Web-based digital history projects have become an important resource for scholars and students as well as archives and public history professionals. They democratize access to historical texts and interpretations, preserve fragile original documents and contextualize documents in their historical milieu. When done well, they offer researchers powerful tools to locate, analyze and understand historical texts. This course will introduce the ideas, techniques and complexities of creating digital history texts and web sites. It will introduce standards and best practices for digitization and explain the basic steps to designing and implementing digital projects in an archives or public history setting. The focus of the course is not on the technical work of creating documents, but the intellectual work of designing digital projects that offer the best access to the documents.
- Lorna M. Hughes, Digitizing collections : strategic issues for the information manager (London, 2004) [NYU Bookstore]
- National Endowment for the Humanities, Grant Guidelines for Humanities Collections and Reference Resources or other program guidelines.
* Melissa M. Terras,Digital Images for the Information Professional (Ashgate, 2008). Google Books offers a limited preview.
* Dan Cohen & Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History (2005) [http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/] (If you haven’t already read this book, you should!)
* Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth, eds. Companion to Digital Humanities (London, 2004).
Weekly recommended texts should be read if you want more detail on any specific aspect of your collection.
Week 1 (January 26): Introduction
We will go over the course structure, major assignments, the use of the class wiki, and reasons for digitizing historical documents. Please consult Selecting a Project, to get started on identifying a semester-long project.
Week 2 (February 2): Evaluating Historical Materials for Digital Publication
Using the rough ideas supplied by students, we will discuss different rationales for choosing a collection of materials for digitization, selecting within that collection, and looking at how historians select materials for thematic projects. The importance of delineating the project’s goals before selecting materials will be emphasized.
Due: Two or three rough ideas for your digital project, to be discussed in class, posted to wiki.
- Lorna M. Hughes, Digitizing Collections.
- Chapter 1, “Why Digitize? The Costs and Benefits of Digitization,”
- Chapter 2: “Selecting Materials for Digitization,” and
- Chapter 3, “Intellectual Property, Copyright, and Other Legal Issues,”
- Diane Vogt-O’Connor, “Selection of Materials for Scanning,” in Sitts, //Handbook for Digital Projects//, 35-63. ] This is a link to a pdf of the entire book—go to page 45 to get to the correct article.
- North Carolina ECHO, “Digitization Guidelines: Selection”
- “Selecting Materials: An Iterative Process” NINCH, Guide to Good Practice, [http://www.nyu.edu/its/humanities/ninchguide/III/]
- “Rights Management,” NINCH, Guide to Good Practice, [http://www.nyu.edu/its/humanities/ninchguide/IV/]
Week 3 (February 9): Varieties of History-Based Websites
Designing a strong website involves planning and careful attention to organization and searching. Web sites can contain a variety of materials, including primary and secondary sources, images, audio, and interactive materials. Project designers need to determine the extent of the initial site and develop plans for later expansion.
Due: Draft project description posted to wiki
- Cohen & Rosenzweig, “Getting Started: The Nature of Websites, and What You Will Need to Create Yours, and “Designing for the History Web,” Digital History, 51-140.
- Kenneth M. Price, “Edition, Project, Database, Archive, Thematic Research Collection: What’s In a Name?,” DHQ: Digital Humanities Quarterly. Summer 2009 3:3.
Also — spend time looking at websites on a historical topic that you are familiar with, be prepared to discuss the way the topic is generally handled, including the weaknesses and strengths of at least two sites. Check these sites for help locating good sites.
* “Best of History Web Sites,” [http://www.besthistorysites.net/]
* “Digital History,” University of Houston. [http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/]
* “American Memory,” Library of Congress [http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html]
Week 4 (February 16): Designing and Managing Your Digital Project
After you have selected a set of historical documents or thematic topic, you must evaluate the materials and consult potential users to develop the best method for digitization. Will you focus on digitized text or images to provide the best surrogate for your documents? Session will explore issues of project organization and staffing as well as creating a plan for later expansion. Database use for managing projects.
Due: Draft site index posted to wiki.
- Lorna Hughes, Chapter 4, “Project Management and the Institutional Framework,” and Chapter 7: “Managing a Digitization Project,” in Digitizing Collections.
