HIST 374: Digital History
Spring, 2017
MWF 9:30-10:45
MW: Whitesides 015/F: Rhodes/Robinson 239
Ellen Holmes Pearson, Ph.D.
Office hours: Monday & Wednesday 2-3:30 p.m.
Whitesides 219

Course Objectives: The History Department has devised a set of four Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) – in other words, concepts and skills that we want our students to learn in all of our classes. These department SLOs are as follows: I. Students gain a broad overview of the field of history, including both content and theory. II. Students master the skills of historical research, analysis, and writing. III. Students work together cooperatively and creatively. IV. Students are actively involved in their own research and the public presentation of their work.

This course will focus on the process of creating digital history. The course readings, workshops, and discussions will be aimed at exposing students to the philosophy and practice of the emerging field of History and New Media. Teams of students will work together to create digital history projects, the objective for which will be to make archival resources available online.

Course Requirements:

Every student and group will:

1. Complete a group project based on a contract made between the group and the professor

2. Post weekly progress reports on their own blog

3. Regularly present to the class about the status of your project

4. Complete the “Productive Failure” reflection.

5. Participate in class discussions of readings and videos on the process of creating digital history

6. Participate in class workshops related to specific digital tools and research skills

7. At the end of the semester, complete a brief paper/blog post reflecting on the process and defending your project as contracted. Each team will also present their project during the final exam period.

Students are expected to attend all class sessions or view the class sessions online and meet with professors as needed/required, read all assigned texts, and participate in class. [Students are also responsible for submitting all project drafts and the final product by the contracted due date. Assignments are considered late if turned in/posted anytime after the appointed due date. Late projects will be penalized one half letter grade per day.]


Daniel J. Cohen & Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (2006). Available at

Other readings as listed on the class schedule. All readings are available online.

Final Grades: Final grades will be determined based on class participation (including blogging, mini assignments, and regular presentations to the class) (25%); on the “Productive Failure” reflection (10%); on performance on the contract (5%) and project (50%), and on the quality of the final formal presentations on the projects (10%).

Each group will receive one shared grade for their contract. On the final project everyone will earn an individual and a group project grade, which will be averaged together to make each person’s project grade.

Remember that you will be working in teams on this project. It is important that you communicate with your team members and that all team members contribute equally to the success of the project. Only under extraordinary circumstances do I allow deadline extensions for any assignments. To receive permission for an extension, the student(s) must contact me before the scheduled assignment deadline except in cases of emergency. In cases of emergency, I require documentation, such as a doctor’s or other appropriate written excuse.  Unexcused late assignments will be penalized one-half grade level per day beyond the deadline, including weekends. No exceptions.

Class discussions: A significant portion of this class will consist of dialogue concerning the reading assignments and the process of creating your project.  Class participation includes active participation in daily discussions and productive responses to class presentations. When we discuss readings/videos, prepare a list of comments on the material (parallels, problems, factual questions, connections to other readings, etc.) This format has several ramifications for you as a student.  First, you must recognize that you learn as much from other students as you do from me.  Consequently, it is very important that you come to class prepared for discussion and take notes on the discussions, so that you remember what we discussed.  Second, listening skills are important.  If you wish to be heard, you must listen; if you wish to have your ideas taken seriously, respect the ideas of others.  As your projects progress, feedback will be important, so make sure that you are providing your colleagues with good critical feedback of their projects. Share your expertise with other members of the class, and ask for help if you need it.

Blogging: Narrating the planning, research, and implementation processes via your blogs is central to the class and is a way for me to measure your effort, your creativity, and your progress as digital scholars. Blog about your problems as well as your successes. Be sure to comment on each others’ blogs and help each other out. This class is a learning community. You will be sharing problems and successes. Weekly posts and comments are a minimum expectation of the class.

Productive Failure assignment: It’s going to happen. Something will go wrong. You will paint yourself into a WordPress corner, or a timeline will disappear. But, fear not! These little defeats actually allow you to work toward victories as well — and you can turn it into a learning experience. When that thing happens, first, remember to breathe. Summon your best problem-solving skills, and find the solution. Then, blog about it. That’s what this “productive failure” exercise is all about. Blog about your “productive failure,” by telling your audience what happened, how you went about solving the problem, and what you learned in the process. Give us all the details!

