Digital History

Spring 2019 • HIST 300-002
info | readings

1: Course and Digital History (+ Humanities) Introduction

Tuesday (Jan 15)

Today we’ll review the syllabus, course aims, assignments, and general plan for the semester. We’ll also figure out how to customize the course to best suit participants’ interests.

  • Brief Introduction to Digital History/Historiography
  • Relevance of Digital History to Contemporary Society

Sample Digital History Projects

Valley of the Shadow, Virtual Jamestown, American Social Movements, Civil War Washington, Blue Ridge Parkway, Slave Voyages + a striking visualization, Colonial Dispatches, Colored Conventions, Lynching America, Mapping Segregation, Native Land, UM Heritage Project, First Days Project, American Yawp, American Panorama

Thursday (Jan 17)


Think about and come prepared to discuss what kinds of public digital history projects you’d be excited to work on.

2: The Uses of (Digital) History

Tuesday (Jan 22)

  • Beverley Southgate, What is History For?, 10-30.

Thursday (Jan 24)

  • Refine your ideas for our Histories of New Mexico Project. Remember that it’s easy to think of cool projects that end up being impossible because we can’t find historical sources. So make sure what you want to focus on has at least some trace in available archives. Hunting for digital (and analog) sources is part of the fun! (ok, no, it’s not always fun, but it’s a necessary step in the process.)
  • SKIM QUICKLY: Beverley Southgate, What is History For?, 31-58.
  • SKIM SLOWLY: Knowledge Infrastructures
  • What is an archives?

3: Archival Power

Tuesday (Jan 29)

Et cetera

  • Lauren Klein, “The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings,” American Literature 85, no. 4 (January 1, 2013): 661–88.


Thursday (Jan 31)

Read one of the following and be prepared to discuss in class. For ideas of what to think about when reading, see the reading response guidelines (even if you’re not going to write anything).

  • Marisa Elena Duarte and Miranda Belarde-Lewis, “Imagining: Creating Spaces for Indigenous Ontologies,” Cataloging & Classification Quarterly 53, no. 5–6 (July 4, 2015): 677–702.
  • Melissa Adler and Lindsey M. Harper, “Race and Ethnicity in Classification Systems: Teaching Knowledge Organization from a Social Justice Perspective,” Library Trends 67.1 (2018): 52–73.
  • IN CLASS: Introduction to Metadata and Controlled Vocabularies


  • Complete a short project description on our class project page, and link to at least three primary source to organize around. If you can’t find at least three relatively easily, you might have trouble completing the project. So this is a good litmus test as to the viability of your idea.

4: From Analog to Digital Archives

Tuesday (Feb 5)


Create an RSS Feed for your blog and put the link on our RSS Feed page.

Thursday (Feb 7)


  • Come to class ready to discuss your experience with some of the interfaces mentioned, or others that you’ve used for something that you’ve found interesting.
  • Continue to look for sources for your research essay. We’ll be talking more about that on in class and we will be more productive and efficient if you’ve more some poking around ahead of time.


As discussed in class on Jan 31, this is our first extra credit possibility to give you a few extra points in the class. This can be done at any point, not just for today The assignment:

  • Search for a history book at or, that is also held physically in one of our libraries at UNM, and note what you see in the first few pages of search results for that book.
  • Note the library call number for the book, and go find it in the stacks.
  • Browse around the book and note what kind of books are physically around it—look at a few shelves above and below, too, not just the few books on either side of your target book.
  • Write up a standard reading response blog post (~350 words) about how these two different browsing experiences compare.
  • Obviously there’s no right or wrong answer. But strive for clarity in your description of what you searched for, what you found in both cases, and how you might explain the differences.
  • Responses will be scored as all others, namely on a 0-2 point scale.

Et cetera

  • Margaret Hedstrom, “Archives, Memory, and Interfaces with the Past,” 21–43.
  • Joshua Sternfeld, “Archival Theory and Digital Historiography: Selection, Search, and Metadata as Archival Processes for Assessing Historical Contextualization,” 544–75.