- “Quality Control and Assurance,” NINCH, Guide to Good Practice.
- Tom Scheinfeldt, “Three Innovation Killers in Digital Humanities,” in Found History Blog, Oct. 16, 2009.
- Morris Eaves, “Behind the Scenes at the William Blake Archive: Collaboration Takes More Than E-mail”
- “What, Why, How and For Whom,” Stevens & Burg, Editing Historical Documents, 25-40.
- “Project Planning”, NINCH, Guide to Good Practice.
- Miriam B. Kahn, Protecting your library’s digital sources: The Essential Guide to Planning and Preservation (ALA Editions, 2004).
Week 5 (February 23): Digitizing Images and Texts
The digital text that you create is a surrogate for the original. The transformation of historical objects to digital media will entail some distortion as the historian weighs readability versus strict adherence to the original. Developing a policy for digitizing texts is more complicated than just typing what you see.
Due: Draft project management/work flow posted to wiki
- Lorna M. Hughes, Chapter 8, “Digitization of Rare and Fragile Materials,” Chapter 10, “Digitization of Text and Images,” in Digitizing Collections.
- Terras, “Chapter 6: Personal Digital Image Collections,”
- Terras, “Chapter 8: Current Issues in Digital Imaging,” in Digital Images for the Information Professional (2008).
- Matthew Spencer and Christopher C. Howe, “Optimal Strategies for Accurate Transcription,” Literary and Linguistics Computing 21:3 (2006).
- Lorna M. Hughes, Chapter 9 , “Digitization of Audio and Moving Image Collections,” in Digitizing Collections.
- “Audio/Video Capture and Management,” NINCH, Guide to Good Practice
- Melissa M. Terras, Digital Images for the Information Professional (Ashgate: 2008)—whole book is very useful.
- “General Principles of Transcriptions and Proofreading,” “Transcription: Types of Sources,” and “Presenting the Text,” Stevens & Burg, Editing Historical Documents, 71-156
- Howard Besser, “Introduction to Art Image Access,” Edited by Sally Hubbard with Deborah Lenert.
Week 6 (March 1): Metadata and Added Value
Digital history projects are more than just a compilation of texts. Projects add value to the documents through context and annotation, illustration and commentary. Deciding how much information to provide and how to provide it is a crucial aspect of the project.
Due: Draft digitization policy and samples posted to wiki
- Melissa M. Terras, “Chapter 7: Image Metadata,” in Digital Images for the Information Professional (2008).
- Scott Rosenberg, “In Defense of the Link, Part III: In Links We Trust,” Wordyard blog, Sept. 2, 2010.
- Martyn Jessop, “The Inhibition of Geographical Information in Digital Humanities Scholarship,” Literary and Linguistic Computing, Apr 2008. Vol. 23, Iss. 1; p. 39 (12 pages) ]
- University Publishing in a Digital Age [http://scholarlypublishing.org/ithakareport/]
Week 7 (March 8): Text Encoding I
The key to long-lasting digital material is the use of XML tagging to describe format and content. Digital projects need to develop a sense of what they want to describe and create tagging guidelines to create consistent treatment.
Due: Draft essay on metadata and added value posted to wiki
- Text Encoding Initiative, A Gentle Introduction to TEI
- Women Writer’s Project, “What is TEI,”
- TEI by Example, “Introduction,”
- “Digitization and Encoding of Text,” NINCH, Guide to Good Practice.
- Discussion thread on the Humanist “Inadequacies of Markup” April-May 2010.
- Cohen & Rosenzweig, “Appendix Database Software, Scripting Languages and XML,” Digital History, 249-260.
Week 8 (March 15): Spring Recess — no class
Week 9 (March 22): Text Encoding II
This week we will go through the practical work of setting up a schema, loading it on Oxygen, and encoding a document. We will discuss what kinds of things to encode in a document and why, and step through encoding of samples.
- TEI by Example, “Common Structure and Elements, , “Prose”, and “Primary Sources” — Note, if your materials include poetry, or drama, read those sections instead of (or in addition to) “Primary Sources.”
- Christian Wittern, Arianna Ciula, Connal Tuohy, “The Making of TEI P5,” Literary and Linguistic Computing, 24:3 (Sept. 2009).