Group Contracts: Each group will create contracts with me that outline the group’s plans for their project. The contract drafts are due February 20, though each contract may need to be modified before it meets with my approval. Final contracts are due March 6. Each contract must include:

  • Mission statement (project description)
  • Tools the group plans to use (video, mapping software, audio, timelines, etc.)
  • Schedule of milestones (due dates for critical pieces of the project)
  • Basic division of labor among the group members

These contracts may be revised during the course of the semester, though only with good reasons and only after meeting with me.

Regular presentations: Starting around mid-semester, each group will be expected to make weekly status updates in class. Although some weeks 3-5 minutes updates will be sufficient, every other week groups will need to present a more thorough update. See the schedule for details on when your group will be doing longer/shorter presentations.

End of semester presentations: At the end of the semester, during the exam period, each group will make an 8-10 minute presentation summarizing and showing off their product. We will discuss the requirements for this presentation later in the semester.

Reflection post/defense of contract: At the end of the semester, each person will be expected to write a brief blog post or paper (your choice.) This paper (1-2 pages in length or 500 words) should reflect on the process of creating a website, and it should defend your group’s project as contracted.

Absences: If you miss a class, you must procure notes from one of your teammates. You should also see me if you have missed a class to make certain you did not miss receiving important information or handouts. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO MAKE CERTAIN THAT YOU GET ALL PERTINENT INFORMATION FROM ANY CLASSES THAT YOU MISS.  I take attendance at all classes, and after your fourth absence, I calculate your class participation grade by dividing the number of absences by the total number of class periods in the semester (for example, 3 absences in 30 class periods = 10% off your class participation grade,) and then I factor in participation. Students with perfect or near-perfect attendance who do not participate regularly in discussion can receive as high as a C+ on their class participation grade.  To receive an “A” class participation grade, you must be present consistently – that means both mental and physical presence – and contribute to discussion in class.  As you move through the semester, regularly ask yourself these questions: are you involved? Are you making an effort to honestly and coherently reflect on the ideas? Are you supportive of your fellow students? There are at least three indicators of lazy class participation (and of course, these three indicators help me determine your participation grade): lack of critical thinking; lack of reflective engagement; lack of civility toward your fellow students and professor.  On the other hand, I respect and reward thoughtful, reflective, engaged, civil students with a sense of humor and a willingness to explore ideas.

Email and other forms of communication: I may, under certain circumstances, communicate with you via email.  You should check your Campus email address daily, or, if you prefer to use another email account, forward your campus email account using the WebMail instructions.  If you need assistance, go to the computer center.  It is your responsibility to make sure you receive and read all communications regarding this course.

Withdrawals/incompletes: If you must withdraw after the add/drop period, make sure to do so before the withdrawal deadline listed on the academic calendar. Late withdrawals must go through a lengthy process for approval, and it is much easier to get the instructor’s signature for a timely withdrawal than to petition for a late withdrawal. I do not grant incompletes unless you meet with me before the final day of class and have a compelling and documented reason.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities:  University of North Carolina at Asheville is committed to making courses, programs and activities accessible to persons with documented disabilities.  Students requiring reasonable accommodations must register with the Office of Academic Accessibility by providing supporting documentation.  All information provided will remain confidential.  For more information please contact the Office of Academic Accessibility at (828)232-5050 or or visit them in the OneStop Student Services Center.

Class Schedule:

Wednesday, January 18: Introduction and a bit about WordPress

Friday, January 20: Mixer with Dr. Marietta Cameron’s Games Programming class. Meet in the Laurel Forum.

Links to Digital History sites and to gaming involving history.

The Redistricting Game:

The China Game

Jamestown Adventure

How to Build an Arch (Medieval Britain)

Inca Investigation

“The Witches Curse: Explore Salem”

Benjamin Franklin’s Life/interactive timeline

American Revolution Interactive

Redlining Richmond

American Panorama: Atlas of U.S. History

Visualizing History: The Emancipation Project

Virtual St. Paul’s Cathedral project

The Great War in the Land of the Sky

Monday, January 23: What is Digital History?  What are the Digital Humanities?  How are the two different? I will also assign your teams today.

Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Introduction, Ch. 1; Information R/evolution; Seefeldt & Thomas, What is Digital History?; Wikipedia definitions of Digital History & Digital Humanities

Wednesday, January 25: Meet in Special Collections for “Speed Dating” with the Special Collections folks On this day, you will get to spend some time with the collections that we will be working with, and you, as teams, will decide which collection you would like to work with.

