Digital History Course

HIST: 595: Digital History
University of New Hampshire at Manchester
Fall 2016

Course Dates: 29 Aug. – 7 Dec.
Class Meetings: W, 6-9 p
Instructor: Prof. J. Parr
Office Hours: After class or by appointment
Room: P366

Course Description: This is a hands-on course that introduces students to the use of digital tools and sources to conduct original historical research, analyze and interpret findings, and communicate results. Digital history is an interdisciplinary approach that seeks to bring digital technology into conversation with humanities disciplines and, specifically, seeks to analyze, synthesize, and present knowledge through computational media. Students will learn how historians use technology to conduct research and to create tools, such as podcasts and digital collections through discussion, readings, and projects. No prior experience with history or technology is required. This course can be used to fulfill an elective requirement for the public history minor.

Required Materials:

The readings for this course are all either open access (with the links on the syllabus) or posted as PDFs on MyCourses.

You will need to purchase a web account ($25) through Reclaim Hosting ( This account will give you a domain name and a year of hosting. You should choose a domain name that is professional in tone and is clearly yours. For instance, my web page is Create a .com, .net, or .org URL. We will setup our web pages on the first day of class. You may create your domain in advance, but please do not add anything until the start of class.

Please also sign up for a Twitter account. Make sure that your Twitter handle is professional in tone. This will be our back channel for DH discussions. Please send your Twitter handle to me (@ProvAtlantic). You can find a Twitter tutorial here.

Please bring your laptop to class if you have one. If you do not own a laptop, you may check one out for class from the UNHM Library Circulation Desk.


Participation (15%): All students are expected to attend class regularly, contribute positively to class, and to participate in in-class exercises. Participation can also include asking questions or sharing resources on Twitter (must include the hashtag #HIST595DH so it is visible).

Blog Posts (20%): There are 7 blog posts assigned in this course. The topics and length are listed in the schedule below. All blog posts should be written in complete sentences and use citations when paraphrasing or quoting. (Either in-text citations or numbered endnotes is fine.) In order to receive credit, posts must be on the blog section of your web page.

Transcription/Encoding Assignment (20%): Each student will be assigned a digital facsimile of a Civil War letter from the UNH Archives. You will transcribe your letter, then use what you have learned to create metadata and encode it. The final results will be used by the UNH Archives. We will discuss encoding and metadata expectations in class.

CurateScape/Digital NH Exhibit (20%): Each student will be responsible for curating a small exhibit for the Digital NH website. We will discuss the parameters in more detail in class, but you will be responsible for selecting a topic of historical relevance, researching your topic, writing a 300-word background, and finding or creating media for your topic. Research must consist of primary and secondary sources and cannot be entirely web based. The use of Wikipedia is not permitted. The final products will be added to UNHM’s new Digital NH website.

Digital Portfolio (20%): Your digital portfolio will consist of all of the small exercises that you complete in-class or as homework. This includes your map, metadata, and all other web page content. You should make sure that your website is free of typos, and that all links work correctly.

Code Academy (5%): This is a low stakes opportunity to learn some basic programming skills for free. Sign up for an account on Code Academy. Choose one language to learn. The most useful ones for public history include HTML, XML, Python, Drupal, or Ruby on Rails. Each week, you should document your progress by posting screenshots of your most recent exercise on your website. Please date your screenshots.

Class Topics and Assignments

Follow this timetable and come to class, having completed the assigned reading indicated for that day.


Date Topic Assignment
31 Aug Introduction Introductions. We will also be setting up our domains and installing WordPress during the first class. You may purchase your domain in advance (see above), but don’t add anything before the first day of class.

We will also sign up for personal Twitter accounts, to be used for class. If you already have a Twitter account, you do not need to sign up for another one. Posts should include the hashtag “#HIST595DH

7 Sept What is DH? Readings: DH Glossary; Cohen and Rosenzweig, Exploring the History Web (Intro through Exhibits sections).
Assignments: Add a theme, header, and menu on your WordPress site. Now you’re going to add some new pages. Create an “About,” “Resume,” and “Coding Exercises” pages. You can use my site as a rough guide for what sort of information to include for the “About” and “Resume/CV” portions. I encourage you to make an appointment with the Career Planning Office to discuss your resume before posting it.

Create a page called “Blog.” Write a short (200 words or so) post, discussing what you think DH is. Here is a tutorial on editing and updating pages.
14 Sept Curating Content Readings: Cohen and Rosenzweig, Designing for the History Web; and Cebula, “An Open Letter…;” Gorman, Smith, and Trojanowski, “The Case of the Scrapbook that Tripled in Size

Assignments: Create a new page on your site called “Digital Portfolio.”
21 Sept Omeka This class will be a hands-on demonstration on using Omeka. We will also discuss the Digital NH project in class.

