Final Project Reflections, Lukacs

A River of Parties, an ongoing endeavor

Click here to be directed to the site.

What’s been done?

So far, the website has three test posts, in chronological order. One post looks at colonial politics between Tories and Whigs and the Articles of Confederation. The second post looks at the Constitutional Convention and the creation of the Federalist Party. The third post looks at the Washington Administration and the creation of the Democratic-Republicans. The further reading page is developing quite nicely. A few personal favorite works have been added in various topics, with an eye towards diverse accounts in terms of authors, subject matter, and methodological approaches. This page will continue to expand, and will need some sort of organizational framework, probably thematically for easier navigation. The master directory page that holds the image of the document now introduces the project a little better, with information about the document itself, the intended audience, and telegraphing the future of the project. Another page has been added that will contain a list of suggested questions and activities to help facilitate using the site. Additionally, the project now has a rough timeline that I can work with. Colleagues Allison Russell and Melyssa Laureano both work in secondary education, at a private school and a public school respectively. Both educators have offered to use their classrooms as guinea pigs to gauge student response, the utility of the site, and further develop content and suggested questions/activities. I’m really looking forward to sharing this site with students, and the initial feedback from Russell and Laureano has been extremely positive. Their remarks focused primarily on the appropriate tone and reading level for that age group, and the potential that a close reading of this document has.

What needs done?

Most of the remaining work will focus on fleshing out content. I am trying to limit each post to between seven hundred and a thousand words. Reading through each individual post should have a minimal time commitment, so that classrooms have enough time to do activities. Even a thousand words is probably pushing the envelope. There are sixteen remaining segments to the documents. So, theoretically, there’s about sixteen-thousand words left to write. I think that qualifies as a novella. The further reading page needs greatly expanded as well. The hope is to have at least three works for every topic of study, a mini historiography that includes diverse representations of scholars and helps flesh out the narrative I am presenting. The website will be largely top-down in its approach, which is not my preferred method. Since the website is offering a wide narrative, I can use the further reading page to present some depth. The page that introduces the document now has a better introduction to the project, but I’d like to refine it more as work continues, if only to update readers on current progress.

There is a lot of technical work remaining as well. First, the site needs repurposed entirely to present the stories on stable pages instead of posts. This will provide a much better structure to the website and ease the process of exploration. It’s also difficult to continually refer to the artifact in writing, especially as the cropped image for each segment is presented at the top of the page. I could simply copy and paste the image several times throughout the story for readers to refer to, but it would be better if the image could float down the page with them, focusing more on the image in a dynamic way that would make it so readers didn’t have to scroll up to reengage throughout the narrative. This is a technical challenge that will be approached more fully after the content is developed in an initial, but compete, draft.


One of the most intriguing projects we looked at in class was the now defunct History Wired site run by the Smithsonian. I have expressed this often in class, but digital space has a great potential for exploration and community-creation. History Wired had a sense of exploration, and by determining the size of clickable links by popularity, sort of created a sense of community. I’ve kept the potential of that project in mind the entire time I’ve been working on River of Parties, encouraged by working so closely with a Smithsonian artifact. I want to create a space where students can explore and be entertained. As a historian I have a ton of fun engaging with history and with others about history, and its so common to see kids (and adults) complain that history is boring. But it doesn’t need to be; whether you’re telling a darkly hilarious story about the Aztec prince who served his wife to his father-in-law or comparing Revolutionary War slogans to internet memes. Maintaining a sense of discovery and fun will be a constant challenge throughout the project, but so will trying to foster a sense of community. This can be done through comments on the site itself, but I may disable those. The website is primarily intended to be a group activity for students, and only secondarily a place for bored adults to peruse. The students themselves will be able to share stories and learn together outside of a textbook or ten-year-old notes the teacher puts on the projector.

I’m so excited to continue working on this project and looking forward to developing and refining it over the summer and fall. The ultimate vision for this project is much more expensive and technically demanding, either as a more functional website or as an interactive digital exhibit, and hopefully a working model like this can help explore those possibilities in the future.



Readings, Part III: The Second Three Articles

Note: This is part three of the readings. Click here for part one. Click here for part two.

