AHA Day 2: Presenting Historical Research Using Digital Media

At session 75 on Saturday, “Presenting Historical Research Using Digital Media,” the presenters introduced several new modes for presenting their scholarly work. The session included a companion website that contained resources for each of their talks.

Monty Dobson, a historian and archeologist, discussed his work in documentaries and showcased his upcoming PBS series, America from the Ground Up. Originally designed as a half-hour video for his classroom after he became frustrated with the lack of material on the history of the interior U.S., the project has grown into a four-part series. He hopes that his work will focus our attention more squarely on the interior United States, promising the audience that not once will he mention George Washington when discussing the arrival of Europeans and Americans to the region. In confronting a narrative that is East Coast centric, he hopes to reshape public history and examine the history of a region more closely aligned with New France rather than the experiences of the coast.

Phil Ethington discussed geo-historical visualizations. Digital media, he reminds us, is important because of its substance and what we’re communicating. The media is not the message; rather, the media enables new ways of seeing the past. He has developed HyperCities, built for urban research and collaboration, as a method to examine how people came to understand their place and space. Ethington also pointed the potential of nonprofits and community-based organizations to use HyperCities as a way to crowd source their local history.

Katrina Gulliver discussed her process of starting up her podcast, Cities in History. She came to podcasting as an experiment in learning how to do this technically, but also to think about presenting her work to a general audience. She outlined the various off-the-rack and easy to use tools she uses in her setup, including Jellycast and GarageBand to record and Tumblr for her site.

Jennifer Serventi ended the session discussing the variety of digital projects that the National Endowment for the Humanities funds and things to think about when writing proposals to the NEH. Serventi reminded the audience that humanities projects should use the best genre or medium for the project, whether it was a book, podcast, film, or otherwise. She also pointed to the NEH’s new database of digital projects as a way to begin learning about the sorts of projects that have been funded and may serve as a starting point for our own proposals.

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