Welcome to the new “More or Less Bunk.”

While I’m still importing and rebuilding some of my teaching materials from my old WordPress,com sites, I think my new blog via WordPress and the lovely people at Reclaim Hosting is now ready to open. So please reset your bookmarks, rss feed or however else you may follow this blog to the URL: “http://moreorlessbunk.net/blog.”

I’ve decided to leave all my old posts at the old “More or Less Bunk” at the old site rather than import them here.  For now, I’ll be posting the digital humanities-related homework I have here. As the nice folks at CNMH are the ones who have helped me through this transition.  Before too long, I’ll get back to your regularly scheduled MOOC-bashing.

In fact, I heard Daphne Koller said something kinda outrageous

Source: Welcome to the new “More or Less Bunk.”

Queer Public Histories: A Digital Project | QPH

2014-06-04 16.15.16

Queer history has been public from the start.  But the ways we have have remembered the queer past have expanded and changed over time.  Are the radical democratic and liberatory commitments that animated early queer public history projects still operative today?  How have queer public history projects shaped and responded to major economic, political, and social changes, including the “normalization” of (some forms of) gay and lesbian identity and (some)  causes espoused in the name of LGBT equality, such as “marriage equality” and gay and lesbian service in the US military.

This digital project will explore the history of queer public history in several ways.  First, it will archive materials associated with queer public history projects (including exhibits, illustrated lectures, collaborative oral history endeavors, and documentary films and videos).  Second, it will present an interactive digital interpretation of queer public history that places projects in historical context and encourages users to explore how the objectives of queer historical projects have change over time and across categories of difference (race, class, gender identity, among others).  Finally, the project might include crowd-sourcing elements, facilitating users to share archival materials related to a range of queer public history projects as well as to document their own responses to these projects.  Ultimately, the project will offer tools for users to produce and share their own digital queer public histories.


Queer Public Histories: A Digital Project | QPH.

Finding a New Focus

Since my first book was published just a few months ago, I haven’t made much progress toward a second project at this point. Originally, my plan was to write something about wartime slavery. With limited time and resources for research travel, proximity matters, so I was going to start with Wilmington, North Carolina, and then see if I wanted to expand the project. A few weeks ago, however, I was invited to edit a new ABC-Clio encyclopedia on the antebellum era, and I’ve decided to give that a try. But it will mean putting the Wilmington project on the back burner for the next 18 months. I don’t want to give it up entirely, though, in part because three fantastic students in my department have put a lot of effort into gathering 1860 census data and cross-referencing the population and slaveholding schedules with a city directory. I’d like to at least get a basic version of the map together because I know they’d like to see it. I would really also like to incorporate some digital history assignments into the undergraduate methods course I’ll be teaching in Spring 2015, so I wonder if there’s some way I can bring those two things together. Has anyone done small-scale digital history projects with students in this context?

Source: Finding a New Focus

A Modest Digital Proposal

As part of the application for CHNM’s NEH Summer Institute for Doing Digital History, I was asked about a digital project that I’d like to work on during the course of the Institute. While my initial proposal had to do with my department’s ongoing primary source repositories, I’ve since realized that the scope of this project is perhaps too big for a two-week summer institute–it would require a new website, lots of metadata, and some cold, hard thinking about exactly who our audience is, and what we want them to be able to do. So, for this larger (and hopefully, eventually community-collaborative and grant-funded project) I hope to get some ideas, but for now, I’d like to start with something different.

And so, I have a more modest proposal for a smaller project, but one for which I have an immediate use. As part of our M.A. program in Historical Administration, I teach a two-semester course in the theory and practice of history exhibition. In each seminar meeting, I try to present lots of case studies that both illustrate and challenge reading assignments on exhibit conception, scope, design, interpretation, etc. I want students to see how artifacts are placed, what labels look like, how cases and installations are located in a physical space. But I’ve had a lot of trouble finding adequate visual representation of exhibits to use as examples. I understand the reasons for this deficit: in some ways, its not really possible to represent the experience of a museum exhibition, and museums and other institutions have a vested interest in making visitors come look at artifacts in situ, so while most museum exhibitions certainly have a digital presence, this is often far removed from the physical exhibition itself. I can sometimes find installation shots of particular exhibits, but there are never enough, and tracking them down on the internet is a slow and often fruitless process.

museum exhibitions online

Over the past year, in a haphazard way, I’ve been using my iPhone camera to document each exhibition that I visit, thinking that I would eventually use these images in my teaching. At this point, I’ve photographed over twenty exhibitions, both large and small. I take general installation shots, close ups of labels, signage, cases, interactives, all of the components of an exhibit. I’ve started to think that it might be a good idea to take video of walk-throughs. I try to document each exhibition as fully as I can. I do historical houses, big national museums, presidential libraries, commercial exhibits, children’s museums. I don’t discriminate between the good and the bad, there’s something to learn from each one. They’re not perfect, but they’re often the only visual record of the physical spaces of these museums that is available. These pictures will help my class think about exhibition conception, design, and implementation, give them reference points for their own exhibition ideas.

a few of my installation shots

Right now, all of my photos are in a Dropbox account. I planned to eventually put them into individual PowerPoint presentations, and have an index that lived on my computer, so that I could drop slides into presentations at will.

