Digital History

November Something – Module 9: Digital Humanities in the Classroom

Often a complaint about the lack of teaching how to teach – teaching pedagogy – in academic graduate programs gets stated by a professor lamenting their own training. Still, the world doesn’t change much. As the adjunctification of university labor skyrockets and non-tenured professors’ workload increases and innovation in the classroom is out of the realm of possibility, the possibilities of DH in the classroom feel utterly limited.

Of course, those are broader issues than I can tackle in 800ish words, or fix this weekend. I am also still debating a crusade on universities using transcript services that cost $15 a pop, so get back to me once that classist issue is solved. But maybe there’s a way to introduce DH in the classroom that’s not too scary. I sure hope so, because even though I have limited teaching experience, the one class I had on pedagogy at Auburn consisted of my peers hearing me champion “open-access, digital sources” over and over and over again.

As someone interested in DH and currently holding a DH fellowship, I am probably more limited in some ways in being enmeshed in that world. A strength of Claire Battershill’s and Shawna Ross’s book, Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom: A Practical Introduction for Teachers, Lecturers, and Students, is their call for all humanist scholars to play around with using DH in the classroom. The book starts as an introduction to DH, what is useful, tools to use, and an introductory guide for those with no experience of using DH in the classroom. Let me start with a less scholarly opinion about this book: I love this call-to-action. I love it for a lot of reasons. I love that they start the book with a frank discussion of what DH is, (Enjoy this website, which they include, for a little bit. For me, okay?), and actually tackle head-on people’s fear and anxieties for introducing new stuff in the classroom. They’re very persuasive, though I do DH myself.

Discussing tools and resources to use, accessibility, syllabi, assignments, grading/evaluation, and using your own experiences to publish and augment your own research, this book truly acts as a good guide for educators. Battershill and Ross give validity to essentially all forms of DH in the classroom, however small, including using polls and online quizzes. They actually write wonderful ideas and tips for using DH as a supplement to an existing course. I won’t go on too much more about the contents, as this isn’t a review of the book, but I will note their Web Companion, linked here, which is such a brilliant idea in itself. Make sure to spend time here to develop your own thoughts and ideas for DH pedagogy.

Another real-world example of digital humanities pedagogy is written about in the Digital Humanities Quarterly, in  “Getting on the Map: A Case Study in Digital Pedagogy and Undergraduate Crowdsourcing,” by Shannon Kelly. At Fairfield University in Connecticut, Dr. Kelly assigned undergraduate students with contributing to an existing project, The Map of Early Modern London, with a digital writing project. Kelly wrote about how the exercise benefitted her students (though what stuck out to me was her assessment that learning that scholars disagree about history blew her students’ minds). She is honest about the benefits, but also that digital writing is not enough to improve students’ digital literacy by itself. Another discussion of digital humanities pedagogy linked here.

So, what are some good examples, resources, and tools to use, you may be asking me, Dear Reader. I will link to those that I know of and have used as well as those discussed in the book above.

Online Text Repositories:
Project Gutenberg
Google Books
The Internet Archive
Hathi Trust
(Note: A lot of universities and institutions are providing open-access ebooks in the wake of the pandemic. Check your local institutions to see if you can access ebooks without paying)

Digital Collections, Databases, and Libraries:
Digital Public Library of America (wonderful to search several institutions’ resources at once)
World Cat (same, though I have little luck with this – maybe because of research topic?)
Louisiana Digital Library
California Digital Library
Texas Digital Library
Alabama Department of Archives and History – Digital
Library of Congress
Harvard Digital Collections – including Colonial North America at Harvard Library
Smithsonian Institution
List of 250+ Digital Libraries and Archives from OEDB
The British Library
German Heritage in Letters

Online Encyclopedias:
Encyclopedia of Alabama
64 Parishes
South Carolina Encyclopedia

Syllabi Examples:
Undergraduate courses
Graduate courses

DH projects (use for examples or for inspiration!):
Language of Lynching
A Red Record: Locating Lynching Sites in North Carolina
Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America
Oceanic Exchanges
Viral Texts
The Map of Early Modern London
Icelandic Saga Map
Liberated Africans
Whose Heritage?
9/11 Digital Archive
Hurricane Digital Memory Bank
Pandemic Religion
American Panorama

Digital Humanities Centers:
Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond
MITH – Maryland Institute for Technologies in the Humanities
Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton
Digital Humanities Center Barnard College
Center for Reflected Text Analytics
Mainzer Zentrum für Digitalität in den Geistes

Timeline JS
Open Refine
Tableau (costs money)
Google Maps


I must admit, the above list is mostly a self-serving exercise both in the form of having me think about all of the online resources I have used and wanted to work with, but to also gather others’ platforms, tools, and resources that I am unaware of currently. And yes, I will be doing that by posting on, and yes, I will update the above list. Thanks for reading!

