Final post of the day

April 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

After taking some non-DH time to talk to my partner, go to the gym, and eat dinner, I return to my last DH task of the day: looking over the personas that my students have submitted as part of their final project for my Digital History class.  The deadline was 10 pm and the personas have been trickling in over the last hour or two.

My digital history course is for advanced undergraduates and focuses on the nineteenth-century city. For the first nine weeks of the semester we undertook different readings on nineteenth-century urban history and learned about different aspects of digital history. In the last five weeks students have turned to crafting proposals and prototypes for a digital site inspired by some topic of the class.  I’m very much impressed with what they have come up with so far: digital mapping of African-American antislavery publishing; a gendered network analysis of the New York Society Library circulation records; a reconstruction of eighteenth-century Grosvenor Square in London modeled after Digital Harlem; a knowledge site on the first graduating class of Mundelein College; a recreation of an 1864 issue of The Clipper, a flash press title; and a geographic and spiritual topographical interpretation of Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet’s nineteenth-century map of the west.

For the final project portion of this class, I was very much inspired by Miriam Posner’s DH 196 syllabus.  I’ve modeled the steps of doing the project around the ones that she used and thus far it’s worked well. We are entering the third of the fifth week of project work and the students are creating personas of the potential audience for their project.

And that’s about it.  Today has been representative of my Mondays during the school year, if not what I do everyday.  This is my second year at Loyola and what’s been wonderful thus far has been the ability to find wiling partners for the projects I want to undertake.  The graduate and undergraduates have been great to work with, and my colleagues aren’t too bad either!  You’re likely exhausted reading this, and I’m exhausted having done this. Best of luck in your own DH endeavors!


And this is what education is all about…

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Professor Robert Bucholz and Graduate Student Amy Oberlin talking about important issues in early eighteenth-century England

Walking back to my office, I passed the office of my colleague Professor Robert Bucholz, well known historian of early modern British History, talking with his graduate student Amy Oberlin. And what were they discussing? How to translate a word in a manuscript in the British State Papers Online Collection!  While both would have preferred perhaps to have been on the other side of the Atlantic pouring over the manuscript, they seemed equally happy to have access to this important collections here in Chicago. DH is everywhere!

Jesuit Libraries Project, Meeting 2

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

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University Archivist Kathy Young and Undergraduate Intern (and digital imaging expert!) Evan Thompson

Jess and I met early to talk about her work on the Loyola Library catalogue because she had an appointment.  At 4 pm, I joined undergraduate intern Evan Thompson and University Archivist Kathy Young to talk about his work on the project.  (Undergraduate Michael Greene was also supposed to join us, but he emailed some excuse about having to finish a paper. I gave him a pass for the week).

Evan has just finished up using the archive’s ATIZ scanner to make digital images of the catalogue.  He did a really great job, too.  Next step: publishing the catalogue on Loyola’s CONTENTdm site.  We talked about the ins and outs of digital publication and started to come up with a plan to implement before the end of the semester.

The Archives has far more content related to the history of the university that has not yet been scanned yet.  Our hope is to undertake more of this work over the summer and the coming year, in preparation for the Bicentennial of the Restoration exhibition and conference.

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Ashley Howdeshell tracks the Archive’s Twitter Feed

On the other side of the room, Ashley Howdeshell updated the Archives Twitter feed. She shared that she had been actively following my colleague Steven Jones and I throughout the day!

I also want to give a shout out to Loyola English PhD Douglas Guerra who has worked extensively with digitizing and Loyola’s Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities (CTSDH) who will be starting a tenure track job at SUNY Oswego as an Assistant Professor of Literature and Technology.  They are lucky to have snapped Doug up! or, as it turns out, the assignment for our digital history class

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

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PhD Candidate Aaron Brunmeier, trying to stay awake

On Mondays at 3 pm I have a standing meeting with PhD candidate Aaron Brunmeier to talk about  Common-place is the premier online journal of early American history, literature, and culture.  I am the New Media Editor for the journal and Aaron is my intrepid assistant.

Each week we talk about Aaron’s work promoting Common-place on Facebook and his recent efforts to launch a Tumblr site (still a work in progress!) for the journal.  But this week Aaron was recovering from a 19 hour Amtrak ride from New Orleans to Chicago and wanted to talk about his project for our Digital History class.  So instead of waxing on about spreading the word of doing digital scholarship on early America, we focused on the actual doing of it.  Aaron has done some great work on the questions of different participants in the public sphere in revolutionary New York, thinking about the ways in which soldiers during the 1760s fought with everyday New Yorkers over access to space (discursive and physical).  For this project, he and his group are turning their attention to the exciting data that has been made available from the New York Society Library’s early borrowing register.  45 minutes later we emerged from a fascinating conversation about what borrowing registers can tell us and how we can use digital tools to mine that data.  Probably a bit more than Aaron bargained for, but thought-provoking nonetheless…

Look who stopped by…

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Public History Graduate Student Annie Cullen shows off her handiwork to Professor Chris Manning

An open office door invites interesting office visitors today, many of whom are involved in digital humanities initiatives in the department.

Public History Master’s student Annie Cullen is one of two of the department’s Public Media Assistants.  Instead of serving as a teaching assistant in a class, Annie and Will Ippen have been learning about how to serve the digital and social media needs of a busy academic department.  With thirty-two full time faculty, dozens of graduate students, and hundreds of undergraduate majors, the Loyola History Department has many needs.  Annie and Will spend fifteen hours (or more) a week, maintaining the department’s Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube channel and websites.  They create content for each of these areas, ranging from videos highlighting faculty scholarship to news stories about upcoming events.  (Annie is an accomplished photographer whose images have been used to promote the department).  They provide support to my colleagues who want to undertake digital initiatives in their classes and research, but don’t know how.  We just migrated our website to a new CMS and theme this past semester, so a huge amount of their time is cleaning up and rethinking the pages.

