In July, RRCHNM welcomed 24 American historians to Mason’s Arlington campus for two intensive weeks of the National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored summer institute, Doing Digital History 2016. Sheila Brennan and Sharon Leon led the group through a course designed to introduce historians, experts in their own subject areas, to digital history scholarship, methods, and tools relevant to their own research and teaching in American history.
Participants began as self-identified digital novices unsure of their abilities to keep up with the workload and left with their own web domains, experience working in the statistical programming language R, and many ideas for new teaching assignments, research projects, and digital publications. Most important, each participant became more confident engaging with and reviewing digital scholarship, advising students wishing to do digital projects, and in learning to tinker with and ask questions of digital methodologies.
Throughout the two weeks, readings and discussions were coupled with demonstrations and hands-on work. Each participant established their own web domain, installed open source software (WordPress, Omeka, R, Audacity); implemented best practices for managing their research; made visualizations; built simple maps; learned how to plan a digital project; edited sound files, planned digitally-inflected lessons for their classes; and considered the implications of the changing field of scholarly communications. Doing DH benefited from an enthusiastic corps of RRCHNM graduate students, Alyssa Fahringer, Eric Gonzaba, Jannelle Legg, and Spencer Roberts, who developed tutorials and use cases for incorporating different digital tools into teaching and research. They also provided moral and technical support to the participants, and managed the Twitter backchannel conversations under #doingdh16.
Doing DH also featured guest instructors from Mason’s History and Art History Department, Mason Library, and neighboring institutions. Lincoln Mullen shared his extensive expertise doing computational research over three days and Michael O’Malley led a day on sound studies. Jeri Wieringa of the Mason Publishing Group shared trends in scholarly communications and digital publishing initiatives. Denise Meringolo, a participant in Doing DH 2014, returned to discuss how her public history work at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, became digital. And, Jeff McClurken visited from University of Mary Washington to lead a day on digitally-inflected pedagogy.
By the end of Doing DH 2016, participants were tired, but also invigorated with ideas and three action items to implement over the next six months.