Lauren Turek: Omeka and the Undergraduate Public History Classroom

Hello all! My name is Lauren Turek and I am an assistant professor of history at Trinity University, where I teach courses in modern American history, U.S. foreign relations, and public history. My undergraduate public history class offers students an introduction to the field, including readings that highlight major debates about issues such as shared authority or how to share controversial histories with the public, as well as a practical overview of the wide range of work that public historians do in various settings and institutions. The final project for the course, which students work on throughout the semester, is a collaborative digital exhibit of materials from the Trinity University Coates Library Special Collections and Archives. Creating a digital exhibit allows students in the class to put what they have learned about creating usable, engaging histories into practice, while also gaining key skills in exhibit design, website building, and oral and visual communications. My WHA talk will address the most recent exhibit that my students designed.

During the Spring 2018 semester, my class of 15 students used Omeka to devise and develop an online exhibit of materials from the Claude and ZerNona Black Papers. Reverend Claude Black and his wife ZerNona were leaders in the civil rights movement in San Antonio as well as in the Baptist church and larger community. The Trinity University Coates Library acquired the collection, which documents decades of the Claude and ZerNona Black’s activism and family life, in 2011.

After the students received an introduction to the collection and class time to explore the materials they would be using for the project, we came up with a set of key themes that the exhibit would cover. Based on these themes, I divided the class into five teams of three and worked with them as they developed the key takeaways and texts for their sections of the exhibit. Each team selected relevant documents, photographs, and objects from the archive to include in their section. At the end of the semester, we held a public exhibit opening at the Trinity University Coates Library where the teams presented on their parts of the exhibit, explaining how they had applied the lessons of the course to their exhibit design process. Special Collections integrated the exhibit that the students built into the library website to provide visitors and researchers with information about the collection as well as a rich introduction to Claude and ZerNona Black. Visitors can access the exhibit via this link.

In my talk at the WHA, I will discuss the exhibit as well as how I structured this assignment and how the students responded to it. I will also reflect on lessons that I learned for the future in terms of refining this assignment and guiding students through the process of creating exhibits for the Special Collections library.


Brenden W. Rensink – Intermountain Histories as Digital Public History & Pedagogy

My name is Brenden W. Rensink and I am excited to be participating on the 2018 Western History Association Digital Sixshooter panel in San Antonio! Allow me a moment to introduce myself and the topic that I will be discussing next week.

I am the Assistant Director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies and an Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University. To the present, I have studied and published primarily in the North American West subfields of borderlands and Indigenous studies. In June I published a comparative Native Borderlands monograph, Native but Foreign: Indigenous Immigrants and Refugees in the North American Borderlands (Texas A&M Press, 2018). More germane to our Digital Sixshooters panel, in my position at the BYU Redd Center I am pivoting towards public history in many of my new endeavors, including the Intermountain Histories digital public history project and the Writing Westward Podcast.

For our panel, I focus on the Intermountain Histories project. The project curates microhistories for the public to navigate and access on a map-driven website and free mobile app. It is built on the Curatescape platform. Content is produced via collaboration between myself (as Project Manager and General Editor) and professors and their students at universities around the Intermountain West region. In my brief comments I will discuss how I have structured it as a digital project with two primary goals: 1. Serve the public by providing an easy-to-use digital history resource. 2. Serve professors and students as a pedagogical tool. I am increasingly convinced that the latter is the more powerful of the projects two goals/outcomes. It is also the less obvious of the two. I believe it is a project that could be modeled by others for use in the classroom and beyond.

I look forward to seeing everyone there!

WHA Six Shooters 2018 Lineup

Here is an alphabetical list of the presenters that we have confirmed for the Technology Committee-sponsored session, “Six-Shooters: A Digital Frontiers Lightning Round”:

  • Saara Kekki, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Andrew Torget, University of North Texas
  • Brenden Rensink, Brigham Young University
  • Margaret Sternbergh, Independent Scholar, San Antonio
  • Lauren Turek, Trinity University
  • Leslie Miller and Kyler Miller, Idaho State University
  • Gianna May Sanchez, University of Michigan
  • Jessica Nowlin, University of Texas at San Antonio
  • Sarah H. Salter, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
  • Andrew Offenburger, Miami University

The session will be chaired by Jason Heppler, University of Nebraska at Omaha, and is scheduled for Thursday, October 18, from 12:45-2:15 PM in the Directors room of the Hyatt Regency, San Antonio, Texas. Each presenter has six minutes and six slides (“Six-Shooters,” get it?) for their presentation. All presenters will entertain questions from the audience at the conclusion of all of the presentations. We encourage what may seem like “basic” questions as well as “shop talk” from those in attendance.

Please check this website in the days leading up to the conference for posts by each presenter introducing themselves and providing brief descriptions of the work they plan to present.

Introduction – Verónica Reyes-Escudero

It is a pleasure for me to participate in this year’s Six-Shooters Lightning Round. I am the Borderlands Curator and Associate Librarian at the University of Arizona Libraries’ Special Collections. We’re located in beautiful Tucson, Arizona just 90 miles from the U.S. – Mexico border. I work with faculty and students across disciplines in using special collections materials and engage with the community through donor relations and events highlighting the archive’s rich holdings on the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. I’ve written and presented on incorporating archives-based research into the curriculum, newspaper digitization, and the archives of Mexican American literary authors.