This semester’s available topics: 

  • Mountain Dance and Folk Festival & Shindig on the Green Collection – Considered the nation’s oldest folk festival, the MDFF Collection contains records, documents, photographs, promotional posters, and other materials to write a history of the MDFF. The Folk Heritage Committee has granted permission to place materials from the collection online. Students would also be able to access materials from the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Collection at Mars Hill University. 
  • Carolina Mountain Club Collection– Focus on an early history of the CMC (c. 1923-53 or so). There’s plenty of primary and secondary sources as well as photographs and pamphlets to tell the story. While the CMC website has a brief history of the club, a much better and well documented history would be a great project for this class.
  • Julius Damtoft Collection–Damtoft was a forester who worked for Champion Paper Companyh and was the first “industrial forester” in the US. His collection tells the story of the development of commercial forestry. This project can use photographs from the National Forests of NC Historical photos collection and the US Forest Service Southern Research Station collections.
  • Hanlon & Vessey Collection – Documents the creation of the Cradle of Forestry in America on the Biltmore estate. Hanlon and Vessey were foresters with the US Forest Service. This project can draw on photographs from the National Forests of NC Historical photos collection and the US Forest Service Southern Research Station collections.
  • Upper French Broad Defense Association Collection – The UFBDA Collection contains documents, correspondence, flyers, news clippings, and other materials that document how the UFBDA successfully stopped an attempt by the TVA to build a dam on the Upper French Broad River. 
  • Agudas Israel Synagogue Collection – Agudas Israel was founded in the 1920s in Hendersonville, and there is enough in the collection (8 linear feet) to write a good history, including photographs and documents.  
  • Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville Collection – Contains records, publications, photographs, oral histories, newsletters, and other materials that document the history of the UUCA, which was founded in 1950.
  • Black Mountain College Collection — Contains records, publications, photographs, and other materials that document the history of Black Mountain College, which operated from 1933 to 1957. Note that this collection is located at the Western Archives in Oteen (East Asheville), therefore research will need to be conducted at that facility.

By 12 noon, Thursday, January 26 email Dr. Pearson with your team’s 1st and 2d choices for your project.

Friday, January 27: “Introductions” with our Digital History/Games Programming Colleagues. We will meet in RRO to spend time with the Games Programming teams that have been assigned to each of your groups.

Monday, January 30: Exploring WordPress
Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Chapter 2, Chapter 4; Jess Reingold, “Choosing a WordPress Theme,”

By class time Wednesday, February 1, complete these assignments:

  • Create a WordPress blog using This will be your individual blog, separate from the digital exhibit that you will build with your team. (That will be built as a site. More on that later)
  • Write your first Blog post: Based on your review of the Digital History websites we will discuss during class on February 1, think about what you like about these websites as a whole, and what you don’t.  What works and what doesn’t?  What elements would you want to incorporate and which do you want to avoid in your own project?
  • If you do not already have one, set up a Twitter account and follow me (@eholmespearson) and/or your classmates and/or some of the scholars from the DH Compendium.  If you tweet about our class use the hashtag #DHUNCA2017.

Wednesday, February 1: Exploring websites created with WordPress, Omeka and Neatline

Check out the pages on the Century America website and at least three of the following websites (including at least one Omeka site):  Valley of the Shadow, French Revolution, The Emancipation Project; Gilded Age Murder.  Omeka-based sites, including Great Molasses Flood (built in Omeka and Neatline). Map Scholar; University of Houston’s Digital History site; Emile Davis Diaries; several sites at the Digital Scholarship Lab; Mapping the Republic of Letters; Virtual Paul’s Cross Project; Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database.

Friday, February 3: Meet in Whitesides 008 (Computer Lab) for instructions!!!!!!! Introducing your GP colleagues to the archival materials for your projects. Once again, we will be in Special Collections, this time showing our colleagues with the Games class a bit about our projects.

Monday, February 6: Understanding the Web. Reading: John Naughton, “The Internet: Understanding Everything You Need to Know,” The Guardian, June 19, 2010; Google, “How Search Works,”; Steven Levy, “How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web,” February 22, 2010;  Angwin, Parris, Mattu, “Breaking the Black Box: What Facebook Knows About You,” Propublica.

