Defining Digital History & Kicking Off the Course

I hope everyone is on track to enjoy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. If you’re looking for ways to honor the work and legacy of MLK, you might find this post of use.  The post presents it’s own opportunity to consider the ways that history is communicated and shared online.

As a result of the holiday, we are holding virtual class this week. That means that we are doing many of the same kinds of things we would do face-to-face in class but over our course blog. To that end, I’m thrilled that we have a series of great introductory posts to our work this week identifying and defining what digital history is and what it means for us to become digital historians.

Be sure to;

  1. Read this weeks course readings
  2. Read and comment on at least one of this weeks blogs
  3. Try out the sites and tools that are shared in the practicum posts
  4. Gear up for our first face-to-face class next Monday, January 28th.

Situating Digital History

We are lucky to start off our class this week with three great posts that can serve as solid examples of the kinds of writing and thinking we are going to engage in here on the course blog and in our class. Huge thanks to Emily, Haley, and Maren for kicking us off so well!

In Digital History is for Everyone, Emily explores issues around argumentation in digital history, issues in ethics around communication of history through different approaches to social media, and a range of ways to get involved and start doing digital history with various online tools and systems.

In Let’s Get Digital: Theorizing Digital History, Haley digs into a bit of the history of digital history and the potential stakes for the relevancy of historical work in the digital age.

In Introducing Digital: Saving the Humanities & Solving the World’s Contemporary Problems? Maren explores issues in the rhetoric around digital technology and some critical perspectives on the functions and effects of digital history.

Starting to Do Digital History

Alongside our work reading and writing about digital history we are also going to engage in hands on explorations of some digital history projects and tools. It’s worth noting, in keeping with some of our initial definitional work, even the claim about what it is to do digital history is itself a bit fraught. Clearly writing is itself a way that we do digital history too.

Laura has put together a great overview of all three sites/tools we are exploring this week for practicums (Wordle, HistoryPin, and PhillaPlace). Be sure to check out each of the individual sites and tools. It is worth noting that HistoryPin may well be a useful tool to consider using for course projects.

Along with those overviews, Isaac has put together a nice in-depth walk through of how to use Wordle to create simple visualizations of texts. Take some time to follow along with the directions there and see what kinds of results you can get.

Some reminders

So we are off to a great start! With that noted, I want to make sure everyone is up and running with everything you need before our first face to face meeting next week.

To that end be sure that you

  1. Reach out to me to get your blog account (there are a few folks that still need to get account’s set up.
  2. Post your introductory blog post. If you are having trouble getting your post up reach out to me and I can help.
  3. If you haven’t signed up for which weeks you are writing about/leading discussion on some of the readings and practicums do that soon
  4. Lastly, seven of you are on deck to get posts up about practicums and readings before class next week. It may also be a good idea to reach out to each other to coordinate who will write about what. Do not hesitate to reach out to me directly if you need any help sorting through what you need to do for those assignments.

Looking forward to seeing everyone next week and to following along with great discussion on the blog in advance of then.

AJ is


My name is AJ Earl and I am a first year MA student in Public History. My focus is queer and Indigenous histories and their intersections with public perceptions of visibility and validity of voice and authority.

I’m hoping to get a lot from this course. First and foremost, I’d like to improve my technical savvy. For now, I mainly use WordPress and social media, but I need to branch out. I need to learn where new media is going, and what is necessary to keep ahead of the curve. Secondly, as a public historian, I absolutely need to learn the public side of this field: how does the public use, integrate, and understand new media?

This brings me back to what I want most out of my grad program. 

I think that with so many ways to access history, certain histories are at a risk of being lost or overwritten from such a high volume of information. I’d like to learn how to make history more relevant to the public.


Introduction to Sara


My name is Sara, and I’m a first-year MA student in Public History.  I grew up in the vibrant border city of El Paso, Texas, went to college in Connecticut, and moved to D.C. five years ago after earning an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. Since graduating, I’ve worked in education – both as a classroom teacher and as an online instructional designer. While entering the Public History program has marked a significant academic shift for me, this course is an intriguing blend of my professional and academic interests, and I’m eager to continue exploring the relationship between technology, digital media, and history.

I’ve found that the aspects of engineering I love most: curiosity about how things work, creative problem solving, and attention to detail are all things that contribute to designing effective educational resources and experiences, and I’m still learning about their role in historical research and interpretation. I’m curious about the mechanics of education and history; I’m energized by the process of confronting a challenge and navigating its inherent constraints and opportunities with ingenuity; and I’m passionate about executing the seemingly minor details that, considered together, can have a major impact on a learner’s experience. Beyond details, I believe that contextualizing ideas and connecting them to a larger framework are crucial to designing meaningful, actionable education. Most importantly, I am committed to accessibility and inclusivity. In my experience, working toward these ideals has meant considering everything from a learner’s point of view and advocating for greater representation in the voices and perspectives reflected in the educational resources I have designed.

