My first introduction to the Center for History and New Media happened without my even realizing it. As a graduate student at Gallaudet University, a professor urgently encouraged us to begin using Zotero and as I rounded the corner on two Masters theses, the value of this tool was not lost on me. Only after I had begun the process of applying to history programs did I realize that my favorite citation tool had its origins here at George Mason University and CHNM.
As I have come to learn, CHNM exists on the edges of what-historians-are-doing and what-historians-will-be-doing. Each of the three divisions, Education, Public Projects and Research, has an exploratory and collaborative thrust. Projects developing here seek to expand the intersection of technology and historical scholarship and, simultaneously, make those resources and tools available to students, teachers, and scholars.
The Education division, also known as Teaching and Learning, makes a number of primary sources and teaching materials available to teachers and administrators through projects like Children and Youth in History and Exploring US History. Projects like this connect vast archival and primary resources that may otherwise be inaccessible to teachers and students in disparate parts of the country. The next division, Research and Tools, extends those efforts to scholars, librarians and museum professionals by providing training on new digital tools for the collection, storage and presentation of historical collections and projects. History Departments Around the World, for instance, links history departments enabling scholars and educational programs to collaborate, locate research items or collaborate with colleagues. Zotero, which I can’t more highly recommend (download it now, really) is also housed in the Research and Tools section of CHNM. The free and easy-to-use tool will change the way your manage sources and the addition of a tagging feature will convert your reference list into a tool for making even more connections between sources. Finally, the Public Projects section, also known as Collecting and Exhibiting, takes on the presentation of history through digital records and historical exhibits. An exciting new project, due to be released this March, is the Histories of the National Mall. This exhibition will provide a digital and mobile interface that can be used in the exploration of the National Mall. Another project, The Papers of the War Department 1784-1800 has made 55,000 documents available to researchers and students through their website.
I am new to the field of Digital History but eager to learn more about the potential of digital projects to engage public in new and meaningful ways. I have a passion for making history accessible to scholars and community historians and the emphasis in CHNM on this effort will better prepare me for my long-term goals of preservation and presentation of historical materials both inside and outside of the classroom.