Archives, architecture, data, provenance

From the Society of American Archivists: Provenance is a fundamental principle of archives, referring to the individual, family, or organization that created or received the items in a collection. The principle of provenance or the respect des fonds dictates that records of different origins (provenance) be kept separate to preserve their context. I once heard a (possibly apocryphal) story about an archive that required that a mummified bird that had been found in a box…

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These are a few of my favorite maps

I’m putting together an aspirational syllabus for a digital humanities/mapping course, and have been thinking about my favorite maps, and why they work so well.  Here is a very-not-complete list of my current greatest hits: Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761: a cartographic narrative. This is, by far, my favorite digital mapping project.  I’ve seen Vincent Brown speak on it, and I was quite impressed by his articulation of why we need a map like this…

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Alternative assignments

I’ve been talking and thinking a lot recently about the work that written assignments do – especially for students like many of mine this semester, who are in their last semester of college (and possibly their last history course ever).  One of my colleagues structures his upper level seminar around a publishable paper, which is an idea I wish I’d seriously considered before finalizing my syllabi for this semester.  Students who are in his class…

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Batkid, suffering strangers and distant philanthropy

Peter Singer has a great article in the Washington Post that begins with the public outpouring for Batkid, and why people are more likely to give to something like the Make-A-Wish foundation than they are to organizations that provide sleeping nets in regions with malaria, or treatment for diseases that are treatable in the United States but often deadly elsewhere, before turning to the United States’ complicity in global poverty: People who get money as…

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A new (to me) take on paternalism and acculturation

Another gem from the Philadelphia yearly meeting, on why Quakers were invested in Indian welfare: “While endavouring amid many obstacles, to discharge the duties which devolve upon them, the Committee are at times encouraged by the belief, that this interesting concern, which for half a century has engaged the attention of the yearly meetings, originated in a sense of religious duty towards these poor oppressed people; and that however little may seem to have been…

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More bureaucracy

Perhaps it’s just that reading organizational records means more bureaucracy than I’m generally used to, but I’ve been intrigued by entries in the monthly meeting minutes of the Philadelphia Society of Friends that report on general levels of attendance at meetings throughout the week.  I’ve just moved on to the yearly meeting, and found that those reports were aggregated, with the conclusion “The hour is generally well observed.  All the meetings notice instances of sleeping,…

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Snarky bureaucracy, c. 1846

I’ve finally tracked down the files containing army correspondence relative to Fort Gibson, in Indian Territory, around the time that the Cherokee Nation raised funds for famine relief.  Many of the letters are about troop movements, but the one I’m reading now is crabby about whoever is responsible for the fort’s finances: You are mistaken in supposing that the regulation of July 12th, 1845 went into operation at Fort Gibson only from the date of…

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IVMOOC text

There are lots of reasons to be leery of MOOCs, but I very much enjoyed the information visualization MOOC run out of Indiana University last year.  The visualization I helped produce is previewed here, under case study #5.  I spearheaded the mapping part of the project, and proposed the color model we ended up using in which different hues represented different changes in publication rates between two periods.  Nice to see it in (almost) print!

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Classroom RPGs

As we near the Thanksgiving break, and as my students get increasingly stressed about final papers and exams, I’ve tried to lighten up (mostly Thursday) classes with role playing exercises.  It can be a bit of a gamble, since they rely so much on the students really committing to personifying historical characters, but so far it’s been quite a bit of fun – even if one of my students did call me on the worksheet…

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Sleepy Hollow continues to be weird

My students asked today for a Sleepy Hollow update – which I wasn’t fully prepared to give.  After they found the Lost Colony of Roanoke (on a magic island in the Hudson Valley, no less), I had sort of given up on the show.  I caught up tonight – and it continues to be terrible, but in some rather odd ways. For one, some officers of the British army are also demons, which takes the…

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