on and provide 2 hours of training in a single topic, so you can take the next step in a single digital-history area. We can't send you home with expert skills, but you'll get some experience working directly with tools in one of 5 areas: network analysis, corpus linguistics, digital-history pedagogy, hGIS and spatial history, or data markup and management. Some comfort with basic software packages (Excel, Google, downloading and installing software from the Internet) and a laptop required. You'll get about an hour of homework from your session leader about 2 weeks before AHA. If you're comfortable pushing buttons and experimenting a little with the computer and have worked extensively with Excel or have a little experience with databases or HTML, you'll learn how to integrate a few digital tools into your research or your classroom.

Networks & Network Visualization

Scott Weingart, Stanford's Digital Humanities Data Scientist, summer 2014. Gephi is a popular open source program that facilitates network analysis and data visualization. It is a powerful tool used by universities and news organizations, including the New York Times. However, it can be a bit imposing for beginners. This workshop provides novices with a hands-on introduction to basic data visualization with Gephi. Attendees will become familiar with the Gephi interface and will emerge with basic of Gephi's applications. Skills learned in this workshop will have relevance to basic research as well as teaching and public engagement. Materials & requirements:  You'll need to be familiar enough with downloading and installing software that you can have Gephi installed on your laptop before you arrive. (Mac users will need to install Java 6 for Gephi to run properly.) We will also explore some of the tools available at Sci2 Tool, so please download it in advance.

hGIS and Making Your Own Maps

Fred Gibbs, Assistant Professor of History, University of New Mexico. This mapping session will work through the process of creating digital maps with the free, open source, and platform-independent mapping application QGIS. We will cover the basics of geographic data formats, vector and raster images, as well as how to load (and understand) various kinds of data files. We will also cover some fundamental techniques for working with historic imagery, such as overlaying (and warping) historic images to fit on modern maps, and "vectorizing" historic maps (converting images into more flexible digital maps) for geospatial analysis. Along the way we will also discuss the challenges of creating, massaging, and managing data. Materials & requirements:  You'll need to be familiar enough with downloading and installing software that you can have QGIS installed on your laptop before you arrive. Otherwise, no particular digital experience with mapping software is required.

Hands-On Digital History Pedagogy

Jeff McClurken, Professor of History & American Studies, Spec. Assistant to the Provost for Teaching, Technology, and Innovation, University of Mary Washington. This hands-on workshop is for people who have done some teaching with digital tools before, but are looking to revise or develop new digitally enabled assignments, or an entire digital history course. We'll share ideas, examples, and methods for teaching digital history. Materials & requirements: Come with a syllabus and/or assignment that you'd like to work on.

Corpus Linguistics and Text Mining

Michelle Moravec, Associate Professor of History, Rosemont College. This hands-on workshop will introduce you to computational tools that can help you accurately analyze a set of texts that otherwise "defies analysis by hand and eye alone within any reasonable timeframe" (McEnery and Hardie, 2012:1-2). We'll use a predefined corpus to help you get familiar with AntConc, which is freely available for all operating systems. Once everyone is comfortable with the basics, we'll examine a few other corpus-linguistics tools and apply our new skills to your own areas of research. If you have a library of digitized texts you'd like to work with, please bring them. Materials & requirements: You'll need to be familiar enough with downloading and installing software that you can have AntConc installed on your laptop before you arrive. We will also explore semantic tagging using Wmatrix and Stanford's NER.

Managing and Maintaining Digital Data

Kalani Craig, Lecturer, Hutton Honors College, Indiana University. This hands-on workshop is for people who have started thinking about evidence as data but are still figuring out the ins and outs of data clean-up and storage. We'll use OpenRefine to look at some of the steps involved in data normalization (breaking evidence into fields, handling typos and other data abnormalities) and then examine some of the solutions for scholars moving from proprietary software (Word, Excel) to data formats that make sharing and maintaining data easier. Materials & requirements: You'll need to be familiar enough with downloading and installing software that you can have OpenRefine installed on your laptop before you arrive. We'll provide some sample data to use, but you can also bring a digitized source, a spreadsheet or other evidence you want to clean up and make more readily available.