Week 10 (March 29): What do Users Want?
Digital history projects on the World Wide Web reach larger and broader audiences than similar print-based projects. Digital projects need to consider the needs of this diverse audience and develop the tools they need and want.
- Cohen & Rosenzweig, an Audience,” Digital History, 141-159.
- Wendy Duff, Barbara Craig, Joan Cherry, “Historians’ Use of Archival Sources: Promises and Pitfalls of the Digital Age,” The Public Historian May 2004, Vol. 26, No. 2: 7-22.
- “Assessment of Projects by User Evaluation,” NINCH Guide to Good Practice.
- John K Lee and Brendan Calandra, “Can Embedded Annotations Help High School Students Perform Problem Solving Tasks Using A Web-Based Historical Document?” Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Fall 2004, 37:1, 65-85.
- Suzanne R. Graham, “Historians and Electronic Resources: Patterns and Use,” Journal of the Association of History and Computing 5:2 (Sept. 2002)
Week 11 (April 5): Grants, Discussions
Discussion of grant funding, proposal preparation, and students projects. We will go over final project format.
Due: Draft tagging guidelines and sample for text-based projects or Omeka sample for image-based ones posted to wiki.
- Lorna Hughes, Chapter 6, “Project Planning and Funding,” in Digitizing Collections
- NEH Preservation and Access Guidelines.
Also— skim a general grantsmanship how-to book. There are many out there, here are a few:
- Ellen Karsh, Sue Fox Arlen, The Only Grant-Writing Book you Will Every Need (2009).
- Lynn E. Miner, Jeremy T. Miner, and Jerry Griffith Proposal Planning and Writing (2003).
- John Mutz and Kathryn Murray, Fundraising for Dummies (2005).
Week 12 (April 12): Web 2.0 for History-Based Websites
In this session we will explore the variety of ways historians use historical materials in Web sites, including historical exhibits, teaching sites, textbases, companions to museum, video or television programs, documentary editions, and on-line archival collections. We will also examine directions for the next generation of websites.
Due: Draft funding needs, identification and rationales for three possible funding sources, using Foundation Directory posted to wiki.
- J. Gordon Daines and Cory L. Nimer, “The Interactive Archivist, Case Studies in Utilizing Web 2.0 to Improve the Archival Experience,” SAA E-Publication.
- Tim Grove, “New Media and the Challenges for Public History,” AHA Perspectives, May 2009.
- Lorna M. Hughes, Chapter 5, “The Importance of Collaboration,” in Digitizing Collections.
- Rose Holley, “Tagging Full Text Searchable Articles: An Overview of Social Tagging Activity in Historic Australian Newspapers August 2008-August 2009,” D-Lib Magazine, Jan/Feb. 2010.
*Cheryl Ann Peltier-Davis, The Cybrarian’s Web: An A-Z guide to 101 free Web 2.0 tools and other resources (Feb. 2012).
- Center for History and New Media, “NextHistory.org: Enhancing Historical Research with Text Analysis Tools,” discussions of visualization and other tools.
Week 13 (April 19): Maintaining and Expanding Digital Projects
Decisions about free and open access vs. pay sites; articles on how digital projects don’t end quite like traditional ones do. Also want to cover the difference between digital archival collections and “doing digital history.”
- Jerome McGann, “Sustainability: the Elephant in the Room,” from McGann, Online Humanities Scholarship: The Shape of Things to Come (2010).
- Robert Darnton, “Google & the Future of Books,” New York Review of Books, 56:2 Feb. 12, 2009.
- Kathryn Kish Sklar and Thomas Dublin, “Keeping Up with the Web, 1997–2008: Women and Social Movements in the United States,” AHA Perspectives, May 2009.
- Douglas Seefeldt and William G. Thomas, “What is Digital History? A Look at Some Exemplar Projects,” AHA Perspectives May 2009.
Week 14 (Apr. 26): No class— work on your proposals.
Due: Written environmental scan posted to wiki
Week 15 (May 3) : Discussion of Projects (last class)
Short presentations and discussions of each grant proposal, explanation of your approach to the proposal format. This is designed to let you lay out your pitch and ask for feedback or suggestions.
*Final project due on Monday, May 7**