Rutner and Schonfeld, Supporting the Changing Research Practices

This article looks at different facets of the historical profession, how the do their work, and recommendations for change. A personal interest describes ;]p..the lack of training in actual archives for graduate students. They feel similarly unprepared to organize research or handle non-document sources. Is this a sink or swim experience being offered by academia?

Have we spent sufficient time in this class looking at tools for research? Especially tools that might help organize the abundant research required by historical writing?

Does this graduate program facilitate learning how to access information?

Does this program facilitate collaboration and cooperation between students? With faculty?

Guidelines for Professional Evaluation

This post by the American Historical Association sets guidelines and recommends best practices for digital historians, and history departments looking to update to or work with digital scholarship or employing and evaluating digital scholars. The relationship depicted requires communication between the two, and encourages collaborating with technically minded institutions, like the friendly neighborhood/campus library.

What responsibilities does the AHA place on digital historians? On universities? Is this enough to foster a productive relationship between traditional departments and digital historians?

To what extent do the AHA guidelines respond to and work with this week’s other readings?

Rebecca Conrad, Historians in Public

Here Rebecca Conrad reviews Ian Tyrell’s Historians in Public. This work looks at the changes in the historical profession in the twentieth century, including the New History movement, the effect of the World Wars, and the genesis of public history. Tyrell’s work is largely a critique of these movements. He also makes the claim that public history is “an extension of academic history.” While a useful retrospective on developments in academia, Tyrell’s work has several problematic blindspots.

Are historians specializing to find audiences? Or are they specializing to stay relevant and employable?

Is all history public history? Is it the same as doing history in public?

How does Tyrell’s work show his biases?

Does academic historian maintain any fruitful connection to K-12?

What relationship does history have to activism and social change?



Congratulations y’all. That’s the last of the readings for this class. You did it, fam.

Readings, Part II: The First Three Articles

Note: Part 2 of the readings, looking at the first three articles. Click here for Part I.

          Dan Cohen, The Ivory Tower

This rough draft of an introduction chapter has been posted online to facilitate discussion and feedback, as modeled in Planned Obsolescence. The Content of the article is like the book read for this week, so let’s instead focus on the comments. A few readers noted the long introductory narrative of Nate Silver as seeming not totally connected to the greater point. Others found issue with lack of disciplinary definition. Yet another had thoughts on grammar and sentence construction. Cohen responds to these commenters to explain himself, offer further insights, or even explain how the draft has already changed.

  1. Does this seem like a productive discussion?
  2. How does this mirror the examples given by Fitzpatrick in Planned Obsolescence?

          Sue Baughman, Transformation of Scholarly Communication

This introduction by Sue Baughman presents an article by Rikk Mulligan. Mulligan provides an overview of the history of the article and scholarly monograph, as well as problems and potential solutions to the form in the digital age. This article is presented in a super weird format I’ve never seen before, and after initial hesitation was actually pretty cool, though there’s little functionality beyond a traditional pdf. There is a social sharing options on the side, which is kind of cool if you have friends who are overtly concerned with the state of scholarly monograph.

  1. What did you think of the reader this article used?
  2. What value does the monograph have?
  3. What are some solutions offered by Mulligan? Are they feasible?

Griffiths, Dawson, and Rascoff, Scholarly Communications

As a graduate student, reading this article was very strange. It clinically breaks down the ways in which historians use specific types of sources, why, and their feelings on the digitization of those sources. Their conclusions are that historians will be remarkably slow to push for better coordination with the digital age (with the exception of Africanists and public historians). There’s a lot to digest for short article, especially concerning the enshrinement of the monograph (considering journals are more widely used and written), and the concern that undergraduates won’t seek out non-digital works. This was written in 2006. They’re talking about us.

  1. Does it exist if it isn’t digital?
  2. How has this been reflected in your own research?
  3. Does this twelve year old article reflect the current situation?

Readings, Part I: Planned Obsolescence

Planned Obsolescence

Note: This is part one of the readings, just the book. Click here part two for the articles.