5: Archives and Algorithms

Tuesday (Feb 12)

Et cetera

Thursday (Feb 14)

6: Creating New Archives

Tuesday (Feb 19)

  • Jimmy Zavala et al., “‘A Process Where We’re All at the Table’: Community Archives Challenging Dominant Modes of Archival Practice.,” Archives and Manuscripts 45, no. 3 (2017): 202–15.
  • Laura Sydell, 3D Scans Help Preserve History, But Who Should Own Them?
  • SKIM: Michelle Caswell, “Seeing Yourself in History: Community Archives and the Fight Against Symbolic Annihilation,” The Public Historian 36, no. 4 (2014): 26–37.

Thursday (Feb 21)

In class we’ll survey a few transcription projects and go over instructions for your transcription assignment


  • Get started with this over the weekend and bring questions to class on Tuesday.
  • Review the assignment guidelines. (summarized below, but important details are on the guidelines page)
  • Review some transcription tips.
  • Pick one of the transcription projects above.
  • Transcribe at least THREE pages (can be sequential pages of the same document).
  • Create screen shots of your work, including images of what you’re transcribing and aspects of the interface that you comment on.
  • Create a NEW PAGE in your portfolio for your ~800-word essay–this is not a blog post like reading responses–that describes and critiques your experience.
  • Imagine that you’re writing for other students in the class (so you don’t need to introduce what a transcription project is, for example). We all know the general assignment, but you can’t assume anyone is familiar with your site, interface, text, or experience.

7: Text Analysis and Visualization

Tuesday (Feb 26)

Some Digital Archives

Some tools

Et cetera

  • Stephan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell, “Text Analysis and Visualization”
  • Benjamin M. Schmidt, “Do Digital Humanists Need to Understand Algorithms?,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities.
  • Sara Klingenstein, Tim Hitchcock, and Simon DeDeo, “The Civilizing Process in London’s Old Bailey,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, no. 26 (July 1, 2014): 9419–24.
  • Between Canon and Corpus: Six Perspectives on 20th-Century Novels
  • Andrew Piper, “Novel Devotions: Conversional Reading, Computational Modeling, and the Modern Novel,” New Literary History 46, no. 1 (May 20, 2015): 63–98.
  • Shlomo Argamon et al., “Gender, Race, and Nationality in Black Drama, 1950-2006: Mining Differences in Language Use in Authors and Their Characters” 3, no. 2 (2009), DHQ.
  • David L. Hoover, “Corpus Stylistics, Stylometry, and the Styles of Henry James,” Style 41, no. 2 (2007): 174–203.
  • David Elson, Nicholas Dames, and Kathleen McKeown, “Extracting Social Networks from Literary Fiction,” in Proceedings of the 48th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (Uppsala, Sweden: Association for Computational Linguistics, 2010), 138–147.

Thursday (Feb 28)

DUE: Transcription essays

Et cetera

8: Loose Ends

Tuesday (Mar 5)

  • DUE: REVISED AND IMPROVED transcription essays
  • 1/2 semester QUIZ!!!
  • Transcription post-mortem
  • Topic modeling assignment possibility (see below)
  • Richard White, What is spatial history?
  • Spatial History Project Possibilities

OPTIONAL Topic Modeling Assignment

  • Pick an old medical journal (or two) from this list. Don’t be intimidated by all the text and commas. Part of the lesson here is to learn to use a CSV file.
  • Go to, search for the title of your journal.
  • Download 5-10 journals—get the TEXT FILE, not the PDF–and put them all into a single folder on your desktop.
  • Create a free account at Overview, and upload your directory of files (it’s pretty obvious how to do this).
  • Write up your explorations on a separate topic modeling page on your digital portfolio.

Thursday (Mar 7)

  • Pre-break break. We all need it.