Assignment: Write a 250-300 word post discussing what you think are the most important factors in curating digital content.
28 Sept Analyzing Sources Readings: Resig, “Using Computer Visualization…;”
5 Oct Mapping DH Readings: White, “Spatial Histories;” Parr, “Plotting Piety;” Gavin Hollis, “The Wrong Side of the Map?,” in Bruckner, ed, Early American Geographies; and Monmonier and de Blij, How to Lie With Maps, Intro. & Ch. 7 (all on MyCourses)

Assignments: Sign up for a Map Warper account ( We will install Neatline into your Omeka site in class.

Write a 200-300 word post that responds to one of the issues raised in your readings.
12 Oct Carto This class will be a hands-on demonstration on using Carto.

Readings: Page and Ross, “Envisioning the Urban Past;” Ayers and Nesbit, “Seeing Emancipation;” Grant, Review: “Digital Harlem;” Digital Harlem

Assignments: Add a screenshot of the Neatline map you made in class on 10/5 and link it to the correct page. Here is a tutorial on adding images to your site.Sign up for a Carto account (

Find a history mapping project and write a 200-word review on your blog.

19 Oct Sound as History Readings: S Graham, S Eve, C Morgan, A Pantos, “Hearing the Past;” Boren, “Whitefield’s Voice” in Hammond and Jones, eds, George Whitefield: Life, Context, Legacy” (on MyCourses); AHA, “Podcasting the Past:’ SoundCite documentation; Audacity tutorials

Assignments: Chose a history podcast and listen to one episode (there’s a list on the bottom of “Podcasting the Past).” Write a 150-200 word blog post discussing the format (including advantages and disadvantages) of the podcast you listed to.

If you have a laptop with administrative privileges, install Audacity.
26 Oct Metadata Readings: Read Digital NC’s Dublin Core guidelines. Look over the Metadata Basics and DCMI Specifications sections of the DCMI website.

Assignments: Bring two digital images that you own to class. They can be a family photograph or something else, but it must be digital or digitized images that you own the copyright for, or are in the public domain. Please also bring what you have of your Civil War letter transcription.
2 Nov Encoding Texts Readings: A Gentle Introduction to XML, Review this glossary of XML terms. Look over the TEI by Example website.
Assignments: Bring your Civil War letter to class. Add one more item to your Omeka website, using Dublin Core metadata. Link these items to your digital portfolio on your website. Download the free trial version of Oxygen and install it on your computer. (Free trial will last 30 days, so I do not recommend installing it much before 11/2.)
9 Nov Digital Storytelling Readings: SUNY, “What is Digital Storytelling,” Wyman, et al, “Digital Storytelling in Museums” [MyCourses], explore Columbia U’s Digital Storytelling Lab.

Assignment: Finish encoding the text you were giving in class. Take a screenshot of your encoded text and post it on your Digital Portfolio page.
16 Nov Crowdsourcing Readings: Mayer, CrowdSourcing; Heppler and Wolfenstein, “Crowdsourcing Digital Public History,” The American Historian; Schmidt, “Crowdsourcing.”

Assignments: Review the case studies provided in Schmidt’s blog post. Write a 250-300 word blog post discussing the strengths and weaknesses of crowdsourcing, and evaluate one of the examples Schmidt provides.
23 Nov Visualization and Graphics Readings: Jessop, “Digital Visualization as Scholarly Activity” [MyCourses]; Gibbs, “New Forms of Digital Thinking;” Kosara, “Spreadsheet Thinking Versus Database Thinking;” Mullen, “Plotting;” Schmidt, Video Visualizations (please review links and videos).

Assignments: Sign up for a free account with Pick and download one of the datasets posted on MyCourses.

Transcription and Encoding Assignment Due at the start of class.
30 Nov Media and Promotion Readings: Cohen and Rosenzweig, Building an Audience

Assignments: Experiment and and the dataset you downloaded from MyCourses. Produce two charts or graphs, and post them on your Digital Portfolio page. Write a 250 word blog post, describing your experiences with and how you would use it as a scholarly tool.
7 Dec Open Access Readings: Cavanagh, “Living in a Digital World;” Hattem, “Debating Embargo” (read the links embedded in the blog post, too); Pick 2 articles from the Open Access Week website and read them.

Assignments: Write a 200-word blog response to the issues raised in open access; Digital NH assignment due.

Full Digital Portfolio is due. By now, you should have finalized “About” and “Resume/CV” pages on your website.

Digital NH Assignment is Due.


