Digital History at #AHA2015

In the spirit of Mark Sample’s list of digital humanities events at the MLA, here’s a list of digital history panels at the upcoming AHA:

Friday, January 2nd

Getting Started in Digital History Workshop

Friday, January 2, 2015: 9:00 AM-12:00 PM

Conference Room E (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)

Our Getting Started in Digital History workshop last year brought historians with an interest in using digital tools and resources together with experts in a range of digital-history methodologies. This year, we’re providing another round of introductory overview sessions, but we’re also expanding the workshop to include intermediate hands-on workshops. For all of our attendees, we have an overview of digital history as a whole and the state of digital history funding, and a brief look at the importance of collaboration and project management in digital history. Jennifer Serventi of the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities will talk about the work that the ODH does to support digital scholarship. There will also be introductory sessions on preparing research data for digital history projects, making use of various digital tools and methodologies to ask new research questions, building and managing the collaborative aspects of digital history, and using digital tools in the classroom and in public-history endeavors. If you have a little experience but need some hands-on help to get your digital history project kickstarted, we have several sessions that focus on a single methodology and tool set. If you’re interested in big data applied to primary sources, we have workshops on text mining, network theory and visualization, and historical GIS and spatial history. For historians focused on collaborative efforts, we also have hands-on sessions for project sustainability and management, and teaching with digital tools.

The workshop is free, but space is limited, so please sign up when you register for the annual meeting. We look forward to seeing you there.


AHA Session 2 – Teaching and Learning the Great War in the Digital Age

Friday, January 2, 2015: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

Beekman Parlor (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: Lynn Rainville, Sweet Briar College



  1. Katie Gulledge, Cary Academy (North Carolina)
  2. Jamie Lathan, North Carolina School of Science and Math
  3. Samantha Shires, Virginia Tech


AHA Session 42 – Digital Tools: From the Archive to Publication

Friday, January 2, 2015: 3:30 PM-5:30 PM

Beekman Parlor (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: Leah Weinryb Grohsgal, independent scholar



  1. Nancy Brown, Purdue University
  2. Rachel Kantrowitz, New York University
  3. Ashley Sanders, Michigan State University
  4. Nora Slonimsky, City University of New York, Graduate Center


Saturday, January 3rd


AHA Session 69 – Doing More with Less: The Promise and Pitfalls of Short-Form Scholarship in the Digital History Age

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM

New York Ballroom East (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)


Chair: Kristin Purdy, Palgrave Macmillan



  1. Kristin Purdy, Palgrave Macmillan
  2. Kathryn Nasstrom, University of San Francisco
  3. Ben Railton, Fitchburg State University
  4. Stephanie Westcott, George Mason University


AHA Session 95 – Digital Pedagogy for History: Lightning Round

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM

Conference Room D (Sheraton New York, Lower Level)


Chair: Mark Tebeau


Using the “lightning round” method of spreading ideas in the digital humanities, this experimental panel features one-minute expositions on innovative projects and cool ideas in digital history for teaching and learning. Five or more panelists will be invited to register via Twitter at the meeting. Audience members will also be invited to join the lightning round.



  1. Kalani Craig, Indiana University Bloomington
  2. Jason A. Heppler, Stanford University
  3. Patrick Jones, University of Nebraska–Omaha
  4. Shane Landrum, Florida International University
  5. Sharon Leon, George Mason University
  6. Jeffrey W. McClurken, University of Mary Washington
  7. Elijah Meeks, Stanford University
  8. Kathryn Tomasek, Wheaton College (Massachusetts)
  9. Tom Scheinfeldt, University of Connecticut
  10. Jesse Stommel, University of Wisconsin–Madison



Mark Tebeau, Arizona State University


AHA Session 99 – Blogging and the Future of Scholarship

Association for Computers and the Humanities 1

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM

Gramercy Suite A (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: Clay Risen, New York Times



  1. Sara Georgini, Boston University, Rewiring the Historian’s Craft
  2. Michelle Moravec, Rosemont College, On Writing in Public
  3. Jonathan VanAntwerpen, The Henry Luce Foundation, The Immanent Frame, Secularism Studies, and Interstitial Spaces

