Posts Tagged ‘CHNM’

The Future of RRCHNM

Monday, November 17th, 2014

This is the text of my presentation in the session on the future of digital humanities centers, on day two of RRCHNM20. November 15, 2014.  I wasn’t originally slated to be one of the speakers, but by the time it became clear that one person we had invited could not attend, I realized that I should be speaking, that people wanted to hear from me about the future of RRCHNM. Accordingly, I departed from the brief and spoke not about DH centers in general, but instead about the future of the center whose anniversary we marked that day. We will soon be posting video recordings of both this session, and the afternoon session on the future of digital history. In the meantime, Bethany Nowviskie, one of the other speakers has also posted her talk online: “speculative computing and the centers to come.” 

 Stephen Robertson

The twentieth anniversary of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media finds it in a period of transition. A little more than a year ago, both Dan Cohen, the director, and Tom Scheinfeldt, the managing director, whose names appear in the credits of at least twenty-six Center projects, left to pursue new opportunities. The departure of visionary leaders has generally been fatal for digital humanities centers. But not so CHNM. The Center has already been through one such transition, the death of its founder, Roy Rosenzweig in 2007, whose loss in such tragic circumstances posed emotional as well as practical challenges. Then, Dan and Tom, with Kelly Schrum, Sean Takats and Sharon Leon, the three divisional directors, took on the leadership of the Center, and its staff rose to those challenges. Again now, the talent and experience of the Center’s staff, and the leadership of Kelly, Sean and Sharon, are providing continuity as the Center makes the transition to a new director. With a current staff of forty, a combination of tenure-line faculty, research faculty, designers, developers, administrative staff, and graduate research assistants, RRCHNM remains the largest digital center in the US, and positioned to pursue large-scale projects, including software development, that push the boundaries of digital humanities. Although the Center is part of the Department of History and Art History, most of those staff are neither on the tenure track nor within the administrative work structures that shape the careers of their departmental colleagues. The future of RRCHNM must and will include continued efforts to find ways to recognize, sustain and promote staff who pursue alternative academic careers.

Now, as in 2007, projects as well as people are crucial to the Center’s continuity and future. In the months surrounding Roy’s death, CHNM secured second round funding for Zotero and the Papers of the War Department, the first funding for Omeka, and the five-year grant for, a project that represented the peak of a decade of professional development work with K-12 teachers. Roy had a hand in all of those grants, but so too did many other staff. As iterative, generative projects rather than prototypes or one-off efforts, they have spanned successive cohorts of staff in the years after 2007 – in fact, two of those projects are providing direction for RRCHNM in the current transition just as they did in 2007. Almost ten years after its initial funding, earlier this year Zotero was at the center of grants from the Sloan and Mellon Foundations for research into altmetrics using Zotero datasets, and to develop feeds and integration with institutional repositories. Just over a month ago,  Omeka development expanded in new directions with funding from the Institute of Library and Museum Services for projects to connect  Omeka collections to in-gallery experiences, and to build plugins for text mining and text and image annotation. And extending this pattern, less than two weeks ago, the Center received funding for the next iteration of the PressForward project that Dan, Tom and Joan Troyano launched and shaped, and that Sean, Lisa Rhody and Stephanie Westcott now lead. Generative projects such as these provide the spine that gives shape to a soft money institution like RRCHNM, that hold it together in a way that short-term projects tied to specific staff and faculty simply could not. Looking to the future, we need to sustain this spine — and we do have an idea that we’re excited about, software to fill a gap in the digital research workflow, but as we’re still in the process of preparing to seek funding for it, I’m not going to announce it publicly.

Linking both people and projects, Roy’s vision remains at the core of the Center’s future: we aim to use “digital media and computer technology to democratize history—to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences, and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past.” The twining of opportunities to democratize history and efforts to control access to digital content and platforms is as much a defining feature of the digital age as it was in 1994, when Roy founded the Center. As much as this dynamic means that Roy’s vision remains current, specific features of the current landscape point to a changing context that necessarily separates RRCHNM’s future from its past.

One striking discontinuity is the lack of opportunities to create the resources and professional development for K-12 history teachers that occupied the Center’s early years, and formed the largest part of its work over the last twenty years. Funding for those projects overwhelmingly came from the National Endowment for the Humanities Division of Education Programs’ Teaching and Learning Resources and Curriculum Development grants and US Department of Education’s Teaching American History Program; both no longer exist. At the same time, as digital technology and methodologies become more mainstream, new needs and opportunities are emerging for training university faculty and students. That RRCHNM has none of the institutional service obligations that characterize most other Centers gives it scope to think about training more broadly, to contribute to the variety of strategies and approaches needed to scale up the engagement with the digital of humanities faculty and students. It’s clear to me that our strengths lend themselves to a disciplinary approach to expanding training, to working with historians and art historians, and to integrating the digital into department curriculums. After all, we are located in a Department of History and Art History, and have six staff with PhDs in history and a dozen GRAs from the department’s PhD program. Anchoring digital methods and approaches in the courses, sources and questions with which historians and art historians work, and the digital elements of their existing practices, such as the use of digitized sources and full-text search, is one strategy for making the digital easier to understand and credible, and encouraging the participation of those with limited skills, confidence and time – a group that crucially includes many of the tenured and senior faculty who shape curriculum and the training of graduate students. That approach is not a retreat from digital humanities; rather, it builds a bridge to communities around digital approaches and methods, creating digital historians who can participate in digital humanities.