But perhaps a better solution would be an online repository of exhibition images–my students could have access to these whenever they like, and perhaps (eventually, once I had a sizeable archive), other educators would find them useful, or would be interested in adding images themselves. In an ideal Web 2.0 world, these images might be organized by exhibition type (chronological, thematic, artifacts, narratives, etc. etc.), or location, or institution size, or using any other number of tags or categories. Or my students (and anyone else) could tag each image with their own comments.

This is a pretty simple idea, but I don’t think anything like this currently exists on the web, and would surely be useful, at least for me, and maybe for other practitioners and scholars of history exhibition. I realize that there’s a big difference between walking through an exhibition (we talk a lot in museum studies about immersion, “wonder,” the power of objects, etc. etc.), but realistically, there aren’t that many history museums that are accessible to us from central Illinois. This is a germ of an idea, but one that I can see having immediate payoff, and perhaps eventually leading to something even more dynamic and interesting.

A Modest Digital Proposal |.

Doing Digital History as Method and Field

If digital history is both a field and a method, then, it is critical to teach students both — and, to do so simultaneously. Having students create a “digital space” they design, build, and make public is one way to go about this double lesson of theory and practice. The Montgomery County Public Library in Dayton, Ohio houses an immense and “pristinely” preserved collection of the Women’s Suffrage movement which dates back to the 1860s. The barely used material is a product of its location — little known and, some might say, remote…

What ways might new tools make the Suffrage Collection more accessible? First, with the construction of the new library building, the Montgomery County Public Library‘s archives will, starting in winter 2014, be out of commission. So, now is the time to think about how digital tools might become an antidote for out-of-reach material. And, second, from the standpoint of doing digital history, method and practice can come together in thinking about a “digital space” as a teaching resource. Such a space, built in  collaboration with students who are –to be sure– more comfortable (though not necessarily better prepared) with “new tech” than I am, then, stand in the center of digital history (as method and field).

Source: Doing Digital History as Method and Field

Digital History Project

So, my project is not as groovy as a lot of the ones I heard about today. It is specifically teaching-oriented. I want to create a home site for my Digital History/Humanities course, with readings, schedule, etc. It’s not glamorous, but it does have a degree of urgency, since I am introducing this course starting August 26. I have seen other course set-ups using Wikidot and I am drawn to the relative simplicity and elegance of the WordPress format. I used the .com version for a course blog last semester, but did not explore all the capabilities. I have been impressed by the site for this institute, and would like to “borrow” from it for a model for my course site. I hate to be derivative, but I figure that at least it’s a starting point.

I have envisioned this course as an introduction to DH (both for the larger humanities and for history specifically) for undergraduates,  with some readings on definitions, concepts, and methods; exploration of DH sites; teaching some very basic tools. I have been thinking about using HistoryPin to begin a project to create a historical walking tour of the towns of Dunkirk & Fredonia. I want to have a community engagement element in the course and I already have relationships with the local history professionals through internships and class projects. This project (or the HistoryPin element)  is subject to change, depending on what catches my eye in this institute.

I liked the discussion today about “threshold concepts” that transform our thinking. One thing I’d like to do with this course is to blow up my students’ notions of digital tech, to move them beyond the social aspects into the new possibilities created when we “mash-up” history and technology. I was struck also by a point made in the discussion in the JAH forum about teaching graduate students DH: You have to be careful that your course is not just about “playing with technology.” You must also get them to think about how DH changes history. I know that I’ll be doing a lot of reflecting on just that  during this two weeks. And I want to be sure that I incorporate this into my course; I’m thinking that one assignment will be to have them explore a DH site/project and consider how it challenges their understanding of history and how it differs from the ways that they have traditionally encountered and understood history.

Source: Digital History Project

The York Riots of 1969

I will begin to build a public website on the York “race riots” of 1969. Little known, these riots garnered international attention in 2002 when York’s Mayor was charged with the  murder of a black woman, Lillie Belle Allen, during the riots (he was a policeman at the time). This website will be modeled on a similar website on the Baltimore riot of 1968,  which I collaborated on but was not responsible for constructing. In the process, I hope to incorporate some preliminary GIS generated maps and to begin to apply some text mining techniques to oral histories that have already been transcribed.

Source: The York Riots of 1969

Dakota Massacre / Uprising / War

In August 1862, four Indians murdered three white men, a white woman, and a white girl near Acton, Minnesota, on a drunken dare. This sparked a larger uprising in which savage Indians rampaged across the frontier, indiscriminately killing white men and raping white women. That was the story settlers told of what became known as the Sioux Uprising or the Indian Massacre. Dakota Indians told a different story, one of invasion, dispossession, trickery, and abuse. Dakotas had given white settlers access to vast swaths of their land in exchange for an annual annuity. Much of the annuity usually went directly into the pockets of white traders. Reduced was better than nothing, however, and in 1862 the annuity was late, and some Dakotas were starving.

I plan to use a tool (such as Twine or inklewriter) designed for Interactive fiction, which is experiencing a resurgence of interest, to create a non-fiction interactive narrative that will be part history and part counterfactual. Users will be able to follow the perspectives of different historical actors, read their own words, and make decisions on their behalf.

Source: Dakota Massacre / Uprising / War