Comment: Clay Risen, New York Times

AHA Session 102 – Digital Histories of Slavery

Association for Computers and the Humanities 2

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM

Gramercy Suite B (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: Philip Misevich



  1. Edward Baptist, Cornell University, Freedom on the Move: A Database of Fugitives from North American Slavery
  2. Don Debats, Flinders University, Slavery Confronted: Using Digital History to Understand the Complexity of Slavery in a Nineteenth-Century Commercial City, Alexandria, Virginia
  3. Vanessa M Holden, Michigan State University; Jessica Johnson, Michigan State University, Taste the Sweat to Check for Sickness: The Queering Slavery Working Group and Digital Histories of Slavery
  4. William G. Thomas III, University of Nebraska–Lincoln; Jennifer E. Guiliano, University of Maryland at College Park, (Dis)covering Race: Legal Records and the Fragmentary Histories of American Families

Comment: Philip Misevich, St. John’s University


AHA Session 111 – Medici Reborn: Modernizing the Renaissance Archive in a Digital Age

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM

Lenox Ballroom (Sheraton New York, Second Floor)


Chair: Alessio Assonitis



  1. Brendan Dooley, University College Cork, The Birth of News and the Medici Digital Archive (BIA)
  2. Piergabriele Mancuso, Medici Archive Project, Jewish History and Culture in the BIA Digital Archive: Problems and Solutions
  3. Sheila ffolliott, George Mason University, Researching Women Patrons, Collectors, and Artists in the Medici Digital Archive (BIA)
  4. Sheila Barker, Medici Archive Project, Medici Grand Duchesses and their Pharmacies
  5. Joanna Milstein, Medici Archive Project, The Construction of a New Research Program at Medici Archive Project: France and the Medici


AHA Session 149 – Visualization and Digital History: Techniques and Demonstrations

Association for Computers and the Humanities 3

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM

Beekman Parlor (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: William G. Thomas III, University of Nebraska–Lincoln



  1. Scott Nesbit, University of Richmond , The Spatial Turn of 1932: Revisiting the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States
  2. Benjamin MacDonald Schmidt, Northeastern University, Seeing Anew: Humanistic Approaches to Data Visualization
  3. Thomas Summerhill, Michigan State University , Mapping Dissent in the Civil War North: Digital History’s Potential to Recast Political History


Janice L. Reiff, University of California, Los Angeles



Sunday, January 4th


AHA Session 158 – Authoring Digital Scholarship for History: Challenges and Opportunities

Association for Computers and the Humanities 4

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM

Beekman Parlor (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: Edward L. Ayers, University of Richmond



  1. Cameron Blevins, Stanford University, Fracture or Continuum?
  2. Adeline Koh, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Digitizing “Chinese Englishmen”: Empire, Whiteness, and the Digital Nineteenth-Century Archive
  3. Lauren Tilton, Yale University, Looking Past the Written Word: Digital Authoring and the Representation of Knowledge
  4. Yoni Appelbaum, Harvard University, Open Sources: Realizing the Potential of Hypertext for History

Comment: Edward L. Ayers, University of Richmond


AHA Session 159 – Can DH Answer Our Questions? Using Digital Humanities to Address the Concerns of Feminist Historians

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM

Concourse A (New York Hilton, Concourse Level)

Chair: Monica L. Mercado, Bryn Mawr College



  1. Kathryn Falvo, Pennsylvania State University, Mapping the Community: ArchGIS and the History of Religious Experience
  2. Tamika Richeson, University of Virginia, Survival and Surveillance: Recovering Narratives of Black Female Criminality during the Civil War
  3. Wendy E. Chmielewski, Swarthmore College Peace Collection, Her Hat Was in the Ring: Women, History, Politics, and Digital Humanities in the Twenty-First Century


American Society of Church History 17 – American Religion Online: How Digital Projects Can Change How We Teach, Research, and Interpret Religious History

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM

Harlem Suite (New York Hilton, Fourth Floor)

Chair: John Fea, Messiah College



  1. Erin Bartram, University of Connecticut, The American Converts Database: The Database as an Expression of Scholarship on Religious History
  2. Kyle B. Roberts, Loyola University Chicago, The Jesuit Libraries Provenance Project
  3. Christopher Cantwell, University of Missouri–Kansas City, Placing Pluralism: Digital Scholarship, Public History, and the Mapping of Chicago’s Religious Diversity