RRCHNM has already begun this work. Sharon Leon and Sheila Brennan led two two-week summer institutes this year, one supported by the Getty Foundation for art historians, one supported by the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities, for mid-career American historians. Sharon and I travelled to Millsaps College in Jackson, MI, to run a three-day workshop for their History Department. In the future, we want to build on this work to develop formats that are more scalable – regional weekend workshops & online resources, such as novice-focused documentation for open source tools, to allow individuals who don’t have time or money for institutes to learn on their own.

Being part of the Department of History and Art History also gives RRCHNM an opportunity to help shape the future of graduate education. This fall, with the support of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, we’re collaborating with the department to develop three online courses for a new graduate certificate in public digital humanities (which also requires an internship in addition to the online coursework). This project, which draws on the experience of Kelly Schrum and her team in developing and teaching Hidden in Plain Sight, an online professional development for Virginia high school teachers, aims to get beyond Blackboard to develop models of online learning suited to the digital – and to make digital coursework accessible to the still large number of students and professionals whose programs do not offer it. The graduate certificate will be offered for the first time in Fall 2015.

RRCHNM’s role in the department’s own PhD program is also moving in new directions. Center staff have long been involved in teaching the two digital history courses that are a requirement for students in the program; and many students have also had the experience working in CHNM as a graduate research assistant. In the last three years funding from the Provost has more directly connected the program and the Center, supporting three cohorts of Digital History Fellows, who take a series of practicum classes in the Center. Even more so than the experience of being a GRA, the practicums acquaint students with the audiences beyond the academy with which the Center works, and with the different forms of work involved in digital projects – in other words, they offer an introduction to the alt-ac world that complements their training as digital historians. We learned last week that the department had received funding from the Provost to support three more cohorts of Digital History Fellows. This will give us the opportunity to further explore how hands-on work in a center might fit with disciplinary digital coursework in a graduate education that equips students from academic and alt-ac jobs – that provides a formal training akin to the experiences of many of the people currently on the Center’s staff.

A team of people with a variety of skills, roles, and careers, large enough to produce and sustain generative projects, concerned with training faculty and graduate students in disciplinary contexts and developing alt-ac careers, with the mission of using digital media and computer technology to democratize history, art history, and the humanities: that is my vision for the future of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

CHNM AHA Panel: Humanities in the Digital Age

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

On Friday, January 5th, the Center for History and New Media presented a highly successful panel and poster session at the American Historical Association’s 2010 Conference.

The CHNM-hosted session aimed to provide participants with an overview of different digital tools and services now available and how historians are using them for research, teaching, and collaboration. After brief introductions to the various posters, participants were able to walk around the room, spend time at the various stations, and talk with the presenters and other participants.

A number of CHNM staff were on-hand, including CHNM Creative Lead Jeremy Boggs to discuss WordPress, CHNM Director Dan Cohen to further explain text-mining tools, Jeffrey McClurken from the University of Mary Washington to present on Omeka and student web projects, CHNM Community Lead Trevor Owens to answer questions about Zotero, and CHNM Director of Education Kelly Schrum to speak about the National History Education Clearinghouse.

This was followed in the afternoon by a hands-on workshop where participants could learn to use some of the specific tools displayed at the morning session, including  how to set-up a blog, create a course website, try some basic text-mining, or build a model student website. The CHNM AHA poster session was co-sponsored by the National History Education Clearinghouse (NHEC)

CHNM Grants Administrator Andy Privee Wins the 2009 GMU Mary Roper Award

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Andy Privee, the grants administrator for the Center for History and New Media (CHNM), and Kathy Secrist, a long-time staff member of the Sociology and Anthropology Department, were each presented with a 2009 Mary Roper award in a ceremony at the George Mason University Center for the Arts December 2nd.

The Roper Award began in 2001 and was named for a veteran GMU employee, Mary Roper, who worked in the department of biology and in the college dean’s office for 14 years.  Ms. Roper was in attendance at the ceremony to honor the College of Humanities and Social Sciences staff members who have consistently demonstrated excellent performance, commitment, and dedication to the college.

