Junto March Madness 2019 Begins!

Junto March Madness 2019It’s once again March and that can only mean one thing at The Junto: our March Madness tournament. We skipped last year to welcome our new members, so in case you’ve forgotten: you nominate, we bracket, and you vote. In previous years, we have hosted tournaments of books, articles, and primary sources in early American history.

This year, our tournament will focus on digital projects on early America.

Nominations open now and will close on Wednesday, March 6 at 5 p.m. eastern time. Consult the rules and add your nominations in the comments section below. Join in the conversation using the hashtag #JMM19. Voting will commence next week.


1) We define digital projects broadly. That includes, but is not necessarily limited to, online archives, digital editions of primary sources, visualizations, databases, twitter bots and social media projects, podcasts, teaching resources, blogs, etc. The project should be substantially—though not necessarily exclusively—focused on (vast) early America.

2) The Junto humbly exempts itself from consideration.

3) We are particularly interested in digital projects that are freely available to the public. While paywalled databases, for example, can be extraordinarily valuable resources, this tournament will focus on projects that are accessible and open to everyone.

4) All nominations should be made in the comments section below. Please include a hyperlink to the digital project in your comment. Tell us in a sentence or two why you like this digital project and think that others should know about it. You are welcome to self-nominate: feel free to use this tournament as an opportunity to bring attention to a project that you have initiated.

6) Each voter may nominate up to three digital projects. Please check the comments to see if your preferred projects have already been nominated (you can do this quickly through a page search: go to Edit -> Find in your browser). You are also welcome to “second” up to three previously-nominated projects. In other words, each voter is permitted up to six votes: three votes for unnominated digital projects and three votes to second previously nominated choices. In your comments, please explicitly note which of your votes are nominations and which are seconds. Bracket seeding will be determined, in part, based on the number of “seconds” that a nomination attracts.


As always, this tournament is intended in the spirit of good fun. The competition may result in choosing readers’ “favorite” digital project, but it should not be understood as determining  the “best” digital project in early America. We hope that this tournament provides an opportunity for the early American community to discover, and rediscover, the many extraordinary digital resources and projects out there.

64 responses

  1. I’ll start the ball rolling with my nominations…

    Slave Revolt in Jamaica, the project led by Vincent Brown: http://revolt.axismaps.com A stunning project reflecting incredible research that shows how map-based visualizations can be intuitive without losing their complexity.

    Globalization of the United States, 1789-1861: http://globalization1789-1861.indiana.edu/exhibit/worldmap/index.html Led by one of my grad school professors, Kon Dierks, this project makes a clear visual argument about how the early U.S. republic engaged with the world around it and how that changed over time.

    Freedom on the Move: https://app.freedomonthemove.org Very recently launched, (and very recently discussed on the Junto: https://earlyamericanists.com/2019/02/14/announcing-the-launch-of-freedom-on-the-move/) this massive project brings together thousands of runaway slave ads. It’s both a digital transcription project and a digital archive. I’m hoping to be able to teach with it soon.

  2. The Age of Jackson Podcast.

    Only a year old, but it is one of the finest history podcasts that presents a discussion on the latest books with their authors. It takes seriously its mission to engage with the public and presents history in a way that is accessible without compromising its academic credibility. This work has already led to a Public History award nomination by Back Story.

    In addition, it’s History of History series is a wonderful historiographical overview that is a great tool for catching up on classic works and preparing grad students for their exams.

    Host Daniel Gullotta’s questions are insightful and aimed at a deeper understanding of the book and its subject. This show is not a regular stop of the press tour. Gullotta grants a venue for serious scholarship for a diverse and growing audience.

  3. Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704. http://1704.deerfield.history.museum This website boasts an incredible and linked collection of various primary sources along with great maps and narrative. It was put together by a group of antiquarians, academics, Native folks — and individuals who have a foot in all of those camps. I believe it is the BEST website for all levels of teaching northeastern cultures and encounters; I’ve been using it for regularly for many years, and when I recommend it (often) to other profs they usually respond that it worked fantastically.

  4. Papers of the War Department (http://wardepartmentpapers.org/) which is about the come out with a new look (disclaimer: I’m on the PWD team). A digital edition of the papers of one of the first federal departments, whose contents include Revolutionary War pensions, the construction of US navy vessels, relations with Native Americans, and more. Just try searching for “socks” or “vinegar”!

  5. A few music-related nominations–

    “Moravian Soundscapes” (https://moraviansoundscapes.music.fsu.edu/). This project is a collaboration between a historical musicologist and a cultural geographer that aims to describe the sound-world of eighteenth-century Bethlehem, PA, with side forays into other Moravian settlements. It takes into account not only the much-studied devotional song traditions practiced in Bethelehem, but also natural and occupational sounds and the role of Native and Anglo-American neighbors. Dr. Eyerly has a monograph on this topic forthcoming, but the “Moravian Soundscapes” website itself is all open-access.