Comment: John Fea, Messiah College


AHA Session 195 – Digital Scholarship, Academic Careers, and Tenure

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM

Regent Parlor (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: Katina Rogers, City University of New York, Graduate Center



  1. Jason A. Heppler, Stanford University
  2. Mills Kelly, George Mason University
  3. Jana Remy, Chapman University
  4. Andrew J. Torget, University of North Texas


American Society of Church History Session 26 – The Digital Humanities and the Study of Christianity in Late Antiquity: Reflections on a Disciplinary Intersection

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM

Harlem Suite (New York Hilton, Fourth Floor)


Chair: Jeanne-Nicole Saint-Laurent, Marquette University


  1. David Michelson, Vanderbilt University, Information Revolutions Past and Present: How Digital Humanities Can and Can’t Transform Scholarship on the History of Christianity in Late Antiquity
  2. Sarah Bond, Marquette University, The Social Network: Digitizing and Mapping Evidence for Greco-Roman Voluntary Associations
  3. Daniel L. Schwartz, Texas A&M University at College Station, Linked Open Data and the Promise of Syriac Prosopography

Comment: J. Edward Walters, Princeton Theological Seminary



Poster Session #1

(selected digital papers)

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 11:30 AM-2:00 PM

2nd Floor Promenade (New York Hilton, Second Floor)



From Minecraft to Mindcraft: Integrating Digital Humanities into History Courses
Amy Absher, Case Western Reserve University

Virtual Tours for Teaching History in the Digital Age
Clayton Brown, Utah State University

The Programming Historian
Fred Gibbs, University of New Mexico

The United States of AIDS: Digitizing ACT UP Oral History
Norma Juarez, New School; Guy Greenberg, New School

A Digital Reading of Twentieth-Century Demography
Emily Klancher Merchant, University of Michigan

Mapping the Creek Indian World of Spirits in the Long Nineteenth Century
Steven Peach, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

A New Database of the Moneyers from Late Anglo-Saxon and Early Anglo-Norman England
Jeremy Piercy, University of Edinburgh


Poster Session #2

(selected digital papers)

Sunday, January 4, 2015: 2:30 PM-5:00 PM

2nd Floor Promenade (New York Hilton, Second Floor)



Visualizing Saintly Commerce in the Medieval Mediterranean
Ali Akhtar, Bates College

FRANKLIN—Access to the FDR Library’s Digital Collections
Kirsten Carter, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum; Sarah Malcolm, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

Beyond Citation: Critical Thinking about Academic Databases
Eileen Clancy, City University of New York

Integrating a Video “Narrative Lab” in the History Survey Course
James Frusetta, Hampden-Sydney College

American Debates over the Meaning of Labor Unionism Examined with Digital Humanities Tools
Vilja Hulden, University of Colorado Boulder

Palmer Park: A Digital and Micro-history
Kevin McQueeney, University of New Orleans

Teaching Graduate Students to Code
Lincoln Mullen, George Mason University


Monday, January 5th


AHA Session 253 – Innovation in Digital Publishing in the Humanities

Monday, January 5, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM

Beekman Parlor (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: Stephen Robertson, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media



  1. Martin Eve, University of Lincoln and Open Library of Humanities
  2. Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Modern Language Association
  3. Matthew K. Gold, New York City College of Technology and City University of New York, Graduate Center
  4. Cecy Marden, Wellcome Trust
  5. Lisa Norberg, Barnard College Library, Columbia University


AHA Session 254 – Learning in Networks of Knowledge (LINK): Toward a New Digital Tool for Cultivating Historical Thinking

Monday, January 5, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM

Regent Parlor (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: David Pace, Indiana University Bloomington



  1. Ali Erkan, Ithaca College, Designing the Tool
  2. Steven Lam, Cornell University, Designing the Tool, Part II
  3. Matthew E. Klemm, Ithaca College, Using the Tool
  4. Michael B. Smith, Ithaca College, Using the Tool, Part II
  5. Susannah McGowan, University of California, Santa Barbara, Assessment