“Both Karen and Andy continually embody the qualities of the Mary Roper award,” said Censer.

Privee joined CHNM in 2006, bringing with him 30 years of experience in administrative and operations roles for the Peace Corps and Environmental Protection Agency. An avid marathon runner, who has finished 13 different races around the east coast, Privee’s work at CHNM requires similar stamina.

“He has become essential to the stability of CHNM,” said Censer.

Both Privee and Secrist were presented with an engraved glass award and gifts.

“Usually, success is not the result of an individual but of teamwork,” said Privee.

Secrist and Privee were honored, as were four others with administrative awards: Frah Abdi (Outstanding HR and Finance), Dana Vogel (Outstanding Administrative Support), Mary Jackson (Outstanding Graduate Program Support) and Carrie Grabo (Outstanding Undergraduate Program Support).

CHNM Celebrates GMU Open Access Week 2009

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

The Center for History and New Media is proud to support George Mason’s Open Access Week initiatives (October 19th through 23rd). Since its inception in 1994, CHNM has been committed to the free flow of information and has striven to create open source educational resources that provide room for communication and democratization of history.

Open Access Week draws worldwide attention to the unrestricted sharing of scholarly research and materials for the advancement and enjoyment of all. Open Access (OA) literature is freely accessible online–maximizing the visibility, use, and impact of research. Building on the success of last year’s Open Access Day, University Libraries’ participation in OA Week offers students, faculty, staff, and the public an opportunity to learn more about Mason’s OA initiatives.

Open Access is a growing international movement that encourages the unrestricted sharing of scholarly research and materials with everyone, everywhere, for the advancement and enjoyment of knowledge and society. Open Access is the principle that all research should be freely accessible online, immediately after publication. OA maximizes access to research, thereby enhancing its visibility, use, and impact.

Open Access Week is an opportunity to broaden awareness and understanding of Open Access to research, including access policies from all types of research funders, within the international higher education community and the general public. The now-annual event has been expanded from a single day to accommodate widespread global interest in the movement toward open, public access to scholarly research. October 19-23, 2009 marks the first international Open Access Week.

Open Access Week builds on the momentum started by the student-led national day of action in 2007 and carried by the 120 campuses in 27 countries that celebrated Open Access Day in 2008. Organizers and contributors include SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition); the PLoS (The Public Library of Science); Students for Free Culture; OASIS (the Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook); Open Access Directory (OAD); and (Electronic Information for Libraries).

For more information about Open Access Week, please visit

2009 Roy Rosenzweig Forum – Social Networking and the Semantic Web

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

On Wednesday, May 13th at 7:00 p.m., the Rosenzweig Forum on Technology and the Humanities and the Washington Semantic Web Group will host the a forum on Social Networking and the Semantic web in the George Mason University Johnson Center Cinema. The forum will host four speakers, Mills Davis, Andy Roth, Mike Petit, and Dan Cohen, who will share their projects and lead a group discussion at the end of the evening. Mills Davis of Project10X will showcase new developments in social networking and semantic technologies within government and private industry. Andy Roth, Chief Quality Officer at AdaptiveBlue, will discuss Glue, a browser add-on that allows you to find new things based on what your friends like. Mike Petit will present Amplify, an open platform that mimics human understanding of content and offers a broad range of unique, and previously unavailable, data to SemWeb practitioners. Finally, Dan Cohen of the Center for History and New Media will discuss new social and collaborative features for Zotero, the  free, easy-to-use Firefox extension which helps collect, manage, cite and share your research sources.

More information, including speaker bios, is available at the Washington Semantic Web Meet-up  forum website.

Mikhail Gorbachev Visits George Mason

Monday, February 16th, 2009

The Center for History and New Media is pleased to announce the keynote speaker for George Mason University’s “1989: Looking Back, Looking Forward” conference will be Former Soviet President and Nobel Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev.  President Gorbachev will present the keynote address at the conference on March 24, and will additionally participate in a round table discussion the following day, with Lee Hamilton and William Webster.  For more information on the conference, including tickets to the event, breakout sessions, and associated film festival, see:  The conference will offer a critical perspective on how the lessons of the end of the Cold War should be applied to the challenges of international cooperation.
You can examine vivid historical documents related to President Mikhail Gorbachev’s role in the epochal events of the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, and the end of the Cold War, by accessing the Center for History and New Media’s project titled, Making the History of 1989, at:

Children and Youth in History Site Launches

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, together with the University of Missouri–Kansas City, is pleased to announce the launch of a new website focusing on notions of childhood and the experiences of children and youth throughout history and around the world.

The site, Children and Youth in History (, offers history instructors and students access to hundreds of primary sources and a variety of resources for teachers at both the high school and college level.

