Digital Public History

 HIST451: Applied Public/Digital History
Thursdays, 5-7:50pm
Griffin Hall 501 

Dr. Jacqueline Beatty
Griffin Hall 527 
Office Hours: Tuesdays, 1:30-4:30pm, Wednesdays 11am-2pm 


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Student Work

Course Description: 


Historians are now living and working in a digital age, and as such, must confront and engage in the theory and practices of digital public history. Throughout this course, we will grapple with the challenges of doing digital public history. As this is a collective enterprise, much of our exploration and practice will be done together in class in order to implement strategies for best practice on our sites. We will engage with new and innovative readings and projects relating to digital public history, and by the end of the semester, students will have created their own work of digital public history from collections held here on ULL’s campus.  


Course Objectives: 

  1. To introduce students to the theory, methodology, and practice of digital public history. 
  2. To provide students with the necessary tools to create works of digital public history. 
  3. To reinforce traditional methods of doing history, and engage students in primary research and secondary source readings. 
  4. To demonstrate the importance of the use of digital technology for the practice of history. 


Grading and Course Policies: 


Classroom Etiquette: As this is a digital history course, students should bring laptops to class each week. We will be exploring tools and sites on a regular basis, so access to a computer is necessary. During class, students should only be engaging with class materials. Failure to comply with this policy will result in a reduced participation grade. 


Communications: In an effort to engage a variety of digital methods as we study the past, students will participate in Twitter discussions using the hashtag #ULLHist451 and will also submit weekly blog posts along with responding to each other’s posts. Continuing the discussion after class (via blog posts and Twitter) is strongly encouraged! Students should also communicate with the instructor via the university email system, and check their email regularly for course updates.  


Participation and Attendance: Weekly attendance is mandatory. Participation will be graded based on student’s discussions in class, on Twitter, and in comments on their peers’ blog posts. Students should post responses to the week’s readings and updates on their individual projects on their blogs each week, and should regularly comment on their peers’ blog posts as well as continue the conversation on Twitter. 


Online Presence: Students will create a Twitter account and a blog site through which they will discuss each week’s readings along with their challenges and successes with the semester-long project in order to help each other through the process of doing digital history. Students must post their brief, 250-500 word reactions to each week’s readings and assignments 24 hours in advance of our class meeting time. Students must also respond to at least two of their peers’ posts through commenting on their reactions before our class meeting. 


Discussion Lead: Students will sign up to lead one session of class discussion during Week 1. Some students will work individually; others will pair with a partner. No more than two students should be leading discussion on any given week. Students must email a plan for the class (this may be informal) by noon on the day they will lead class discussion 


Site Write-Ups: Students will write two brief evaluations over the course of the semester evaluating one physical public history site and one digital public history site. These write ups should follow evaluation standards discussed during Week 3. Write ups should be posted on each student’s blogs; they should be separate posts from weekly writing, and should be between 250-500 words. There is no due date for these assignments per se; students should complete these evaluations when their schedule permits over the course of the semester. Posts must be uploaded, at the very latest, by December 1 at 5pm 


Digital Tool Presentation: We will explore a number of digital tools that may be useful for your final projects during Week 10. Each student will sign up for one of the listed tools on Week 1. Presentations should be 5-10 minutes in length. See Week 10 for more details on this assignment.  


Semester-Long Project: This course is meant to expose students to best practices and methods for studying the past through exposure to digital theory and tools. Students will create individual public history sites (archives, exhibits, learning modules, games, etc.) using items from the Special Collections at ULL’s Dupré Library. The final project will have several components, including a proposal, reflective essay on the work, the project itself, and a presentation of the project to the class at the end of the semester. Your proposal is relatively informal; it must identify your project’s tentative title, scope, goals, purpose, audience, and potential sitemap/tools to be used. The project guidelines themselves are very open ended: you must create a work of digital public history using the special collections at ULL’s library. Your reflective essay should be 500-1,000 words discussing your process, what you learned while crafting the project, the choices you’ve made in terms of content, design, functionality, accessibility, etc., and how this project furthers your work and may benefit the public at large. The reflective essay, as with all other written assignments, should be posted on your blog. Finally, you will give a 10-15 minute presentation on your project during the last class meeting in which you guide the class through your project and discuss the choices you made for the project. 


Grade Distribution: 

  • Attendance and Participation: 20%
  • Weekly Blog Posts: 10%
  • Site visit write-ups: 10%
    • Digital Site 5% 
    • Physical Site 5% 
  • Discussion Leading: 10% 
  • Digital Tool Presentation: 5% 
  • Final Project: 45% 
    • Part I: Proposal 5% 
    • Part II: Project 15% 
    • Part III: Reflective Essay 15% 
    • Part IV: Presentation 10% 


Course Schedule 


Week 1: Course Introduction (August 24)

    • Welcome/Introductions 


    • Syllabus Overview 


  • In-Class Activity: 



      • Make sure to follow other class members and the class hashtag, #ULLHist451 


      • Sign up for leading discussion with a partner by end of class 


    • Sign up for week 10 presentations 


Week 2: Defining Digital & Digital Public History (August 31) (Jeff and Paul)


Week 3: Evaluating Digital Projects (September 7) (Abbie and Joey)

  • Practicum: 


      • Explore the sites on Slate’s “Digital History Projects We Loved” from 2013-2016. Think about what these sites do well and what they don’t do well. Take notes on what you perceive as the best and worst practices in Digital Public History. 






Week 4: Special Collections Visit (September 14) 

    • Visit Special Collections at Dupré Library (3rd Floor) 


    • Before visiting, browse the Special Collections site and identify 3-5 collections that interest you and would work well for your final project.


  • During our visit, begin to think about topics/ideas for your final project. 


Week 5: Digital History’s Audience, and Audience as Practitioners of Public History (September 21) (Jordan and Layton)



Week 6: Physical vs. Digital Exhibits and Archives (September 28) (Matt and Alistair)




Week 7: Design Strategies for Digital Public History (October 12) (Brentney and Alex)

    • Due: Final Project Proposal 



Week 8: Building an Omeka Site (October 19) (Jacob)


Week 9: Access and Accessibility in Digital Public History (October 26) (Maggy and Shalanda)

  • Practicum:  


    • Explore the Creative Commons licenses. Decide which license is most appropriate for your final project. Feel free to implement one on your blog.


Week 10: Exploring Digital Tools/Platforms for the Humanities (November 2)

    • Students will work on playing with and learning one digital tool (chosen Week 1), familiarize themselves with that tool, and prepare a 5-10 minute presentation for the class on that tool. Consider the purpose, uses, function, and audiences for the tool, who might benefit from its use, and the benefits and drawbacks of your tool.  



Week 11: Playing with the Past: Gaming and Interactive History as Public History (November 9) (Rachel and Tori)


Week 12: No Class (November 16) 

  • Use this time to work on and complete your final projects, reflection essays, and presentations. 


Week 13: Project Presentations (November 30) 

    • Due: Final Project Presentations 


  • Presentations should be 10-15 minutes in length. 


Reflection Essays and Final Version of Projects due by December 8 at 5pm.