Claire Battershill and Shawna Ross, Using Digital Humanities in the Classroom: A Practical Introduction for Teachers, Lecturers, and Students (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017)

Kalani Craig, et al., “Correcting for Presentism in Student Reading of Historical Accounts Through Digital-History Methodologies,” (2017).

 Shannon Kelley, “Getting on the Map: A Case Study in Digital Pedagogy and Undergraduate Crowdsourcing,” DHQ 11.3 (2017).

7 replies on “November Something – Module 9: Digital Humanities in the Classroom”

Hi, Caroline,
Thanks for bringing together all these fantastic digital sources. I will bookmark your blog, so I will be able to return to those links during my future research. As you mentioned, many sources became available for free because of COVID 19 (is this the only benefit from COVID for the human race?). Also, many text repositories and databases are available for free because we are students at GMU. So, when we log in, we can use our GMU netname and passcode.
But we will not be students forever, and COVID (hopefully) will not be around forever as well. So, at some point, many resources that are available now will become unavailable. Or rather, they will, user will have to subscribe.
Here is another trick: we can download files that are available now and use them later. I don’t think this would be not ethical. There is no limitation for downloads. Once I spent about seven or eight hours exploring Hathi Trust. I was shocked: Hathi has 19-century books scanned for us, which can be easily converted to PDFs and downloaded to our computers. Well, I did that. I will use those sources later.
As we learned from the previous week’s readings – there is no such thing as 100% secure digital preservation, so people should always have backups. I hope Hathi will continue to prosper and sustain. However, we might want to download and keep extra copies on our hard drives.

I have definitely also downloaded a number of articles and sources for later with that same intentions! We have good access now but it may not last.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you so much for all of those links! I’ve bookmarked and put all of them in a handy little folder for use in the future as I start marshaling resources in preparation for teaching classes next fall. And just like Hike’s idea, I’ll be building a small digital library that I can peruse and tinker with at my leisure (or when it best suits the course/s I’m given).

All of these sources are so helpful! It was so nice to see how in the readings this week all of the students claimed to have a better understanding of the material with the addition of the digital humanity tools. I also enjoyed how Battershill and Ross’s book was a call to action for more classrooms to implement this type of learning and suggested ways that it would fit into the curriculum. I think its important that they don’t think that the digital activities should take over other methods that are in use, but instead supplement and reinforce what is being taught.

Like everyone is saying, this list is great and definitely something to bookmark. Thank you for putting in that work!

I love the link you provided for “What is Digital History?” I clicked through it for quite a while reading the different definitions; it is a very clever idea.

And I agree with you about the book. It is a brilliant call-to-action that addresses so many different facets of DH. So much of it is useful to designing a course, from designing to syllabus to the daily intricacies of the classroom. But I got so caught up on the first chapter. I think it is brilliant that they included specific criticisms against the field, which I am sure they gathered from firsthand experience. They provide specific, manageable, and effective counters to each of the points to show how digital history is worth even a small amount of investment for a much greater return. In a world where higher education is turning into more of a business by the day, calculating the worth of DH by its return-on-investment is a solid argument.

Yep, I concur with all my colleagues above! It is very forward thinking of you to take the time to list all of these links. I have had this thought many times this semester. We’ve been introduced to many cool, useful, and free tools but the thing with that is that they can so easily be forgotten, especially in a time when new ones seem to be invented every day. Good job digitizing this list for all of us!

Thank you for bringing up the adjunct issue and concerns of precarious labor with untenured faculty. It’s definitely a bigger problem than we can tackle in our posts, or even a semester-long class, but it’s so important to have in mind when talking about experimentation and failure in the classroom.

Also, this list is incredible and will be such a handy reference! For digital collections, I have to plug the Rijksmuseum’s Rijksstudio, too: Not only do they have beautiful, high-res images of their work, but I love the platform they built to allow visitors to organize and publish their own “collections” (along with a color palette generator from paintings! Seriously, be still, my heart.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *