Course Syllabus


HIST 428: Adventures in Digital History

TR, 9:30-10:45
Spring 2018
HCC 327

Jeffrey McClurken
Office Hours: By appointment. I have two offices (GW 105 and Monroe 226), but most days I will be in GW Hall. You can also contact me via a Slack DM.

Twitter: @jmcclurken

Course Description

This seminar will focus on the process of creating digital history.  The course readings, workshops, and discussions will be aimed at exposing students to the philosophy and practice of the emerging field of History and Digital Media (sometimes called Digital Humanities).  The course will be centered on the creation of three digital history projects, all of which are related to making local resources available online.  These projects will include developing an immersive tour of the the James Monroe Museum (JMM) and videos of some of the objects and items stored or on display there; digitizing the National Cemetery register from the National Park Service’s Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park (NPS) and creating a map that links that register to soldiers’ information; creating a digital project about Virginia’s State Historical Markers (SHSM) that builds on the work of previous Digital History students.

This course counts in the History Major, the American Studies Major, the Museum Studies Minor, the Communication and Digital Studies Major, and as a capstone course in the Digital Studies Minor.

Departmental Learning Objectives

  • Ability to utilize technological resources in research, data analysis, and presentation.
  • Appreciation of the diversity of methods and processes.
  • Ability to make discipline-specific oral presentations to groups.
  • Ability to communicate in a group setting.
  • Ability to conduct research in multiple sites.

Course Requirements

Every student and group will:

1) Complete a group project based on a contract made between the group and the professor

2) Post weekly progress reports on your own DoOO-based blog

3) Regularly present to the class about the status of your project

4) Participate in class discussions of readings, videos, and the process of creating digital history

5) Participate in class workshops related to specific programs

6) Create or refine a digital résumé or e-portfolio for yourself.

7) At end of the semester, complete a brief paper/blog post reflecting on the process and defending your project as contracted

8) Make any changes to the project required by the professor after the final version is completed.

Students are expected to attend all classes, read all assigned texts, and participate in class. Laptops are not required, but it will often be easier to have your own computer here as you learn new skills, hear about various tools, explore particular web sites, and work on your own digital projects. [Projects are due at the start of class (9:30 AM) on the day they are due. Assignments are considered late if turned in/edited anytime after that. Late projects will be penalized one full letter grade or, after 24 hours, not accepted.]


Students are expected to attend all classes having read the assigned material. Class participation includes actively participating in daily discussions and responding to class presentations. To that end, for each class for which there are readings/videos, students should also prepare a list of comments on the material (parallels, problems, factual questions, reminders of past readings, connections to ideas from other classes or from “real life”) so that they have those points in front of them for the discussion. Although I have no current plan to collect these comments, I reserve the right to do so at some point during the semester.



Narrating the planning, research, and implementation processes via your blogs is a central part of the class and a way for me to measure your effort, your creativity, and your progress as digital scholars. Blog about your problems as well as your successes. Be sure to comment on each others’ blogs and help each other out. This is a community of people going through similar efforts that you can tap into, so do so. [As you comment, follow ProfHacker’s guidelines for commenting.]  Weekly posts & comments are a minimum expectation of the class.



Daniel J. Cohen & Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (2006). Available at .

Other texts for this semester are also available on-line.


Final Grades

Final grades will be determined based on class participation (including blogging, mini assignments, and regular presentations to the class) (35%), on performance on the group contract (5%) and group project (50%), and on the quality of the final formal presentations on the group projects (10%). [Unsatisfactory mid-semester reports will be reported for anyone with a grade of D or below at that time.]

Honor Code

I believe in the Honor Code as an essential, positive component of the Mary Washington experience. You should know that if you cheat or plagiarize in this class, you will fail, and I will take you to the Honor Council, so do not do it. On the other hand, I also believe that having friends or family read and comment on your writing can be extremely helpful and falls within the bounds of the Honor Code (assuming the writing itself remains yours). If you have questions about these issues, then you should talk to me sooner rather than later.

Group Projects — See Project Outlines.

Group Contracts

Each group will create contracts with me about their projects. The contracts are due Monday, February 12 (BY NOON), though each will need to be approved by me & may need to be tweaked before that happens. Each contract must include:

  • Mission statement (describe project)
    • Include audience and advertising and sustainability model
  • Tools planning on using
    • Include suggested location for project URL on
  • Schedule of milestones (when critical pieces are completed and/or ready to present)
  • Basic division of labor

NOTE: These contracts may be revised as the semester goes on, though only with good reasons and only after a meeting with me.

NOTE #2: Although each group will receive one shared grade for their contract, on the final project everyone will earn an individual and a group project grade, which will be averaged together to make each person’s project grade.

Digital Résumé/E-Portfolio  

During Week 8, we will discuss ways of showcasing your work (digital and otherwise) in an electronic portfolio.  Each student will be expected to create their own (or share an existing) digital résumé by Tuesday, March 20.

Regular Presentations (Updates)

Starting in week 7, each group will be expected to make weekly status updates in class (typically) on Thursdays on its progress toward their projects. Although some weeks 5-minute updates will be sufficient, every other week groups will need to present a more thorough update. See the schedule for more details on when your group does which presentation.

End of the Semester (Public) Presentations

At the end of the semester each group will make a formal, public 8-10 minute presentation summarizing their project. More on this later in the semester.

Reflection post/defense of contract

In the last week of the semester, each person will be expected to write a brief blog post or paper (your choice). This paper (~1-2 pages/~500 words) should reflect on the process and defend your group’s project as contracted.

Format of class meetings

Although this is, for the most part, a traditional face-to-face class, some of our class sessions will take place virtually, including when we have inclement weather.  Sometimes that work will be asynchronous with groups or individuals working on their own, and sometimes the session will take place synchronously via Zoom videoconferencing.  More information about this before it happens.

Why are we reading a 12-year old book about Digital History?

Our “text” is Cohen and Rosenzweig’s Digital History, written in 2006. While it remains useful in bringing up key issues for those considering creating digital history projects, it is also a piece of digital history itself.  For each week that we read a chapter or two of Digital History, I’ll offer extra credit if you write a blog post in which you identify passages or concepts that need to be updated (be precise), find current sources (at least 2017 or newer), and summarize how the section should be updated. Tag these posts “DHUpdate2018”.  We will also work as a class in Week 12 to update the text via annotation.


The Office of Disability Resources (ODR) has been designated by the University as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities. If you receive services through the Office of Disability Services and require accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. Bring your accommodation letter with you to the appointment. I will hold any information you share with me in strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise.

If you have not made contact with the Office of Disability Resources and have reasonable accommodation needs, I will be happy to help you contact them. The office will require appropriate documentation of a disability.

Food and Housing

Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Office of Student Life (x1200) for support. Furthermore, please notify me (if you are comfortable in doing so). This will enable me to help connect you to those resources.

Digital Knowledge Center

The Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) provides UMW students with peer tutoring on digital projects and assignments. Any student at the University can take advantage of the Center’s services by scheduling an appointment to work one-one-one or in a group with a student tutor; when a tutor is available, the Center also provides walk-in assistance. Tutorials can cover a wide-range of topics related to common digital systems, technologies, new media, and tools used in courses at UMW; the Center also provides training to students interested in learning how to use the Advanced Media Production Studio (HCC 115). DKC tutors adhere to the UMW Honor Code in all tutorials; they are available to provide guidance and advice, but they cannot create, produce, or edit work on a student’s behalf.

Writing Center

The UMW Writing Center offers assistance on all types of writing projects.

Speaking Center

UMW Libraries
Librarians are available to assist you via phone, email, chat message, or face-to-face.

Help Desk
The IT Help Desk provides support for technology-related problems or questions from the UMW Community. If you are having difficulties connecting to online University resources, seek assistance from the Help Desk:

Course Schedule*

Week 1

Jan. 16 — Introduction of Syllabus, Course, and Digital Tools – Slack, Domain of One’s Own, WordPress, Zotero,

Jan. 18 — What is Digital History?  [What are the Digital Humanities?  How are the two different?] — Brief Group Meetings (with Luisa and Scott)

Reading: Read Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Introduction, Ch. 1; Stephen Robertson, “The Differences between Digital Humanities and Digital History“; How did they make that?   Skim also AHA Resources on Digital History (many great resources linked here); Wikipedia definitions of Digital History & Digital Humanities

Assignments for Thursday:

  • Join the Slack channel for class, if you haven’t already, and the specific channel for your group.
  • Use your existing Twitter account (or set one up a Twitter account) and follow me (@jmcclurken) and/or your classmates and/or at least three of the scholars from Jason Kelly’s list of Digital History on Twitter.  If you tweet about our class (and I encourage you to do so) use the hashtag #ADH2018.
  • Install a (new) WordPress blog on your Domain of One’s Own account. [If you’re using an existing blog, you’ll need to create a category for your posts for this class.]
    • DM me on Slack with the URL to the site.
    • Write and publish first blog post on why you’re taking the class.
  • Don’t forget that if you are having trouble with digital tools, take advantage of the terrific Digital Knowledge Center where student tutors can help you!


Week 2

Jan. 23 — Digital Workshop – Omeka & Mapping Tools

Jan. 25 — Exploring Other Digital History Projects — Group Meeting

Reading for Tuesday: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital HistoryChapter 2Chapter 4.

For Thursday, check out:

Blogging assignment for Thursday: Based on your review of the Digital History projects above: Think about what you like about these digital projects as a whole, and what you don’t.  What works and what doesn’t?  What elements would you want to incorporate and which do you want to avoid in your own project?

During Thursday’s class, each group should post a summary of their discussions (to one group member’s class blog) about the other DH sites and how that impacts their own ideas about their projects.


For more on when and why historians began to focus on mapping and space, see Jo Guldi’s “The Spatial Turn in History.”

Miriam Posner, “Up and Running with,”  and “Creating an Exhibit,” The Programming Historian, 2 [Note that this topic is for a hosted Omeka account.  You could also create an Omeka Installation in your Domain of One’s Own account.]

Lincoln Mullen, “Spatial History tools”

More generally, for advanced topics in digital history, check out the other lessons in the Programming Historian.


Week 3

Jan. 30 — Digital Workshop – Media Recording and Editing, Timeline Tools

Feb. 1 — Digital Archives and Issues of Digitization — Group Meeting

Reading for Tuesday:  Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital HistoryChapter 3Chapter 6; Trevor Owens, “What do you mean by archive?”

By Thursday, check out at least five of the following digital projectsHurricane Digital Memory BankSeptember 11 Digital ArchiveFootnote.comJSTORInternet ArchiveA House Divided: America in the Age of LincolnFamous Law trialsCriminal IntentPhotogrammarHull House and Neighborhoods; Lost & Found Archive Project, Searching for Residential Schools.

Assignments for Thursday:
Build a basic map in StoryMapJS or any of the other mapping tools you’ve learned about AND a basic timeline in TimeLineJS or a similar tool with at least five events AND a quick (less than two minute) video about some aspect of your group’s project.  Embed all three on your WordPress site in a blog post about the experience and about how you might use them in your project.  You may replace one of these three with an Aurasma/HP Reveal project.

During Thursday’s class, each group should post a summary of their discussions (to one group member’s class blog) about the sites examined and potential issues with digitization.  Again, be sure to note what lessons your group takes from these discussions for your own project.



Week 4

Feb. 6 — Digital Workshop – Topic Modeling, Text Mining, and Network Analysis

Feb. 8 — Group Meeting

Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Ch. 5 (we’ll discuss this next week, but it’s important to read before you complete your group contracts).

See also Cohen, Google Books, Ngrams and Culturomics; Rob Nelson, Mining the Dispatch; Megan Brett, “Topic Modeling: A Basic Introduction,” Journal of Digital Humanities, 2012; Topic Modeling and Mallet, The Programming Historian; Voyant Tools; Scott Weingart, “Demystifying Networks: Part 1 of n

Group Contracts are due as shared Google Doc from each group on Monday, February 12 (BY NOON)


Week 5

Feb. 13 — Group Meeting and Planning — discussions of contract proposals

Feb. 15 — Thinking About and Building an Audience — Discuss C&R, Ch. 5

Revised Contracts are due by Noon on Friday, February 16. Monday, February 19 at 6 pm.

Week 6

Feb. 20 — Group Meeting and Planning

Feb. 22 — Copyright and Wikipedia: What’s the Big Deal?

Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Ch.7; Stanford’s guide to fair use; Jimmy Wales (2005) How a Ragtag Band Created Wikipedia (watch at

Other resources: Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video; 2007 documentary on copyright (and music and video remixing); 120+ places to find Creative Commons media.

Blog Assignment: 1) Look at the History and Discussion tabs of several Wikipedia history entries and write about what you see. 2) Consider what Creative Commons License you might use for your own site.  What role does copyright play in the resources you are working with this semester?



Week 7

Feb. 27 — Group Meeting and Planning

Mar. 1 — All groups present 10-minute progress reports.


Week 8

Mar. 13 — Group Meeting and Planning

Mar. 15 — All groups present 10-minute progress reports.

Assignment: Via private message to me in Slack, write a paragraph summary of your group’s successes and problems so far.


Week 9

Mar. 20 — Building a Digital Résumé or E-portfolio; Digital Identity

Readings: Read/look at five of these and write a post on five lessons you learned from them about digital identity.

Mar. 22 — Group Meeting and Planning

Assignment: Create your own Digital Portfolio


Week 10

Mar. 27 — All groups present 10-minute progress reports. Share Digital Portfolios

Mar. 29 —Impact of Digital History on Historians and on the Practice of History

Tuesday Reading and Assignment: Read Cameron Blevins and Sheila Brennan in the 2016 Debates in Digital Humanities. Read the Archives 2.0 article here.  Pick one article from this set in the AHA’s Perspectives (2007) and one article from Writing History in the Digital Age (2011).  Check out the AHA’s guidelines for the evaluation of Digital Scholarship. Look over the guidelines for reviewing Digital History projects for the Journal of American History. Blog about what you see as the key change(s) for historians in an increasingly digital world.

See also, “Supporting the Changing Research Practices of Historians,”



Week 11

Apr. 3 — Group Meeting and Planning

Apr. 5 — All groups present 10-minute progress reports.


Week 12

Apr. 10 — Annotating Digital History for 2018 — Using and working in small groups, we will identify areas to be updated in the online text with suggested resources.

Apr. 12 — Group Meeting and Planning


Week 13

Apr. 17 — All groups present 10-minute progress reports.

Apr. 19 — Group Meeting and Planning


Public presentations of projects will be at the departmental symposium on April 27.

Projects due April 24 at the start of class. Reflection paper/blog post due April 29.


Week 14

Apr. 24 — Projects due — quick meeting to discuss process

NOTE: Given that these are public projects, students will commit to fixing issues found by Professor McClurken during the final evaluation of projects.

Apr. 26 — Meeting with each group to discuss needed changes (if Professor McClurken has finished reviewing them by then).

Apr. 27 — Formal presentations at 2 pm in Monroe 210 as part of History & American Studies Symposium.

Apr. 29  — Brief paper/blog post due (~1-2 pages/~500 words) reflecting on the process and defending your project as contracted.


Tuesday, May 1, 9:30-11 AM — Exam Period — A Summary Discussion of Digital History


* Many of my choices for readings here are indebted to the work and teaching of Bill TurkelDan CohenEthan WatrallMartha Burtis, Sharon Leon, Miriam Posner, Erin Bush, and Trevor Owens.