Wednesday, February 8: Digital workshop: WordPress, Mapping and Timeline tools Meet in the Kimmel Lab, Ramsey Library, behind the Research and Technology desk
Instructions/resources for the tools:
Instructions for Timeline JS (Created by UNC Asheville TLTR)
Instructions for StoryMap JS (Created by UNC Asheville TLTR)
Link to Juxtapose
Time Mapper Instructions
Time Mapper Spreadsheet Data
Spreadsheet/Time Map Image
Google Drive Mobile App

Friday, February 10: Meet with Dr. Cameron’s Class in WHI 008 (computer lab)
For the week of February 6, blog about your team’s research game plan and your impressions of the digital tools that we’ll discuss on Wednesday, 2/8.

Monday, February 13: The Library’s Media Design Lab.  Meet in the Kimmel Lab, Ramsey Library, behind the Research and Technology Desk.
By class time, build ONE basic map using your choice of Google Maps, Time Mapper or Story Map JS, AND a basic timeline in Timeline JS with at least five events posted on the timeline. Blog about the experience and about how you might use this in your project. 

Wednesday, February 15: Team contracts: a few things to think about/brief group updates on research; quick Feeds/Following tutorial.
Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Ch. 5; review examples of contracts:;

Follow the blogs of the people in class and two digital humanities blogs from the DH Compendium.

Friday, February 17: No Class. Work on contract drafts, which are due to Dr. Pearson via Google Doc by class time Monday, February 20. 

Monday, February 20: Contract drafts due to Dr. Pearson via Google Doc by class time.  A few other digital tools and how one museum professional/digital historian/UNC Asheville history alumna uses them. Guest speaker: Katherine Calhoun Cutshall.

Wednesday, February 22:  Copyright and Wikipedia’s Creative Commons: What’s the Big Deal? Gene Hyde, guest speaker
Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Ch.7;; Stanford’s guide to fair use; Jimmy Wales (2005) How a Ragtag Band Created Wikipedia (watch at

Other resources: Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Online Video; 2007 documentary on copyright (and music and video remixing); 30+ places to find Creative Commons media; ProfHacker post on Google Images and usable works.

Assignment: Look at the History and Discussion tabs of several Wikipedia history entries and blog about what you see.

Friday, February 24: No class. Dr. Pearson will schedule meetings with each team to discuss contracts.

Monday, February 27

Wednesday, March 1: Team research and planning time No class

Friday, March 3: Class meeting for progress reports/Talk to AVID students about your projects. Meet in Special Collections

Monday, March 6: Team research and planning time  
Revised versions of Contracts due to Dr. Pearson via Google Docs. This is the version that she will link to the course website.

Wednesday, March 8: Digital identity
Readings: Jessica Contrera, “13, Right Now: This is What it’s Like to Grow Up in the Age of Likes, LOLs, and Longing” Washington Post, May 25, 2016; Bonnie Stewart, “Digital Identities: Six Key Selves of Networked Publics,” The Theory Blog, May 6, 2012

For the week of March 6, blog about the above readings, but move beyond social media, and reflect on how the “six key selves” may fit into the world of public history. How is your work on this digital project affecting your own digital identity?

Friday, March 10: Team research and planning time

Week of March 13: Spring Break

****Complete the Digital History Mid-Semester Check-in before 9 a.m. Monday, March 20. Access the Check-in form here. Only Dr. Pearson can see the responses, and all responses will be kept confidential.

Monday, March 20: Team meetings with Dr. Pearson for progress reports

Special Blog Assignment, due by Wednesday, March 22: This is the first of TWO blogs that I want you to post over the next week. See the directions under Friday, March 24 for the subject of the second blog post. Read the chapters and articles listed below, and then check out at least two of the websites in the list below the readings: 
Reading: Cohen & Rosenzweig, Digital History, Chapter 3, Chapter 6; Tony Grafton, “Future Reading,” New Yorker, Nov. 5, 2007; Kate Theimer, The role of “the professional discipline” in archives and digital archives, Feb. 17, 2014.

Check out at least two of the following websites: Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, September 11 Digital Archive,  Internet Archive; A House Divided: America in the Age of Lincoln; Famous Law trials; Criminal IntentMapping DuBois; Hull House and Neighborhoods.

After reading the assigned chapters/articles and looking through two of the sites listed above, write a blog reflecting on digital archives and issues of digitization. What are the pros and cons of digital archives? Discuss how the digital archives that you explored are similar to/different from your project. How can digital archives and digital history exhibits complement one another? If you could do a digital archive on your project, what would be there?

Wednesday, March 22: Team meetings with Dr. Pearson for progress reports

Friday, March 24: Meet with Dr. Cameron’s class Meet in WHI 008
After this class, post a blog about your meeting with your Games Programming team(s). Answer these questions: So, how did the meeting go? What did you discuss? What decisions have you/they made about interactive components for your site? What steps do you and they need to take so that they can complete their project?

Monday, March 27: Team Planning Time (Dr. Pearson will be available for small group meetings if necessary.)

Wednesday, March 29: No Class meeting. Almost, as-close-as-possible-to-final drafts of your projects due by 5 p.m.
Using (, provide edits and comments on the draft assigned to your team. Each team member should edit/comment separately, and then share their individual edits/comments with the authors of the site. A checklist of items to review and comment on is located here.
Site comment assignments:
Mountain Dance & Folk Festival and Agudas Israel Synagogue teams will comment on one another’s drafts

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville and Black Mountain College teams will comment on one another’s drafts. 

Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville:
Mountain Dance and Folk Festival:
Black Mountain College:
Agudas Israel:

Friday, March 31: Meet with Dr. Cameron’s class to show your teams their drafts. Meet in WHI 008

Monday, April 3: Peer feedback on website drafts (MDFF and Agudas Israel teams will meet in WHI 013 for this session. Note that your feedback is due to team members of the site on which you are commenting by 5 p.m. Sunday, April 2)

Wednesday, April 5: Peer feedback on website drafts (UU and BMC teams will meet in WHI 013 for this session. Note that your feedback is due to team members of the site in which you are commenting by 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 4)

Friday, April 7: Meet with Dr. Cameron’s class — Games prototype for each class will be done. Meet in WHI 008

Monday, April 10: Digital Citizenship — meet in WHI 013 to discuss the readings below.

Readings: Maha Bali, “Critical Digital Citizenship: Promoting Empathy and Social Justice Online,” DML Central, June 30, 2016; Shanley Kane, “Internet Famous: Visibility as Violence in Social Media,” Model View Culture, June 30 2014; Dannah Boyd, “What if Social Media Becomes 16-plus?” Bright, December 18, 2015; Dorothy Kim, “The Rules of Twitter,” Hybrid Pedagogy, December 4, 2014.

Wednesday, April 12: Team Planning Time 

Friday, April 14: Meet with Dr. Cameron’s Class Meet in WHI 008

Monday, April 17: No Class meeting — submit your “Productive Failure” blog entry/reflection by 9:30 a.m. today (Note: you may submit this blog entry any time over the course of the semester, but it MUST be completed and submitted by this date.)

Wednesday, April 19: Final Draft of sites are due by 5 p.m. on this day. THIS IS THE VERSION OF THE SITE ON WHICH EVERYONE WILL BE GRADED! Peer evaluations of your group members are also due on this date. Click here for the peer evaluation form.

Friday, April 21: Presentation Practice and feedback

Monday, April 24:  Presentation Practice and feedback  Meet in the Whitesides computer lab 

Wednesday, April 26: UR Research Day, no class.

Friday, April 28: Regular Digital History class meeting, meet in WHI 013. We will discuss the Digital Citizenship readings (assigned readings under Monday, April 10, for which you posted reflections during the week of April 10.)

Monday, May 1: Presentation Practice and feedback Meet in the Whitesides computer lab

Wednesday, May 3: Reading day/no class, but paper/blog post due by 5 p.m. reflecting on the process and defending your project as contracted. Description from the assignment section, above: At the end of the semester, each person will be expected to write a brief blog post or paper (your choice.) This paper (1-2 pages in length or 500 words) should reflect on the process of creating a website, and it should defend your group’s project as contracted.  Examples of Reflections/defense of contract posts can be found on this page:

Monday, May 8: 8-10:30 a.m. Joint Formal Presentations during the Final Exam period, in RRO 125.

Order of presentation:

8:10-8:40 Black Mountain College 

8:45-9:15  Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Asheville 

9:20-9:50  Mountain Dance and Folk Festival 

9:55-10:15  Agudas Israel