Digital History


  • Class: T,TH 9:30 - 10:45 @ 120 Mitchell Hall
  • Office Hours: T 8-9:30; 11-12:30 @ 1077 Mesa Vista Hall
  • Fred Gibbs (
  • Margie Montañez (

Course Description

This interdisciplinary course explores the effects of the digital age on producing and consuming history. Some guiding questions:

  • How are historians adapting research and publication practices to use digitized archives and historical data?
  • How does technology shape our access to the past?
  • How does the Web change the kinds and forms of history that should be produced?
  • How does the Web (and resources like Wikipedia) change perceptions of history?
  • How can historians engage with these methods to improve information literacy?

In addressing these questions, we’ll draw from contemporary readings in history, public history, historiography, digital humanities, literary studies, media studies, and library and museum studies. Along with our readings, we will investigate a variety of digital history, archival, and journalistic projects that feature various digital methods (such as text analysis, mapping, data visualization, and so on). We’ll critique the various facets of these projects (data, design, interface, utility, etc.) to understand the technologies and data involved.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Think critically about how technology shapes our access to and interpretations of the past
  • Examine the impact of the digitization of cultural heritage and how digital archives reshape our access to the past
  • Begin to experiment with new tools, workflows, methods, and techniques for large-scale research questions in history
  • Identify cultural and algorithmic biases in searching for historical information
  • Critique how digital publishing challenges historical authority and expertise

Work Requirements and Grading

NOTE THAT ALL WORK IS OPTIONAL! You need to do as many assignments to get whatever grade you want. There are more assignments given than anyone needs to do. Do the ones that interest you and do them well! Note that point values are the MAXIMUM possible, not what you get for merely completing them.

  • Thorough preparedness and engaged participation in most every class meeting. (30 points; note this is roughly 1 point per meeting if you are in class AND PARTICIPATING)
  • Reading responses (0-2 points each). See the Response guidelines. You can write a response for EACH item on the syllabus; so if there are two readings for one day, you can write two responses and get double points that day. You can always write responses on optional readings. There are 20(!) readings left as of 3/26; about 10 are required. All responses do have to be done BEFORE class, though.
  • Analog/Digital Search Comparison—see Feb 7 (10 points)
  • Transcription Assignment (10 points)
  • Topic Modeling of Medical History Journals—see March 5 (10 points)
  • Geo-referencing exercise (10 points)
  • Spatial History Project (20 points)
  • Visual Essay (10 points)
  • Data Interface Critique (10 points)
  • Complete and clean Digital Portfolio (10 points)

NOTE: If you have already done significant work on an original assignment that can’t transfer to the new ones (or if you don’t want to do that), you are more than welcome to complete the original assignment instead.

Grade Distribution

Note everything is 10 points less than before to make up for getting behind earlier and not presenting enough scoring opportunities.

Points Grade
84+ A
80-84 A-
77-79 B+
73-76 B
70-72 B-
67-69 C+
63-66 C
60-62 C-
57-59 D+
50-56 D
49- F

Absences Policy

Up to three unexcused absences are allowed without any grade penalty. However, after that, you lose roughly two points for every absence—so that basically every two missed classes lowers your grade one notch (B+ to B, for instance). If you reach ten absences, I will drop you from the course. Family or medical emergencies are excused absences, provided that you get in touch with me ASAP about them.

Please Ask for Help

I heartily encouraged you to speak with me at any time about how I think you’re doing in the class and how it can be improved (if at all). If life gets overwhelming during the course, it can be tempting to drift away from an elective course like this. Rather than disappear, please come talk with me about how we can accommodate your circumstances and thus avoid digging a huge hole from which it becomes increasingly difficult to escape.


There are NO REQUIRED BOOKS for this course. But you will need to subscribe to the course Zotero library to access assigned articles. This will be discussed in class, but for reference, please see the instructions for connecting. The URL for the group library is

Writing Help

CAPS Tutoring Services is a free-of-charge educational assistance program available to UNM students enrolled in classes. Online services include the Online Writing Lab, Chatting with or asking a question of a Tutor.

Students with Disabilities

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodations of their disabilities. If you have a disability requiring accommodation, please contact me immediately to make arrangements as well as Accessibility Services Office in 2021 Mesa Vista Hall at 277-3506 or Information about your disability is confidential.

Academic Misconduct

You should be familiar with UNM’s Policy on Academic Dishonesty and the Student Code of Conduct which outline academic misconduct defined as plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, or facilitating any such act.

##Citizenship and/or Immigration Status All students are welcome in this class regardless of citizenship, residency, or immigration status. I will respect your privacy if you choose to disclose your status. As for all students in the class, family emergency-related absences are normally excused with reasonable notice to the professor, as noted in the attendance guidelines above. UNM as an institution has made a core commitment to the success of all our students, including members of our undocumented community. The Administration’s welcome is found on our website: