Digital History Across the Curriculum

Our Digital History Across the Curriculum grant has now concluded. Amanda French, our Digital Curriculum Specialist, has completed her work on the project and we have made a series of alterations in the overall curriculum, as well as within individual course modules. We have processed the changes through departmental, college, and university-side committees, and have received New York State approval for the new requirements. We now want to take some time to assess and evaluate our progress, and wish to receive some structured narrative feedback from you as we move ahead.

The basic changes can be summarized as follows:


We have created a new course, “Creating Digital History,” which will be required for every student in the program. This course is intended to provide students with a basic grounding in the technological skills needed to conduct online historical research and to present the results of historical research online. It also introduces such topics as intellectual property, the changing nature of researchers, basic metadata practices, information abundance, and social networking tools. Click to see the initial syllabus and the 2010 revision.

Our “History in the New Media” course has been redesigned as an elective follow-up course to “Creating Digital History.” It will shift its emphasis to focus more on the technological and administrative issues inherent in managing digital projects. Students will select a project that they are interested in working on and ultimately produce a grant proposal, using federal guidelines from NHPRC, NEH, or IMLS that potentially would fund the proposal. Click here for the syllabus.

The Research Seminar capstone project has been reconfigured to encourage students to work on such projects as building online archives and/or exhibits, preparing online editions of historical documents, and investigating digital topics.

Students now receive training as part of their coursework in such open source tools as Omeka, WordPress, and the Archivists Toolkit that they can continue to use throughout their careers, and they also receive some basic exposure to HTML, TEI, and CSS. We do not seek to train them in specific programs or packages, but rather emphasize transferable skills and underlying principles.

Links have been established with archives and manuscript repositories involved with digital projects in order to provide this as an internship possibility for students. For a partial list of our internship opportunities, along with the types of projects that they support, see our website.

We have collaborated with various other departments throughout NYU in order to enhance our elective offerings in the digital area. Courses now open to our students and approved as electives within the program include: Museums & Interactive Technologies; Educational Design for Media Environments; Orality in the Electronic Age; Handling Complex Media; and Digital Preservation and Restoration. We also have undertaken more multidisciplinary programming and joint course development especially with the Museum Studies Program, the Department of Teaching and Learning, and the Moving Image Archiving Program as a result of the grant, and have created opportunities for students in various related programs to interact and share research interests.


All students are now required to select “Advanced Archival Description,” which will be offered annually. This course will provide a more intense engagement with metadata standards, web-compatible technologies, content management systems, and social networking tools. Click here for the syllabus

The Institutional Archives course has been renamed “Institutional Archives and Electronic Records” and will shift its emphasis more toward managing born-digital documentation, focusing especially on such issues as authenticity, reliability, enterprise-wide approaches to capturing critical data, and database management. Click here for the syllabus.

The Preservation and Reformatting class now includes several new units that address digital reformatting, institutional repositories, and preservation standards. Click here for the syllabus.


A new course, “Approaches to Public History,” has been introduced into the curriculum. It will focus especially on some major methods for communicating public history programs to diverse audiences, including oral history, film, and new media. Students will grapple with the influence of technological change in the field, and will also be exposed to projects that use new media to reach diverse audiences. They will further learn about such issues as audio and video preservation standards and delivery mechanisms. Click here for the syllabus.

The “Historical Editing Seminar” course has been redesigned to focus on the creation of digital editions. Students will learn the issues involved in preparing both digitized image and text editions. In the course of the semester, students will go through the stages of selection, organization, transcription, annotation and indexing to produce a mini-digital edition. Click here for the syllabus.

The “Historian and the Visual Record” class has been redesigned to incorporate more history and theory of material culture, and now requires students to curate a Omeka-based digital exhibit. For more information, see the course page.

Perhaps most importantly, we have worked to create a cultural change in the program whereby students now expect, and are expected to, foster a deep intellectual and practical engagement with new media. This already has generated new types of capstone projects and research papers within individual courses, and has produced an extraordinary transformation in “tech literacy” among the graduate students.

To comment on the curriculum, click here