The system of academic publishing doesn’t need to become digital, it needs to undergo a digital revolution. Looking at the different stages of academic publishing from peer review, to authorship, to texts, to preservation, to the university as publish, Kathleen Fitzpatrick offers models to learn from and experiments to attempt. Using a variety of horror and monster metaphors, this work looks at the inherent flaws in academic publishing, and that the clinging to of prestige and authority is slow suicide by scholars.

              Peer Review

Peer review has not only become a critical part of publishing but affects the tenure and promotional tracks of professionals. This tradition is not as old as many would think and comes from a state censorship attempts in the 18th century. Fitzpatrick offers models including Slashdot, Philica, and MediaCommons to suggest physical ways in which the process of peer-review could be updated and improved by moving to digital formats. But ultimately, the cusses of these models depend on experimenting effective ways to create quality review made by quality reviewers, but an accompanying change to the mindset: “not simply on being smart, but on being helpful.”[1]


Fitzpatrick begins this chapter by looking at what an author is, using Barthes and Foucault. The chapter examine how digital formats, especially the blog, have already being to change the meaning of authorship. Fitzpatrick asks readers to consider the malleable nature of blogs, that show the process of thinking and the interactive nature of comments and updates, as productive avenues to the future. Remix culture is also brought in as a new possibility for scholarly work, as well as looking at multimodal scholarship: audio and video among others. Again, a change in attitude is suggested away from the individual, and towards a productive collective, and “to understand the collective not as the elimination of the individual, but rather as composed of individuals.”[2]


Text serves as the basis for digital scholarship now and for the past six hundred years, but eh way in which scholars use text has not caught up with the times. This chapter opens with a critique of current electronic reading mediums: chiefly PDFs and e-books. Both of these mediums can be essentially summed up as “pages under glass,”[3] in which active reading and reader interaction is impossible. Fitzpatrick also notes the potential of hypertext, of decentralizing the structure of books to reflect natural thought progression. This can be confusing for readers used to traditional structures, and also takes away some of the authority of the author (which, as explored in the previous chapter, may be a good thing). This chapter ends with a case study on CommentPress, which sought to bring the social activity of reading to the forefront. While it ultimately failed due to technical concerns, CommentPress set up important lessons:

“CommentPress grows out of an understanding that the chief problem in creating the future of the book is not simply placing the words on the screen, but structing their delivery in an engaging manner; the issue of engagement, moreover, is not simply about locating the text within the technological network, but also, and primarily, about locating it within the social network.”


This class has discussed before the issues of digital preservation. Data can become corrupted or glitched, but there is also a materiality to data that makes it muss less fragile than many think. Yet the preservation of digital materials is a serious consideration that will only become more difficult and time consuming the longer we wait. Scholars need to understand the standards by which data is maintained and the metadata that keep it from becoming lost. Two case studies, LOCKSS and CLOCKSS are two models for preserving large amounts of data. But for these to be successful, there is a significant amount of communal investment that needs to occur.

              The University

Finally, Fitzpatrick looks at ways in which the University publishing system can adapt to the changing times. The first suggestion is to allow open access to work, or to shift away from profit-driven models. The case study on a multimodal journal, Vectors, is used to show the potential of a digital-age journal, but it constantly struggles with funding issues. For new modes of publishing to be found, at some point Universities are going to need to invest in experimenting. They might also re-consider the relationship presses have with institutional libraries, scholars, and how their mission fits in with their parent institution. Fitzpatrick’s hope is that university presses “must be treated as part of the institution’s infrastructure, as necessary as the information technology center, as indispensable as the library, organizations increasingly central to the mission of the twenty-first century university.”[4]

              Some Questions

  1. Why is peer review important? What benefits come from this tradition?
  2. Does co-authorship or communal feedback really remove the authors authority? Does Foucault seem like a super pretentious person?
  3. What is to gain from creating texts with interactive elements? What are potential dangers?
  4. How can scholars contribute to the process of preservation?
  5. Do Fitzpatrick’s suggestions for the future of the university press seem feasible?

[1] Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, New York: New York University Press, 2011. 46.

[2] Ibid, 74.

[3] Ibid, 93

[4] Ibid, 187.

