Teaching with Databases: An Early American Atlanticist’s Conundrum

SourcesDuring my three years of teaching in England, it’s become apparent that students in my American history classes spend a lot of time worrying about access to primary sources. As an undergraduate myself, I knew that upper-level assessment turns on the ability to find and analyze primary sources—that stipulation is no different in this country. What’s clear, however, is that whereas as an undergraduate I could go to the stacks and wander around until I had a pile of travel narratives, diaries, and monograph reproductions related to early American Atlantic history, that’s not necessarily the case here for students taking classes on early American history, Native American history, the Atlantic world, slavery, trade, and colonization. The costs of a Readex subscription, just for example, are too expensive for the library to justify when most students aren’t going to research early American newspapers. As a result, I’ve had to think hard about how to ease students’ worries about locating sources. Continue reading

Guest Post: MEAD: The Magazine of Early American Datasets

Today’s guest post comes from Andrew M. Schocket, Professor of History and American Culture Studies and Director of American Culture Studies at Bowling Green State University, and Billy G. Smith, the Michael P. Malone Professor of History, & Distinguished Professor of Letters and Science at Montana State University.

MEAD logoData. Before postmodernism, or environmental history, or the cultural turn, or the geographic turn, and even before the character on the old Star Trek series, historians began to gather and analyze quantitative evidence to understand the past. As computers became common during the 1970s and 1980s, scholars responded by painstakingly compiling and analyzing datasets, using that evidence to propose powerful new historical interpretations. Today, much of that information (as well as data compiled since) is in danger of disappearing. For that and other reasons, we have developed a website designed to preserve and share the datasets permanently (or at least until aliens destroy our planet). We appeal to all early American historians (not only the mature ones from earlier decades) to take the time both to preserve and to share their statistical evidence with present and future scholars. It will not only be a legacy to the profession but also will encourage historians to share their data more openly and to provide a foundation on which scholars can build. Continue reading

Digital Pedagogy Roundtable, Part 1: Students’ Access to Sources

This week, The Junto will feature a roundtable on digital pedagogy, in which we discuss our different approaches to using digital sources in the classroom. Today, Rachel Herrmann talks about the challenge of access. Jessica Parr, Joseph Adelman, and Ken Owen will also contribute.

A Wordle made from sources my undergraduates located for our in-class source-finding competition

A Wordle made from sources my undergraduates located for our in-class source-finding competition

Let me preface this post by saying that I’d hesitate to call myself a digital humanist; I don’t code or map or mine texts. As Lincoln Mullen pointed out a while back, however, digital practices exist on a spectrum. There are some things I do for my own research and in the classroom—tweeting, running my department’s social media accounts, using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to chase up a footnote so as not to use up one of my precious Interlibrary Loan requests, and of course, blogging for The Junto—that digital humanists also do. These approaches have been helpful in my teaching for three problems related to access to sources. Continue reading

Making the Most of Your Time in the Archives: Research Technology

mainpageAs funding budgets shrink, many historians face increased pressure to make the most of their time in distant archives. For a number of years now, a lot of researchers have favored a good digital camera, which (theoretically) allows for a faster gathering of primary source materials than traditional note-taking methods. Of course, as historian Larry Cebula humorously observed, failure to exercise good digital stewardship with your own personal archives can have disastrous consequences.

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The First Year of Founders Online: An Interview with Kathleen Williams

Founders OnlineFounders Online launched just over a year ago on June 13, 2013. Today, The Junto catches up with Kathleen Williams, the Executive Director of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), to get a sense of how Founders Online is being used, how much it is being used, and who is using it. We also discussed what the future may hold in store for Founders Online in terms of further website and content development. (NB: In my capacity as a Research Assistant at the Franklin Papers, I have been proofreading the Founders Online transcriptions of the Franklin volumes. I have also used the database for research, both for pieces I have written for the blog as well as my dissertation.)  Continue reading

The Week in Early American History

TWEAH

We’ll start the roundup this week by pointing readers to the recently revamped Teaching United States History blog, which featured a slew of posts over the last seven days. Be sure and check out Ben Wright’s post on teaching students the differences between academic, public and popular history and Blake Ellis’s thoughts on teaching US history in a diverse classroom. Of particular interest to (at least some) readers of The Junto will be Drew Bledsoe’s taxonomy of Civil War history studentsContinue reading