    “Sounding Spirit: Scholarly Editions from the Southern Sacred Music Diapsora” (http://digitalscholarship.emory.edu/projects/featured/sounding-spirit.html). Although this project is in its very early stages, it promises to greatly improve access to influential collections of sacred music published in the U.S. between 1850 and 1920. Using Emory’s “Readux” platform, the project should provide open-access digital critical editions of five major publications within the next three years and non-annotated digitizations of dozens of others. If any readers of the Junto are interested in this project, there is currently an open call for proposals for volume editors interested in suggesting an edition related to Native or Black sacred song!

    “The Hymn Tune Index” (http://hymntune.library.uiuc.edu/). A much older resource than the other two, but still absolutely vital! This database encompasses all the hymn tunes the editors could find published in the US or UK before 1820 and summarizes the publication history/associated texts of each one. While it omits most manuscript sources, time has proven the Hymn Tune Index to be astonishingly comprehensive. I could not imagine trying to conduct research on early American sacred music without it!

  6. Boston Public Library’s Anti-Slavery Manuscripts (https://www.antislaverymanuscripts.org/) are perhaps one of the most important and extensive digital collections available to the public. Every time I check in and search their holdings I’m amazed by what I can find. The ability to see abolitionists’ own words and writing is, I think, more important every day.

  7. Three more nominations on behalf of Jessica Parr:

    Indian Nation is an important geospatial visualization of the impact of colonization on Native American populations and territories. https://indiannation.org

    Colored Conventions collections and makes accessible the documentation of the state and national political meetings called “Colored Conventions,” as a critical window into Black organization for legal and social justice in the nineteenth century. http://coloredconventions.org

    Slave Voyages is a robust database that demonstrates the impact of the transatlantic slave trade. https://www.slavevoyages.org

  8. Ben Franklin’s World Podcast. One of the first real history podcasts that blazed a trail for historians to consider new forms of media and is responsible for the proliferation of history podcasts in the last few years. The podcast is committed to interviewing scholars (both in the academy and outside of it) about their work and the highest quality of audio.

    • Second for Ben Franklin’s World podcast (https://www.benfranklinsworld.com). Liz Covart has been producing extremely thorough and interesting weekly episodes about early America since 2014. The podcast is now teamed up with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, and the production quality and content are excellent.

    • Ben Franklin’s World Podcast – I agree with Lindsay’s evaluation. It gives me an option to review books “on the go” that I might use in my research or classroom, or just learn something new. I appreciate the creativity they are using with the Omohundro Institute App, which gives additional access to supplemental readings, audio, and interactive content.

  9. Two more nominations to fill out my ballot:

    1) The Yale Indian Papers, also known as the Native Northeast Portal. “A scholarly critical edition of New England Native American primary source materials” from state archives, research libraries, and other sources; each item is digitized, transcribed, edited, and annotated by tribal partners as well as associated academics. These sources provide unusual views of race, class, and other aspects of New England history.

    2) The Annotated Newspapers of Harbottle Dorr, Jr., published by the Massachusetts Historical Society, http://www.masshist.org/dorr/ This is probably the finest resource for students (and others) doing research into the nature of popular politics and the evolution of opposition to British imperial measures/officials in Boston (and more generally the British colonies). From 1765 to 1776, Boston shopkeeper Harbottle Dorr collected, annotated, and indexed various Boston newspapers on a regular basis; the MHS has collected, digitized, and transcribed all of these materials and made them through on a very user-friendly website.

  10. I submit three projects:

    1. Common Sense Digital Edition. It offers analysis of Tom Paine’s pamphlet, compares the American with the British Edition, and provides teachers with helpful curriculum ideas. http://explorecommonsense.com/

    2. The Colonial Albany Project. This project has been around a long time and provides invaluable information about Albany, New York during the colonial, revolutionary, and very early republic days. http://exhibitions.nysm.nysed.gov//albany/welcome.html

    3. Massachusetts Historical Society Classroom and Online Resources: The MHS is always trying to assist people with a better understanding of early America by highlighting their collections and showing readers and teachers how they can make valuable use of them. i give you the broad link so you can check out both of these great projects: http://www.masshist.org/teaching-history/?goto=teaching-history

  11. No question Founders Online (https://founders.archives.gov) stands on the shoulders of giants—the long-lived, government-funded projects to publish the papers of the six biggest Founders in scholarly print editions. But it lets us see so far! The NARA website makes the information in the printed volumes available to everyone for free. It allows tracking of correspondence streams. It’s even a significantly large database of early American word usage.