As with all CHNM projects, the resources contained in Children and Youth in History are and will remain free and open access.

Funding for Children and Youth in History was made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

George Mason’s Center for History & New Media, Emory University Libraries Announce Zotero Partnership

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Partnership with Emory University Libraries Further Solidifies Zotero’s Role as a Platform for Digital Research and Innovation

The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University
and the Emory University Libraries are pleased to announce a
cooperative partnership on Zotero (, the free,
open-source bibliographic manager. A team of librarians, information
technologists and faculty members led by Connie Moon Sehat, Emory
Libraries’ new director of digital scholarship initiatives, will
extend research capabilities of the software in collaboration with
Zotero’s main development team. Sehat is a former co-director of
Zotero and CHNM.

For Dan Cohen, who is associate professor of history at George Mason
University and director of CHNM, a relationship with Emory exemplifies
the powerful opportunities for institutional cooperation offered by
digital media. “The Center for History and New Media and the Zotero
Project are lucky to now have the resources and experience of Emory on
their side,” says Cohen, “and the continued insight and direction of
Connie Sehat. We look forward to what will undoubtedly be a
tremendously productive collaboration.” Cohen oversees Zotero with
Sean Takats, assistant professor of history at George Mason and CHNM’s
acting director of research projects.

This relationship marks a significant step forward for the future of
the Zotero project. “Partnering on the development of open source
software with CHNM, an established center of excellence in the digital
humanities, allows the Emory Libraries to create value for the
research community while sharing the risks in developing innovative
software,” says Rick Luce, Emory University vice provost and director
of libraries.

Already a powerful research tool, Zotero allows users to gather,
organize and analyze sources such as citations, full texts, web pages,
images and other objects. It meshes the functionality of older
reference manager applications with modern software and web
applications, such as and YouTube, to amass large amounts
of data in easy ways.

Over the next two years, Zotero will allow researchers – and their
data – to interact with one another in Web 2.0 communities, help
scholars archive information with the Internet Archive and offer
text-mining capabilities. Zotero also will expand educational
offerings to provide more support for its growing national and
international communities of users, many located in university
settings. Working in conjunction with the Zotero team at CHNM, Emory’s
Zotero team will take advantage of local research environments and
library expertise to contribute to Zotero’s anticipated growth.

Since its introduction in 2006, Zotero has earned significant
accolades for its facilitation of online research. It was named a PC
Magazine’s “Best Free Software” in 2007 and again this year, as well
as “Best Instructional Software” of 2007 as determined by the
Information Technology and Politics section of the American Political
Science Association.

Making the History of 1989 Site Launches

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

The Center for History and New Media at George Mason University is pleased to announce the launch of a new website on the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989.

The site, Making the History of 1989 (, offers students, teachers, and scholars access to hundreds of primary sources on or related to the events of 1989 and the end of the Cold War in Europe, interviews with prominent historians, and a series of resources for teachers at both the high school and college level.

As with all resources created by our Center, all the resources contained in Making the History of 1989 are and will remain free and open access.

This project has been made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the German Historical Institute (Washington, D.C.).

Jon Stewart Hosts CHNM’s Rick Shenkman on the Daily Show

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

On June 11, 2008, the editor of CHNM’s History News Network, Rick Shenkman, appeared on Comedy Central’s the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to discuss his recent work, Just How Stupid are We: The Truth About the American Voter.  A current bestseller on, Just How Stupid are We cites disturbing statistics that Shenkman believes reveal Americans simply do not know much about politics.

When only 2 out of 5 citizens are able to name the three branches of the federal government, only 1 in 7 can find Iraq on a world map, and the majority believe the war in Iraq was caused by Saddam Hussein’s involvement with Al-Qaeda, Shenkman questions the ability of American voters to make intelligent and informed decisions for guiding the world’s most powerful government.

Shenkman further suggests that the majority of American voters are not only unaware of current events and unable to differentiate between facts and spin, but they simply do not care to learn more if it involves reading a newspaper or book rather than absorbing their news from entertaining network news shows.

Speaking with Jon Stewart, Shenkman questioned the depth of the news presented on television, including the Daily Show, and pointed to the host’s responsibility to present relevant information to viewers rather than focusing on entertaining details. Stewart praised Shenkman’s call for intellectual accountability: if the American people are going to criticize the current administration, they should educate themselves in order to be able to enact critical change.

In addition to being the editor of the History News Network (, Rick Shenkman is an Emmy-wining investigative journalist and the New York Times best-selling author of six books, including Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of American History and Presidential Ambition: How the Presidents Gained Power, Kept Power and Got Things Done.

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Since 1994, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University has used digital media and computer technology to democratize history—to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences, and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past. We sponsor more than two dozen digital history projects and offer free tools and resources for historians. Learn More

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