In short, my experience as an educator has taught me that effective education is accessible, engaging, relevant and meaningful. Through the Public History program in general, and this course in particular, I hope to expand, re-think, and apply this educational outlook to my public history practice.

I’m a firm believer in the power of education as a force for positive change. I believe that fostering an understanding of the historical realities that shape our lives today is key to realizing the vision of a more just, equal society. My ultimate goal is to work with institutions that encourage authentic reflection, cultivate honest historical dialogue, and shine the light of truth on subjects of profound moral consequence. In my current work with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I’ve been able to explore how new approaches, such as Augmented Reality, might be used to connect diverse audiences to Holocaust history. I look forward to the ways in which this course, and particularly learning from your work throughout the semester, will provide a new lens for thinking about the opportunities and implications of applying new technological and digital approaches to (public) history.

Introducing Melyssa

Hi everyone!

My name is Melyssa Laureano, I’m a first-year Public History MA student. I’m from Kingston, Pennsylvania (near Scranton, PA for all you Office fans). In undergrad I attended Wilkes University for history and secondary education, with a Minor in women’s and gender studies. For a while I was sure I would become a high school teacher- I love history and I love teaching it, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in a classroom to do that. Luckily, I was able to get an internship at the National Museum of American History (NMAH) after graduating and worked with their Experience Design team to present educational programs to visitors. It was during that time when I first heard about “public history” and after learning more about this field, I realized it was a perfect fit for me!

I have some experience with digital history, but I want to learn everything I can about it. So far, my fellowship with the DC Preservation League has given me a lot of great learning opportunities. I help maintain their app, DC Historic Sites, and have written some posts for their Facebook page. I also attended a vocational high school, where I majored in audio-visual communications and got experience in film production, photography, and graphic design; however, since then I haven’t been using these skills as much as I would like to, so I also want to find out how I can put these skills to good use as a public historian.

I really love the collaborative and accessible nature of digital history. I love talking to visitors at NMAH, but I also want to find out how I can reach people who aren’t physically at the museum. I’m excited about this course because I believe digital history offers a lot of great opportunities for more inclusive and active interactions with a broader public.

Introduction to Amanda

Hello All!

My name is Amanda and I am in my last semester of undergrad at AU. I am in the 5-year program with my undergraduate degree being in history with a minor in anthropology as well as in the beginnings of an M.A. in public history. This class will be the last 3 credits I share with both degrees. I’m originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, but came to D.C. about 3.5 years ago to attend AU for undergrad. Since then, I’ve pretty much never left. I always loved history (I once photoshopped myself into a photo of Thomas Jefferson my senior year of high school and put it into a presentation I gave to my APUSH class) and new that I would pursue it with my undergrad degree, but knowing that I didn’t want to be a teacher or educator, I wasn’t sure what I would do much farther than that. Eventually I realized I loved material culture and its interpretation, especially to a lay audience (yeah, I know I said in the sentence before I DIDN’T want to go into education, but I tell myself this is different) and have since pursued opportunities in which I am able to do this. I mostly interested in the history of popular culture (I’m writing my senior capstone on Titanic museum exhibits) as I see it as a great “gateway” topic for non-history people to get excited about the past.

I figured my clear route would be to work in collections management in some way or form, so initially this is what I told people I wanted to do. Two communications internships at historically-oriented organizations later, and I can tell you I’m just as confused about my career path as I was when I started college. That being said, I’m in my second semester of an internship at the White House Historical Association in the marketing and communications department and I love it. I think trying to convince the press to write about history as well as brainstorming ways to expand our reach is both exciting and fulfilling. Now it’s just a matter of managing my expectations of what I thought I would be doing with the reality of what I have actual experience in. Nonetheless, I am in this class because I think technology plays an important, and often overlooked, role in the interpretation of the past and while my internship experiences have given me some foundation in said technology, I think it is important to better familiarize myself with it in order to make myself a more dynamic student of history. I’m really excited for the finally digital history project as I think it will be a great opportunity for me to apply some of my own struggles I’ve had with my current research on Titanic exhibits to a digital tool that could potentially help others one day.

Outside of history, I love trying new foods, animals (I purposefully chose an apartment right next to the zoo), and rewatching the same 5 tv shows I’ve been watching since high school. I am really looking forward to getting to know you all as being an undergrad history major at AU can be somewhat isolating as most people are studying politics or international studies, and as such, I only have a handful of friends who are studying history as their primary major–so I spend a lot of time with non-history people and am therefore always excited to meet new history lovers!


Amanda Laughead