Class Expectations:

Please review the expectations and assignments carefully. Students are responsible for knowing and adhering to the conditions of the syllabus.

Academic Integrity: Students are expected to know and adhere with all university policies concerning academic honesty. You should submit only your own work. Work may not be recycled from other courses. Students who are uncertain about citation practices should seek assistance from the Writing Center or Library Staff. Not knowing will not be considered a valid excuse for improper citation.

Checking email: You should get in the habit of  checking your email regularly, and ensuring that your MyCourses profile is linked to an email account you use. I sent announcements, assignments, and other course materials via email. Students are responsible for knowing the contents of those emails. Please note that due to federal privacy laws and institutional policies, I cannot discuss grades over email.

MyCourses: Please make sure that you access MyCourses regularly, to check for announcements.

Attendance: Attendance is required for this course. In the event you are unavoidably absent, it is your responsibility to get the notes from a classmate, then follow up with me if you have specific questions. Absent students are still responsible for timely submission of the work they missed. Absence will not be grounds for an automatic excusal of the late policy. Habitual absence and/or unpreparedness will negatively affect your grade.

Technology Use: We will be using computers in class, but students should refrain from unrelated web surfing. Phones should remain off and away during class, except in extenuating circumstances. If you are an emergency first responder or caretaker, you may have your cell on vibrate, but you must sit near the door and step outside to take the call. Students who violate this policy will lose credit for the day’s participation, and the instructor reserves the right to dock the final grades of repeated offenders by a half grade. Students who need to audio record lectures should obtain permission of the instructor first. Due to copyright and student privacy concerns, recordings are for study purposes only. They may not be shared or distributed, in whole or in part on any media, including social media, websites, or email. Students who record are responsible for any misuse of recordings by third parties.

Late Assignment Policy: Students are responsible for making sure they understand all expectations and keep track of deadlines. Each student is eligible for a one-time 24-hour, no questions asked grace period on one written assignment. You need to email me before the assignment is due to indicate that you are using your 1 late pass. After that, assignments will be accepted up to three days (including weekends) after the original due date for a 1/2 grade penalty for each day late. Waivers of the late penalty are only considered under extenuating circumstances, such as a hospitalization. I reserve the right to ask for documentation.

Incompletes: Incompletes are awarded only for extenuating circumstances that are beyond the student’s control. I reserve the right to ask for documentation. For final assignments, late work will only be accepted up to 2 business days after the last class meeting unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Classroom Citizenship: The classroom is a professional environment. Uncivil conduct towards other students or the professor is a violation of the student code of conduct and will not be tolerated. Please refrain from texting, side conversations, and any other behaviors that may detract from the learning environment for your classmates. As a courtesy to all, please do your utmost to arrive to class on time. Repeated violation of this expectation will negatively affect your participation grade.

Communication: Email is the fastest way to reach me. I respond to all messages within 24 hours of receipt, Monday through Friday. I check email occasionally on weekends, but may not respond quite as quickly. Please allow sufficient time for me to respond before emailing again. When emailing me, kindly use a subject heading that indicates which class you are email me about, and a salutation (i.e. Dear Professor Parr, not Hey). Emails should maintain a professional tone. If you’re feeling upset, or anxious, it’s often a good idea to hold off on email until you’re feeling better.

Grades: Most assignments will be graded within two weeks. As a general rule, grades are only changed in the event of a mathematical error. When graded assignments are returned, please take the time to read your feedback before coming to me with questions or concerns about grades. If you still have concerns about your grade after reading your feedback, please write me a memo, which includes a paragraph-length response that directly addresses each of your concerns raised by your feedback, using the assignment guidelines, and explaining why it merits a re-grade. I will take your concerns seriously, but there are no guarantees that your grade will be changed, and all decisions are final. Please note: I can only assign grades based on the quality of the final product, and cannot take effort, life circumstances or other factors into consideration. If you are unclear on the expectations for an assignment, it is your responsibility to ask for clarification in advance of the assignment’s deadline. You should bring any concerns about your grade to my attention within a week of receiving the graded paper back. Queries made thereafter will not be entertained.

Disability Support Services Statement: the University provides appropriate, reasonable accommodations to students who have documented learning, physical, cognitive, or psychiatric disabilities that may affect their ability to participate in course activities or to meet class requirements. Students with disabilities are encouraged to meet with the course instructor. All such conversations are confidential. To receive accommodations, students must contact Disability Services. Please note that only students with faculty letters from the Disability Services are eligible to receive accommodations. Accommodations are not retroactive. If you need to discuss accommodations, please contact UNH Manchester’s Disability Services Coordinator, Jenessa Zurek at 603-641-4383 or