AHA Session 266 – The Digital Recovery of African American and African Diaspora History and Literary History: A Roundtable Discussion

Monday, January 5, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM

Concourse A (New York Hilton, Concourse Level)


Chair: Kim Gallon, Purdue University


  1. Jessica Johnson, Michigan State University, African Diaspora, Ph.D. and Radical Black History Online
  2. Robert Luckett, Jackson State University, Margaret Walker Personal Papers Digital Archives Project
  3. Kim Gallon, Purdue University, Black Press Research Collective
  4. Bryan Carter, University of Arizona, The Virtual Harlem Project


AHA Session 286 – Revisiting New York’s Experience of World War II through Digital Public History

Monday, January 5, 2015: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM

New York Ballroom West (Sheraton New York, Third Floor)


Chair: Andrew T Urban, Rutgers University–New Brunswick



  1. Johnathan Thayer, City University of New York, Graduate Center and Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey, The Seamen’s Church Institute’s American Merchant Marine Oral History Project: An Archival Intervention
  2. Molly Rosner, Rutgers University–Newark, Brooklyn in Love and at War: Making Private Correspondence Public Online
  3. Natalie Milbrodt, Queens Library, Democratizing the Archives: An Aggregation of Diverse Histories in Queens


AHA Session 289 – Text Analysis, Visualization, and Historical Interpretation

Monday, January 5, 2015: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM

Murray Hill Suite A (New York Hilton, Second Floor)


Chair: Robert K. Nelson, University of Richmond



  1. Micki Kaufman, City University of New York, Graduate Center, “Everything on Paper Will Be Used Against Me”: Quantifying Kissinger: A Computational Analysis of the Digital National Security Archive’s Kissinger Memcons and Telcons
  2. Ian Milligan, University of Waterloo, The Promise of WebARChive Files: Exploring the Internet Archive as a Historical Resource
  3. Michelle Moravec, University of Rosemont, Using Big Data to Answer Historiographical Questions; or, Can Digital History Fulfill the Promise of Social History?
  4. Fred Gibbs, University of New Mexico, Between Text, Argument, and Data: Interpreting New Visualizations in History

Comment: Robert K. Nelson, University of Richmond



Fire! July 19th, 1845 – The Financial District

On July 19th, 1845, New York City caught fire.  It started in a whale oil warehouse in lower Manhattan and spread quickly, eventually engulfing warehouses full of explosives.  The fire burned for over eight hours, and when it was finally put out, 30 people had died.

The fire was commemorated in popular prints in the 1880s, two of which currently held by the New York Public Library:

View of the terrific explosion at the Great Fire in New York. From Broad St. July 19th, 1845.


The Fire Of July 19, 1845 — The View At Bowling Green.

I came across the fire while trying to figure out the names of public health institutions in 1847 New York.  The NYC guide I’m using – Doggett’s New York City Directory – for 1845-46 contains a list of the 217 buildings destroyed by the fire, and the names of the hundreds of people who were displaced by it.

I thought it might be fun to map the extent of this fire, described in Doggett’s as:

“The disastrous fire of the 19th of July, 1845 – long to be remembered by the citizens of New-York – having laid waste a considerable portion of the business section of the city; and causing, consequently, the removal of numerous business men and firms.”

Ever systematic, the guide went on:

“The total loss by the late fire has been variously estimated at from $5,000,000 to $8,000,000.  The fire commenced about 3 o’clock, A.M. and was not subdued till 11 o’clock A.M., a period of eight hours.  Supposing, therefore, the total loss to have been $6,000,000 – the average loss per hour, was $750,000; the loss, per quarter of an hour, was $187,500; the loss, per minute, was $3,125, and the average loss per second, was $52.08 1/2!  Bank notes, of the denomination of one dollar, would not burn more rapidly in a common fireplace than was the property consumed by this conflagration.”

I have no sense of the relative value of the area destroyed today, but it encompasses much of the financial district of present-day New York City.


End-of-the-semester Review

Back in 2011, ProfHacker recommended (and has continued annually to recommend) an end-of-semester re-cap.  Now that my students’ final projects are in, I thought it would be a good time to publicly take stock of what worked, what didn’t, and what’s next.

What worked really well for each course you taught?

