About me

Hello World!

I’m Fred Gibbs, an associate professor in the history department at the University of New Mexico.

I have three primary research interests that I try to overlap as much as possible, but sometimes it’s nice when they don’t. Even the most comfortable hat can chafe after a while. General descriptions follow; I describe specific implementations on my projects page.

History and Rhetoric of Food

Early in my graduate school days, I developed a fascination for cooking, food writing, and food history. I wanted to write a dissertation on monastic diets. Difficulty in finding sources took my work away from food and towards poison, as described below. Post-dissertation, I am finally returning to my interests in understanding how foodways, traditions, cookbooks, food media, diet books, etc, provide a unique expression of cultural values.

Sustainable Digital History Coursework

Several of my classes now produce some kind of digital public history project rather than standard essays. Each class makes new contributions, and over time that work adds up to digital history projects that would be nearly impossible to do otherwise. I’m enjoying the challenge of crafting and refining a basic web framework that others can use to showcase digital coursework. There are three ongoing projects helping me to refine the generic framework: Historic Sites on the Santa Fe Trail, UNM Campus History, and an Intro Guide to Historiography.

Check out the GitHub repository for the preliminary code base and template that you can use.

Digital History & Archives

For over a decade I have worked and published in various facets of digital history/humanities. Early on I focused on computational history, digital editing, and data visualization. More recently my interests have shifted toward developing post-custodial, community-based archives that can help facilitate a new kind of historical record and new kinds of historical research.

What about poison?

My earlier (dissertation) research (and most early presentations and publications) focused on premodern toxicology, particularly late medieval and early modern medical texts on poison. I wrote a boring but highly informative and I think insightful book about it. Reveling in its own pedantry, it shows how physicians cultivated a distinct genre of poison literature in which they explored the natural philosophy of poison, debating its existence and wide range of meanings.

Outside the Academy

When I’m not experimenting with new digital forms of history and archives, I like trying to grow food in harsh desert climates, starting (and occasionally finishing) DIY projects around the house (which entails many hours of research with YouTube videos and chat forums—a truly fascinating window onto American DIY culture), and making awkward event flyers to remind myself why a design career will always be out of reach.

A Brief History

Until the spring of 2013, I was an assistant professor in the department of History and Art History at George Mason University (Fairfax, VA) and director of digital scholarship at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

I completed my History of Science PhD at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I discovered a new interest in web design and development. For a few years before that, I did menial cubicle chores [= web programming] (where I also built elaborate soda-can towers) after studying physics at Carleton College. I grew up in Prior Lake, MN, where I enjoyed riding bikes through neighbors’ yards, playing mindless video games (experiments in algorithms, really), and trying to get computers to do stuff.

Under the Screen

This site is run through GitHub Pages, a free hosting platform through GitHub. Individual pages are written in Markdown, which makes it super easy to write and edit webpages without code getting in the way, uploaded/committed to my GitHub repository and rendered (via a tool called Jekyll) by GitHub Pages into the website. It’s easy, maintenance-free, and extremely flexible.

Many years ago I jotted down a few reflections on my switch from Wordpress to GitHub, which continue to hold true.