10: Spatial History, Historical GIS, and Digital Mapping

Tuesday (Mar 19)

  • David J. Bodenhamer, “The Potential of Spatial Humanities”, 14-30. (note the Zotero PDF has an extra chapter at the beginning, so make sure you read chapter 2).
  • IN CLASS: Introduction to GIS and Historical GIS

Thursday (Mar 21)

11: Intersectionality: Race, Class, and Gender

Tuesday (Mar 26)

Thursday (Mar 28)

  • Americo Paredes, The Hammon and the Beans and Other Stories (Houston, TX: Arte Publico Press, 1994), 3-9.
  • María Cotera, “Nuestra Autohistoria: Toward a Chicana Digital Praxis,” American Quarterly 70.3 (2018): 483–504.
  • Joel Zapata, “Taking Chicana/o Activist History to the Public: Chicana/o Activism in the Southern Plains through Time and Space,” Great Plains Quarterly 38.4 (2018): 407–24.
  • Chicano/a Activism in the Southern Plains Interactive Map and Timeline

Et cetera

12: Historical Authorities of Knowledge + Collaboration

Tuesday (Apr 2) - IMPORTANT!

Today’s class will be split into two halves; the first part a discussion of History and Wikipedia, the second a discussion about the technology required for our collaborative spatial history project.

If you miss class you will create a lot of confusion for yourself and waste time. What we’re doing cannot be explained over email, and I will not teach this class again to you personally during office hours—so you need to be in class. We will be using these tools for your spatial history exercise and there is no alternative.


  • Recommended due date for geo-referencing assignment



Peruse these beforehand:

  • Introduction to Markdown
  • Introduction to GitHub. Read through this tutorial, but do not actually do all the steps—just try to understand what’s going on and we’ll go over it.

As soon as possible after class

  • As with all our other tools, we’re using real world tools as part of our survey of digital interfaces to history.
  • Create a free and secure account at GitHub. You can pick any username/password you want—it’s independent of UNM and Zotero.
  • Add your GitHub username to our shared Google Doc by the end of the day. I’ll invite you to join our GitHub “Team”. Like Zotero, You’ll get an email asking if you want to accept the invitation. Do it!
  • Use either Dillinger or a text editor (like Atom) to create a plaintext Markdown file with some dummy text that includes some Markdown formatting. Be sure to save it as The content of your markdown file is irrelevant, but be sure your filename has no spaces, follows the capitalization scheme, and ends with .md.
  • Add that Markdown file to our repository. Be sure you are logged into GitHub when you do this: Click on the testfiles folder, then drag and drop your file onto your browser window.
  • If you are confused about Markdown, visit the Markdown tutorial; for syntax help, consult the cheat sheet

Thursday (Apr 4)

Pick one of these two and be ready to discuss:

13: Digital Public History

Tuesday (Apr 9)

Thursday (Apr 11)

  • Andrew Hurley, “Chasing the Frontiers of Digital Technology: Public History Meets the Digital Divide,” The Public Historian 38, no. 1 (2016): 69–88.
  • Bruce Wyman et al., “Digital Storytelling in Museums: Observations and Best Practices,” Curator: The Museum Journal 54, no. 4 (2011): 461–68.

14: Critiquing Digital History

Tuesday (Apr 16)

IN CLASS: How to critique a digital history archive/interface/website/project

Et cetera

  • American Historical Association, Evaluation of Digital Scholarship in History
  • Fred Gibbs, “The Poetics of Digital Scholarship,” in Ontic Flows: From Digital Humanities to Posthumanities (New York and Dresden: Atropos Press, 2016), 101–22.

Thursday (Apr 18)

  • No readings: Instead, complete your digital history website critique (or at least a solid draft)
  • IN CLASS: UNM Spatial History and NM History progress reports and discussion

15: Digital Activism

Tuesday (Apr 23)

Thursday (Apr 25)

16: Loose ends

Tuesday (Apr 30)

  • Spatial History Project Wrap Up


  • Make sure you have the key components of your spatial history project completed so we can solve problems and answer questions.

Thursday (May 2)

  • Review and critique of visual essays — very helpful for making yours better before the final due date.
  • Essential tips for finalizing your essays and portfolios.