Digital Project Proposal, Kevin Lukacs

Shirtless George, a Party River

It was 2017, and I was turning 25 years old. My friend Alec came down from Pittsburgh to celebrate. He brought a six pack of Firehouse Red from North Country Brewery, and a six pack of Yuengling. There was much celebrating that weekend, and between Pennsylvania beers and the best pizza Del Ray has to offer, we took some time to explore the National Museum of American History.

This ridiculous statue is always on display, and it never disappoints.

The American History Museum is packed to the brim with interesting artifacts. One particular display caught my attention. It was a graphic of American political parties, from the start of the nation into the 20th century. It was colorful, detailed, and the twisting turns were reminiscent of a river system as complex and important to America as the Mississippi. The visualization is prominently displayed and accessible, but there’s an opportunity here to make an interesting digital exhibit, with an air of discovery and accessibility to the history of American political parties.

Did I over-hype it? I over-hyped it, didn’t I?
The Gist of It

The basic concept of this digital project is to put this image, or a facsimile of it, onto a website. The image will be split up into separate, but connected pieces, and each party or unique phase of a party will be hyperlinked to a digital exhibit page. The exhibit page will contain useful information such as the start and end dates, key issues, relevant legislation, key figures, and of course historiographically supported causes contributing to the rise and fall of the party. WordPress will be the platform for the website, as it is easy and free to use, as well as a platform I am familiar working with.

Who’s Gonna Click It?

I want the digital exhibit to be accessible to as many people as possible, by keeping the language simple and absent of jargon. A resource like this could be a fun overview for students of all ages. The website should contain enough critical and relevant information to be interesting to adults as well. The image by itself is an incredible reminder that American politics hasn’t always been what Kendrick Lamar called the Democrips and Rebloodicans, and will hopefully be an eye-opening experience for casual and curious learners.


In terms of existing projects, this digital exhibit is really inspired by the Smithsonian website. The Smithsonian site is full of digital exhibits that not only offer information on much of their exhaustive collection, but contain quality images of artifacts as well. It’s an incredible resource that can be tapped by anyone with a computer. The site is very functional and easy to navigate, but it isn’t any fun. And it could be.

As a class, we looked at HistoryWired, an earlier version of the Smithsonian site that did not age well and was taken down. HistoryWired had some great ideas that really could use a second look. With this digital exhibit, I want to make exploring a key part of using this image/artifact from the vast Smithsonian collection. While this digital exhibit won’t be the funnest thing ever, it will have a level of interaction and discovery that feels somewhat absent in the current Smithsonian site.

With a Little Help From My Friends

As far as getting the project out and known, I’ve always had success sharing projects with Reddit. The subreddit r/history gets a lot of traffic in a day, and projects/blogs I have shared on there before have been able to collect thousands of views in a few hours, and sparked some interesting conversation along the way.

Not everything on r/history is paradigm shifting discourse, but it has its moments.

It never hurts to get a little help from the network as well. I work at and have worked with several historical sites that interpret American politics, and would love to show them the project and perhaps ask them to share it.

Beyond just putting the project under the nose of the internet, it would be really important if it could be used as a teaching resource. I would enjoy putting the digital exhibit into the hands of teachers, and see if its something that could benefit a classroom of whatever age group.

Given that this project is centered around using a Smithsonian artifact, it would also be important to share the concept with them. It would be a joy to see the Smithsonian’s digital presence to be more engaging and fun. Perhaps this could inspire a second look at their website.

But is it Any Good?

To evaluate the project, I’m going to use a WordPress plug in that analyses metrics of engagement. Views of the homepage and of individual articles/party exhibits will be handy, but it will be more important to know how long people are staying on a page. Are they reading the information or just skimming? Knowing the bounce rate and exit rate will tell me if people are only checking out the home page or one article and exiting out. The bounce rate will help me to discern if people are really exploring and taking in the experience. The hardest part of this project will be giving it a longer shelf life, so that people are visiting the site without my having to post a link on Reddit or send out a tweet. This can be tremendously affected by making sure the website has a good SEO score, that it has optimal conditions to be found organically via searches.

So that’s pretty much the thing. Is this something you’d want to check out? What information would you expect to see on a site like this? Is there a better platform for this project? Will there ever be a party that sounds as cool as Bull-Moose? Let me know your thoughts below!