    • Second!
      Founders Online is an odd mix of digital and analogue work. It’s a project that started well before its creators would have known what a “digital project” would have meant, but it has reached its largest audience through its digitization. An extraordinary example of how digital editions and scholarly editing can reshaping our understanding of early America. I’m using it this semester in a Primary Source Analysis assignment and I’m continually awed by its breadth, its insight, and its usability. Even as someone whose work rarely engages with the “Founders,” I find myself using and citing it regularly.

  12. With the biggest early American newspaper databases behind paywalls, I want to highlight a couple of free online regional newspaper collections.

    Colonial Williamsburg’s archive of the competing Virginia Gazettes from 1736 to 1780 (http://research.history.org/DigitalLibrary/va-gazettes/) is a database that shows its age. There’s an index instead of keyword searching. The downloads are entire pages, not articles. But for people looking for news in Virginia, or looking for the experience of reading a mid-18th-century American newspaper, it’s a click away.

    The Newburyport, Massachusetts, library is digitizing its local print heritage, including newspapers starting in the 1770s (http://newburyport.advantage-preservation.com). Again, it’s a quirky database—the OCR has major troubles. But wouldn’t it be great if lots of old mid-sized population centers did the same for their newspapers?

    And of course others have already noted the Harbottle Door Newspapers.

  13. Common Place, http://common-place.org/ has been instrumental in providing accessible information and teaching materials, and is really the first online journal in early America.

    The Magazine of Early American Datasets, https://repository.upenn.edu/mead/ is still in early stages, but has the potential for really advancing social historical projects.

    Also North Carolina Runaway Slave advertisements gives one of the easiest databases for students to work with: http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/RAS

  14. Isaiah Thomas Broadside Ballads Project from the American Antiquarian Society. “With over 800 images and 300 mini-essays, this site offers a unique and comprehensive view of the broadsides that Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) collected in early nineteenth-century Boston. Each broadside includes a brief explanation of its content by Kate Van Winkle Keller. … Thirty-seven ballads performed by David and Ginger Hildebrand can be played from the broadsides’ pages. All ballads have been transcribed with TEI-encoded XML available for download.”

  15. The National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution.


    Users can click through each article/clause and amendment to the Constitution, almost all of which feature explainers/interpretations from at least two leading Constitutional scholars, jurists, and historians working today. Most are written in dialogue with one another, with each scholar presenting a different interpretation of each clause/amendment. The opposing scholars also collaborate on one article that emphasizes their points of agreements and legal/historical consensus.

    The contributors come from the entire political spectrum, as the project is a collaboration between the more progressive American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society, which is a conservative institution whose membership skews heavily toward “originalism.” It’s a valuable resource for the average citizen to the Constitutional scholar alike.

  16. *Very loud second for Yale Indian Papers Project

    *Second for Digital Paxton

    *Nomination for MapScholar & New Map of Empire Atlas (amazing useable mapping resource for scholars, and great collection of existing visualization projects, especially New Map of Empire): http://mapscholar.org/ & http://mapscholar.org/empire/

    *Nomination for Native Land (Indispensable for remapping North America to show indigenous territories, treaties, linguistic ranges, etc. Continually updated and actively engaged with both general public and academics): https://native-land.ca/

    *Nomination for the Occom Circle Project (critical documents for mid-18C & revolutionary-era indigenous history, missionaries, etc.): https://www.dartmouth.edu/~occom/

  17. I’m nominating
    -Documenting the American South (an excellent resource for slave narratives): https://docsouth.unc.edu/
    -Southeastern Native American Documents (really good source for Creek, Cherokee, some Chickasaw and Choctaw talks, letters, and treaty minutes: http://neptune3.galib.uga.edu/ssp/cgi-bin/ftaccess.cgi?_id=7f000001&dbs=ZLNA
    -American Indian Treaties Portal (nice essays, lots of treaty minutes rather than completed treaties): http://treatiesportal.unl.edu/

  18. I would like to nominate Age of Revolutions: A HistorioBlog. https://ageofrevolutions.com/
    This site provides peer-reviewed pieces written by emerging and established scholars on all elements of revolution (spanning the world and all parts of history). The editorial staff is excellent at cultivating an impressive body of work that can be useful for teaching and start research projects. They also have extensive bibliographies for various revolutions.

