Getting Started in Digital History 2017: Schedule

For the fourth year in a row, the AHA will be running the Getting Started in Digital History workshop immediately prior to the start of the meeting, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 5, in the Colorado Convention Center (breakout locations TBA). Last year brought historians with an interest in using digital tools and resources together with experts in a range of digital-history methodologies. The workshop this year will include both beginner and intermediate hands-on sessions. Planned introductory sessions include tackling big-data projects, digital pedagogy, an introduction to mapping, and a session that introduces attendees to a user-friendly, entry-level toolkit for text analysis, timelines, and mapping. Advanced sessions include network analysis, 3D imaging in history pedagogy and research, and a syllabus workshop on integrating digital history methodology into every facet of your course. Our plenary lunch session, "Table Talks," gives attendees the chance to network and chat in an informal setting with fellow attendees and session leaders as they delve into other important issues in digital history. Lunch will be provided for all attendees.

Session Descriptions

Introductory sessions are 75 minutes long, which gives our session leaders time to do an overview of the field and then tackle a few intro-level hands-on activities. Sessions include:

  • Why is it doing that? Turning primary sources into "big" data: From the humble spreadsheet to the majestic database, every attempt to aggregate and organize information digitally for humanities projects has to confront one problem: translating unformatted documents into machine-readable data. This workshop will walk attendees through methods for creating basic databases and best practices for interpreting and entering information. We'll also look at common problems and pitfalls. No programming skills are necessary but familiarity with Excel is encouraged. (Leland Grigoli, Brown University)
  • Spatial History: Do you have a project that involves shifting geographic contexts, or movement and connection between places? Digital mapping and other components of spatial history may offer just what you need. We'll start with basic definitions and concepts of historical GIS, then move to a brief hands-on introduction to the web-based mapping service Carto (formerly CartoDB). As time allows, we can also discuss specifics of the challenges and goals you have in mind. No prior knowledge of GIS is necessary. (Daniel Story, Indiana University--Bloomington)
  • Digital History Toolbox: The session will focus on incorporating entry-level mapping, text mining, and timelines into your teaching or research for the first time. We’ll use three web-based tools (Storymap.js, Voyant and Timeline.js) and give you a common dataset to work from. Along the way, we’ll also give you a few tips on how to get your own data in shape. (Lauren Tilton, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Richmond)
  • Wikipedia and Digital Literacy: 91% of our students (and 53% of the general U.S. public) have used Wikipedia. It's part of our digital culture, but it can also be a roadblock to "proper" history. This hands-on be-an-editor approach will show you how to use Wikipedia's weaknesses to train student-historians to be better historians and to be more critical not just of Wikipedia but of many other online sources of history. (Jami Mathewson, Wiki Education Foundation)

Intermediate sessions are 3 hours long and give attendees a hands-on introduction to a single methodology, with the goal of sending our attendees home with enough skill to develop their own entry-level project. Sessions include:

  • Digital History and Web Scraping: There are so many exciting sources online--but how to find them? This workshop takes attendees through the process of finding sources online, both based on the Web and in social media, before briefly discussing various ways to analyze and preserve this material. Most of the class can be done in the Web browser, as we explore various source repositories, the Doc Now web tool for Twitter collection and analysis tools. (Ian Milligan, University of Waterloo)
  • Network Analysis: Historians working out the complex documentary relationships between people and institutions can often find surprising, or previously unexplored, connections by using network analysis and its visual representations. This workshop will help participants familiarize themselves with basic network-analysis vocabulary as well as using Gephi for network analysis and visualization. (Jason Heppler, University of Nebraskas)
  • 3D Imaging and Computer Vision in History: a material-culture approach to digital history that explores the use of simple digital tools to create digital models and exhibitions. (Austin Mason, Carleton College)
  • Digital Syllabus Workshop: This pedagogy session will give participants a full 3-hour workshop on the full integration of digital history methods into a syllabus. Attendees will go home with at least one draft syllabus that focuses on either building a dedicated digital-history course from the ground up or integrating digital-history methodology into an existing topical course. (Kalani Craig, Indiana University-Bloomington)


Registration for the workshop can be purchased in advance ($35, $5 for students) while registering for the annual meeting. Registration includes a boxed lunch. Please note that you do not need to pick up your badge before attending the pre-meeting workshop. Once registrants are in the AHA system, they’ll receive an survey email from Rebecca Wingo, one of the workshop organizers, with a more detailed list of session descriptions and the option to rank those sessions.

We look forward to seeing you there.