Today at Doing DH, we’re talking about using digital projects in undergraduate teaching, led by Jeff McClurken of the University of Mary Washington. Jeff asked us to sketch and workshop some project ideas. Here is what I came up with, based on some conversations I and several colleagues have had this summer with a community group in our region. It’s still a bit vague.
Haywood Co. African American Archive
This summer, a community group contacted me and several of my colleagues regarding a project involving African American history in western North Carolina. The leaders of this group have been recording oral histories and gathering textual materials and images documenting the black community in Haywood County, NC, and they have asked for help in organizing and presenting this material. The African American presence in southern Appalachia is often overlooked in both academic sources and by the regional heritage industry, so this project offers an opportunity to address a neglected aspect of the history of the southern highlands. I would like to create a course project that would result in the digital presentation of a portion of this material.
Digital course or “digitally inflected?”
Digitally inflected. This project would form a research component of an upper-level undergraduate course on either modern US history or Appalachian history. Upper-level courses are capped at around 35 students, and our courses are generally full.
Individual or group-based?
This project would be group-based. Different groups would work with different kinds of materials or with different small parts of this community archive. I should explain that we are currently talking with the local group about the scope and contents of their collections, so the details are still a bit vague.
At the moment, I envision two stages. In the first stage, students would work with members of the community group to identify which materials should be made publicly available and then prepare those materials – by transcribing oral interviews, for instance. In the second stage, student groups would present and interpret selected materials.
The goal would be to produce the beginnings of an online archive of these materials, plus brief interpretive essays or multi-media presentations. My hope is that this could be a multi-stage project spanning several semesters, with different classes working with small discrete sections of the community archive.
My university has an existing Appalachian digital heritage project, one that has not been terribly active in recent years, but that includes blogs, textual materials, and audio and video files. My hope is that this African American history archive could become a part of that existing project, making use of the digital architecture already in place.
• Local history group, Pigeon Community Center (Waynesville, NC)
• Digital Heritage, WCU Mountain Heritage Center
• Students would work with community members to define the goals of the project, select, and organize archival materials for public presentation.
• Students would analyze and interpret heretofore unexamined primary sources tied to local history.
This project would represent “community engagement,” which my department and the university administrators will like. It would also represent an authentic research experience with a public expression.