  19. I just stumbled across these today, and wanted to boost awareness of them amongst early Americanists.

    The East Hampton Library has a transcription project for the Townshend Family Papers, which includes papers relating to the Culper Spy Ring. http://easthamptonlibrary.org/long-island-history/robert-townsend-account-books/

    And the New York Heritage Digital Collections includes a lot of digitized local archives from New York that relate to early America. https://nyheritage.org/

  20. My first pick is the Age of Jackson podcast. It’s new and has already positioned itself amongst the best history podcasts, regardless of focus. It’s exciting to see how it develops. https://theageofjacksonpodcast.com/

    Age of Revolutions is a terrific blog focusing on the revolutionary age in the Atlantic. It’s a terrific resource. https://ageofrevolutions.com/

    Finally, La Florida is an amazing website and digital archive that is doing much to swing the narrative of early America south. http://laflorida.org/

  21. I would like to second Documenting the American South https://docsouth.unc.edu/ and nominate Bunk https://www.bunkhistory.org/, which creatively contextualizes history-related news in the headlines. While it deals with all eras, the site features permanent exhibits on topics like Declaring Independence and Citizenship in the Founding Era. It’s a unique project and concept. I’d also like to nominate the Library of Congress online collection “American Notes” https://www.loc.gov/collections/travels-in-america-1750-to-1920/ , which features journals from travelers in America from 1750-1920 and provides intriguing insights on everyday life, transportation, and geography.

  22. Two podcasts I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

    The Thomas Jefferson Hour with historian Clay S. Jenkinsson. A lot of thoughtful discussion on Revolutionary era principles, which ones have remained intact, which are under threat, and which have been lost. Jefferson is the center of the podcast (Jenkinsson is a Jefferson impersonator in addition to being a serious scholar. He speaks from the perspective of Jefferson sometimes, but in a way that’s actually interesting and not as cringeworthy as it sounds). Great book recommendations, Constitutional debate, etc. Highly recommend.

    Constitutionally Speaking with Jay Cost and Luke Thompson. Focuses on politics and the Constitution in early America. I disagree with some of their interpretations of Constitutional law and don’t share the conservative worldview that occasionally becomes apparent (Cost writes for the National Review and I believe Thompson works in conservative politics in some capacity). But they keep that out of the show for the most part. And they just know their shit, especially Thompson. If someone who leans left like I do can find so much value in the show, they must be doing something right.

    Anyone else listen to either of these podcasts?

  23. Two new nominations:

    Borealia: https://earlycanadianhistory.ca. Similar to The Junto but with its focus farther north, this blog contains well-written pieces that comment on empire, indigenous peoples, and settlers in the areas that are now Canada. Great reading for anyone interested in thinking about Vast Early America.

    Peter Force’s American Archives, Digitized by Northern Illinois University: https://digital.lib.niu.edu/amarch. The digitization and cataloging undertaken by the NIU team have made a notoriously inscrutable collection of political miscellanea from 1774-1776 much, much easier to read than they were in any previous iteration. They’ve begun to catalog entries by topic, which could make it a great resource for teaching (though I haven’t tried it yet!).

    • As I recall, this project also seeks to involve faculty and students through transcription and annotation assignments.

  24. I second Voyages and Borealia, if they haven’t been already.

    I nominate the St. Louis Circuit Court Records Project (http://digital.wustl.edu/stlcourtrecords/). Particularly of interest to historians is the nearly 300 freedom suit cases that appeared in the STL Circuit Court before the Civil War, including its most famous freedom suit, the Dred Scott case.

    Also, the Avalon Project from Yale (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/usconst.asp) is great! The collection is massive, but it has a lot of great stuff for early Americanists.

  25. I nominate Marlene Daut’s “La Gazette Royale: A Journey Through Haiti’s Early Print Culture” (https://lagazetteroyale.com/). The website includes all known extant copies of newspaper published under Henry Christophe, president and King of the northern part of Haiti (1807-1820). The page includes PDFs of the originals (from archives in Europe, the Caribbean, and North America) and transcriptions of each document. Readers can add annotations that become publicly available. The website presents a critical window into early independent Haiti and is useful for both researchers and educators.

  26. I nominate Musical Passages, a collaboration with Laurent Dubois, David Gardner, and Mary Caton Lingold (http://www.musicalpassage.org). The multi-sensory website is a model of methodological innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration and reveals insights into the world of African diasporic music. It is an amazing resource for teaching!

  27. Papers of the War Department and Founders Online are both fantastic resources for anyone doing early American military history.

    I’d also like to give a plug for hathitrust.org. It covers much more than early America so it’s probably outside the range of this ranking, but it does have a lot to offer scholars in this field. Hathitrust has various historical magazines, historical society proceedings, papers calendars, and older compilations of correspondence that would previously have been scattered throughout a handful of research libraries. Many antiquarian publications from the late 19th century have transcribed diaries, letters, laws, etc., and you can search and download them for free on Hathitrust. I’ve assembled a trove of some 300 Rev-War primary sources just from deep dives on Hathi. I’ve found that since the project consists of older published works, it lends itself better to some projects than others, mostly whatever turn-of-the-century antiquarians were printing in their publications. Still, it’s great fun to type in a few search terms and see what pops up.

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