I’m lucky enough to be a postdoc this year, so I was only responsible for one course – Digital Maps, Space and Place.  This was my first time teaching a course “native” to Digital Studies – that is, one that didn’t combine digital humanities methods into a history course, but was designed to put those methods at the center of what happened in my classroom.  I was afraid that students would have trouble learning the many new technologies that I threw at them, and I was pleased to find that they were willing to take on tools that they were previously totally unfamiliar with.  I’m hoping to lean into this willingness more in future, and spend a bit less time teaching the tools, and a little more talking about the theory behind tool design.  I hope that this will prove engaging for students, and will also make it easier to link what I teach with theoretical debates in other disciplines.

What didn’t?

Having never taught a technical skills-based class before, I struggled early on to figure out how to teach tools.  Talking students through step-by-step was fairly boring (for them and for me) and meant that they didn’t necessarily retain what we’d done in class without a tutorial hand out.  I ended up borrowing some techniques from colleagues in the sciences, and asking students to work on a small problem on their own at home (in lieu of lab time) and to bring projects in process (of either success or failure) to class where we could work on them as a group.

What ideas did you form that could be applied the next time you teach this course?

In addition to leaning into students’ embrace of new tools, I also want to lean into a lab model for the humanities.  In the spring, I’m teaching a class on information and communication technology in Antebellum America, and I’m using a group work format borrowed from a colleague in history.  Students work in groups to produce collective historiographies, primary source analyses and archive reviews, before turning to individual and self-directed projects.  I’m hoping that these groups – which remain static over the course of the semester – will provide students with a small learning community, and a support group for developing their own work.

I was also much more comfortable this semester changing things on the fly if what I was doing didn’t work.  In the past, when teaching classes I’m more familiar with, I’ve adhered to a pretty strict schedule, but I liked the flexibility of throwing a lesson plan out and starting from scratch the day before if the previous class had opened up new possibilities.  I do worry about unnerving those students who meticulously plan out the semester, but I’m convinced that a bit of spontaneity can be good for pedagogy, and for course morale.

Did you tuck away any digital or printed materials that you think would be great for inclusion the next time around?

Well, today I spent a lot of time tooling around in the U.S. Patent office online archive.  I’d not thought about using that next semester, but I might build it in.  I’m also excited about using the Davidson College Archives to show students what the architecture (both physical and informational) of an archive looks like before sending them off to evaluate digital ones.


How will you know where to look for these materials when it comes time for you to teach the course again?

When in doubt, !

The Oregon Trail

I’ve recently been working on an exhibit that tracks John C. Frémont’s progress West during his Oregon Trail expeditions in 1842 and 1843. Frémont’s journal, published in The Expeditions of John Charles Fremont chronicles his progress, but gives little sense of the space covered. Similarly, the maps that were made from Frémont’s journal give an excellent sense of space, and of the Native geopolitics of the land he passed through, but give the viewer a less good sense of the time it took to traverse the space between the Missouri and Columbia rivers.

This map (powered by Omeka) is a first stab at bringing these two sources together. I have annotated the Frémont maps with excerpts from his journal, and marked every stopping point along the the trail to Oregon. I have mostly pulled out things of interest to me – Frémont took note of meteorological data  in addition to describing his progress West, and while I hope to work with that information in the future, I’ve focused here on encounters with Native peoples, and with wildlife.  Annotations that appear on the map itself are also highlighted and transcribed.

One of the things I wanted to convey with this map is the time it took to cover ground in the early nineteenth century.  Borrowing from Brenda Braithwaite’s work, “The Mechanic is the Message,”  and drawing on story maps (most notably 21 steps) I wanted the user of this map to get some sense of both the unknown ahead of Frémont and his party, and of the many stops en route to Oregon.  Put another way – I wanted to make it difficult for a user to jump ahead without pausing at every resting place that Frémont did along the Oregon trail.  To that end, the right-hand sidebar of this map contains the dates of rest stops, but future dates only become visible once you’ve clicked on the preceding ones.  The timeline at the bottom of the map is a bit of a shortcut – you can scroll forward in time and make all of the points visible – but I’m hoping that users will click through, read excerpts from Frémont’s journal, and (in an incredibly diluted way) get a sense of the experience of westward migration in the 1840s.