On top of all this, Annie is, with Rachel Boyle, the creator of the viral hit, Public History Ryan Gosling.

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The glow of a graduate student ready to head off into the world!

And then came by Master’s student Zac Weber, fresh from handing in his written qualifying examinations. Zac has created a wonderful website documenting the Occupy Chicago movement.  The site began as a class project for a seminar with Professor Michelle Nickerson and then grew into an independent study.  The website does a nice job combining oral history interviews, transcriptions, and photographs documenting the demonstration on one day in October 2011.

And these are just a few of the ways that we try to engage our graduate students in the digital humanities during their time at Loyola.

Jesuit Libraries Project, Meeting 1

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized


Jess Hagen, brilliant graduate student

One of the projects on which I am working with graduate and undergraduate students is an online reconstruction of Loyola’s first library catalogue.  Around 1878, an unidentified librarian crafted a subject catalogue of the library’s approximately 5500 titles.  Wonderfully, that catalogue has survived in the University’s Archives and Special Collections.  University Archivist and Curator of Rare Books Kathy Young brought it to my attention when I arrived to at Loyola last year and I knew that I wanted to do something with it.

2014 marks the bicentennial of the Restoration of the Jesuits and offered the opportunity to recreate the catalogue on a digital platform.  For the Bicentennial, Loyola is putting up an major exhibition at LUMA, the university art museum, and a major conference on the topic, Restored Jesuits and the American Experience, 1814-2014.  “The conference aims at locating works–of both restored Jesuits and their colleagues from women’s religious orders–within the specific experiential context of building an American nation. The stories of these men and women provide studies in what Thomas Tweed has termed Crossing and Dwelling (2006): refugees from European exclusions; transatlantic immigrants; multilingual and transnational identities; settlers in ethnic urban cores; boundary-dwellers in frontier peripheries.”  My colleague Steve Schloesser has created a phenomenal Tumblr site, where he and other scholars have been amassing source material for the conference. It is a truly wonderful example of open note-sharing.

Masters in Public History candidate Jess Hagen has been working with me this semester on a project tracing the origins of the library’s collections in light of the American and European book trade in the last quarter of the nineteenth-century.  Jess has become a master of Excel and Batchgeo as she cleans up spreadsheets and maps the publishing location of these thousands of titles.  We met today to talk about her work moving through the theology section and her never-ending quest to track down the locations of obscure Latin place names.  With a few weeks left in the semester, we are starting to pull together Jess’s work and to figure out what she will continue to work on over the summer.

Jess’ work is absolutely integral to the graduate class I am teaching in the Fall 2013, Advanced Digital Methods: Loyola Library Project.  In this class, graduate students from (hopefully) a range of disciplines will take a seminar in which they will learn about library history, religious history, urban history, and the history of ideas while recreating the original library in a virtual library system. It’s my first time teaching the course, but I’m very excited at the possibility of teaching digital humanities through this means. I am also grateful to a grant from the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage for making all this possible.  I’d love any feedback any of my colleagues out in the world to DH have to offer on the syllabus!


Cluster Mapping of American Print Locations of Fiction in the 1878 Loyola Library Catalogue. (Thanks, Batchgeo!)


April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized



Undergraduate internships anyone?

Following a successful class on the Southern economy, culture and class structure, I spoke with a bright undergraduate about the possibilities of undertaking a History internship in the fall.  As coordinator of the department’s undergraduate internship program, I created a quick blogger site to keep students up-to-date about internship opportunities.

Undergraduates are required to blog during their internships, so this site provides a blogroll where students can follow the adventures of their peers in the archive, the museum storage room, and even in the vintage record shop!  To recognize student efforts, we instituted a blog prize this year.  The top three winners all came from the ranks of students who had undertaken internships (although the winners will not be announced until the Senior Ice Cream Social in May).

All work and no play makes DH no fun…

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized


March Madness

One of the most brilliant web initiatives of the past few weeks has been the March Madness of Early American Historiography hosted by The Junto, a great new blog by graduate students and early career Early Americanists. We are down to the final four: Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom versus Dan Richter’s Facing East From Indian Country and Bill Cronon’s Changes in the Land vs Walter Johnson’s Soul by Soul.  Two fascinating pair-offs of histories of slavery and Native America.  Now I had hoped to see my other Penn advisor Kathy Brown’s Good Wives, Nasty Wenches, and Anxious Patriarchs squaring off against Morgan, but that would be too much of a dream matchup.  I have to go with Morgan on this one, but if it had been Dan’s Ordeal of the Longhouse, then I would have put Dan ahead (Sorry, Dan!).  Cronon vs Johnson?  Still undecided.

The nerve center…

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized


Office, Sweet, Office

Here is where all the magic happens.  In the History Department, Junior faculty are not given windows in their office for fear that they might remember there is a whole other world outside of the Crown Center for the Humanities.  And Loyola is also a Mac-unfriendly environment, so they make it a bit harder for us Mac-types, but we find out workarounds…

the benefits and drawbacks of DH

April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

One great benefit:


I’m the help!

the opportunity to quickly retrieve an image to illustrate the situation of yeoman women in the pre-Civil War South.

The drawback: over 30 emails have come in this morning — and it isn’t even 9:30 am yet! Emailing on Monday feels alot like triage.

I should probably get dressed for class now…


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