As for my six minutes, six slides, I’ll be presenting on The Documented Border Archive. The project is an interdisciplinary effort to advance understanding about the U.S. – Mexico border and its peoples during a period of unprecedented change. A unique aspect of the project is that it is a living archive. Archives struggle to include the voices of underrepresented communities. The Documented Border collects, preserves, and affords access to just such voices for study and research, now and in the future. The genesis of the project involved Drs. Celeste Gonzalez de Bustamante and Jeannine Relly from The School of Journalism; Fine Arts faculty, Lawrence Gipe; and Borderlands Curator Verónica Reyes-Escudero, Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries.
Currently, the archive content takes two forms: interviews and images. Interviews include Mexican and U.S. journalists who cover northern Mexico and human rights activists dedicated to improving freedom of expression. Journalists discuss kidnapping attempts, threats of violence, and lack of security and freedom of expression, in some cases, leading to self-censorship. The archive also contains a collection of sketches of migrants sentenced in federal immigration court under “Operation Streamline.” These are some of the only visual representations of these proceedings, as cameras are forbidden in all federal courts, putting a face to migrant deportations.

Crafting a Digital Denver: Virtual Spaces and Undergraduate Teaching

Hello! To introduce myself, I currently teach as a special instructor in the History Department at Colorado State University (CSU), where I specialize in digital history and the history of Mexico. Over the years, I’ve utilized a number of digital tools and publication platforms in my classes, but nothing quite like, which is the subject of this talk. During the spring 2015 semester,  students in my upper-division course on digital history worked with resources from the Denver Public Library’s collection of Sanborn maps and digital photographs, Colorado State Library’s newspaper archive, and an ed-tech version of the immensely popular video game Minecraft to create a 100% scale, virtual facsimile of the city of Denver at the dawn of the twentieth century. In addition to intensive training in interpreting the complex maps needed to faithfully recreate the cityscape down to the brick, students were individually tasked with researching thematic topics from within the social, economic, political, and cultural history of the city and the larger U.S. West.

This multifaceted, multimedia exploration of the urban history of Denver will then be published on a class Tumblr account and web links to the visual and written materials will be placed within the game environment to allow the viewer the potential for a more in-depth exploration and understanding of the spaces of this rapidly-expanding city. However, given the time-intensive nature of this kind of ambitious project, it will not be possible to complete it in a single semester. Our projected launch date is currently the year 2020, but we do plan to release updated versions of the map on a yearly basis to be shared with libraries, schools, and the general public, allowing a unique opportunity for any interested parties to virtually immerse themselves within the living landscape of the city of Denver as it was over a century ago. 

Introductions – Rebecca S. Wingo

I’m pleased to be a new contributor on the blog and a panelist at this year’s Six-Shooters Lightning Round.  (The main reasons I signed up for this session is because the title makes me think of Yosemite Sam.)

I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and will graduate in May 2015 with two graduate certificates in Digital Humanities and Great Plains Studies.  My dissertation, “Restructuring the Reservation: Housing, Hygiene, and Domesticity on the Crow Reservation, 1880-1934,” examines house-building policy as an imposition of a larger project of cultural imperialism by enforcing Christian concepts of domesticity, gender, and hygiene on indigenous communities.  The project introduces a unique set of photographs emerging from the Crow Reservation to examine signs of Native interruption to federal assimilationist policy.

More specific to the Six-Shooters Lightning Round, I have been working with a research team at the Center for Great Plains Studies to reassess the Homestead Act of 1862 based on the now-digitized NARA records for the State of Nebraska.  We are preparing a manuscript (publisher TBA) for completion in 2015.  The presentation, “Can I Get a Witness?: Network Analysis of Homesteaders in Nebraska,” examines a network forged legally between witnesses under the Homestead Act.  Essentially, the Land Office required each homesteader to list four witnesses in a Proof of Posting which ran for five weeks in a local newspaper.  While only two witnesses were required to testify at the Land Office, mapping all four connections reveals community formation, local leadership, and settlement patterns of neighborhoods in the rural plains.  I created a digital companion to our manuscript, and while it is waiting for final review and a permanent home, you’re welcome to view its nascent form here.

I look forward to my six-minutes and six-slides of fame this coming Thursday!

WHA 2014 Six-Shooters Session – Robert Jordan

Prior to the Six-Shooters session at this year’s WHA conference, I would like to introduce myself and some of the work I’ve been doing over the last year or so. I am a third-year instructor in the History Department of Colorado State University, specializing in Mexican history and digital history. Digital history, especially as expressed through spatial visualizations, plays a prominent role in both my research and teaching, as I believe that traditional methods of historical inquiry and publication can be greatly augmented by the incorporation of digital tools. I have utilized a number of digital tools and publication platforms in my classes, including: Twitter, Neatline, Voyant Tools, Tiki-Toki, Wikipedia, Gephi, Open Refine, Tumblr, ArcGIS, Google Earth, WordPress, SketchUp, and 3-D printing, among others.

While teaching the first undergraduate digital history course ever offered at CSU in the spring of this year, my students trained and published a wide variety of information on the history of the university and campus life. Digital timelines, maps, slideshows, and network graphs were created to be later hosted by CSU’s university webpage and mobile app. The creation of these multimedia, highly visual presentations of local, public history challenged my students with a hands-on, collaborative project which pushed their limits but provided invaluable experience for the job market and/or graduate school. I look forward to discussing the challenges during the planning and execution of this project, the pedagogical outcomes for my students, and the future of scholarly innovation inside and outside the history classroom.