Digital history? Moi?

Digital history? Moi?

Here at “Doing Digital History” in lovely Arlington, Virginia we’re currently working on ways to design and justify our respective digital history projects and courses at our home institutions. I’m fortunate enough that I won’t have to justify mine, but I’ve been working out the syllabus for a digital, experiential learning archives-based course for the last week and a half (before I start teaching it exactly two weeks from today).  If you want to see what it looks like at the moment, then click here.

About Jonathan Rees

Professor of History, Colorado State University – Pueblo.

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Category(s): Digital Humanities


Source: Digital history? Moi?

Icebox v. refrigerator.

Our DH seminar homework for tonight is to write a brief blog post considering how we might use text mining in our upcoming digital history projects. Unfortunately for me, a project about an underwater mining town doesn’t seem particularly text mining friendly.  Don’t get me wrong, I found, for example, this particular tool to be something potentially really useful as a way to get control of my growing corpus of Harvey Wiley literature.  However, from my perspective, text mining is probably the least useful DH strategy that I’ve encountered here in the last week and a half or so.

The one time I did to some text mining may suggest why.  This is the Google Ngram for “refrigerator v. icebox” (with “ice box” thrown in just for good measure)*:

Refrigerator vs. iceboxI first did this Ngram while writing Chapter Six of Refrigeration Nation in order to confirm something that I already knew from my research: that before the advent of the electric refrigerator, what we now know as “iceboxes” were called “refrigerators” and that icebox is a term invented to differentiate boxes full of ice from the appliance that now runs in everybody’s kitchens. The fact that the terms “icebox”and “ice box” basically come out of nowhere precisely during the time when the first electric refrigerators were being developed basically confirm that fact.

Apparently, confirming things you already think you know is the best way to use text mining. I think that’s a good thing, as I’m not sure how I ever would have footnoted this in the book. In fact, how COULD you footnote this in a book if the corpus keeps changing?

But it is a pretty good trick to play with students that the cultural historians probably adore.

* Click the picture if you’re interested in a clear look.

Source: Icebox v. refrigerator.

A total cop out.

So my Doing DH 2014 homework for tonight is to write a short blog post about using non-textual sources in history classes. Since I’ve written two articles for AHA Perspectives on precisely that subject, I’m just going to link to them here and here.

Now I’m going to go back to playing with Omeka.

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: “”

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.”

Sopris, Colorado, currently underwater, recreated online.

So my project is to recreate the town of Sopris, Colorado, currently at the bottom of Trinidad Lake online. The concept is one pioneered buy History Colorado (formerly known as the Colorado Historical Society) which has reorganized the entire state history museum this way, and the material comes a place called the Bessemer Historical Society, which holds the archives of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, which owned Sopris, its accompanying coal mine and many other towns and mines in southern Colorado.

We have mine maps like this one (which doesn’t do justice to how cool this looks in person because it’s such a small scan):


We have access to pictures like this:

Access to physical artifacts from the community:


We will eventually have interviews with people who grew up in Sopris before the government flooded it 1973.

What I need to do over the next two weeks is to figure out the first steps to getting all of this up inside a conceptual framework that will make sense to the general public.  And, oh yeah, instructions for my students who will be doing this with me in a class that starts a week after I get back to Colorado.

Good times. Good times.

Source: Sopris, Colorado, currently underwater, recreated online.