HIST 390: The Digital Past, Summer 2019

Welcome to the Class!

In this course, you will learn about Digital History, the Digital Humanities, popular opensource software, and how to use these tools to aid in the interpretation of historical data. While this course will not have an overarching historical theme, we will discuss an array of historical topics/problems each week that correspond with provided datasets to master each tool.

In this course you will:

  • Learn the history of digital history/humanities
  • Examine your “Digital Self”
  • Explore and use digital software/tools
  • Create a professional personal website
  • Keep up a course blog twice a week

It is the goal of this course to teach students the basics of a plethora of digital tools. These include online exhibition projects by using Omeka, mapping historical data/places, how to digitize historical objects for online use, how to create and examine networks, and understanding the basics of OCR. While learning these digital tools are important to this class, we will also explore the history of digital history, as well as ethics, and the future of the digital humanities in academia.

This course satisfies the university’s IT requirement.

Course Guide:


Course Grading Scale:

Participation….…………………..….………… (100 Points)
Blogging Assignments (10)…..…………….(200 Points)
Pop Quizzes…….…………….…….……………..(50 Points)
Omeka Project………………….……………….(250 Points)
Story Map Project………..……………………(250 Points)
Lightning Round Presentations (2)…..…..(50 Points)
Group OCR Project……………………….……. (50 Points)
Transcription Project…….………..………….. (50 Points)
Total ………………………………….. 1000 Points

Class Grading Scale:
A= 1000-900 points;
B=899-800 points;
C= 799-700 points;
D= 699-600 points;
F= below 600 points


Over just 5 short weeks, this course will cover 16 weeks of Digital Humanities history, technology, and software. Therefore, class attendance is crucial for not only learning digital tools, but it will also count for 100 points of your grade. If for some reason an absence is unavoidable, please be sure to contact the instructor as soon as possible. Please note that all assignments and projects are based on workshops and tutorials gone over in class. An entire 5-hour class cannot be taught over again. You are responsible for meeting with the instructor, getting notes from classmates, and turning in projects on time.

However, participation is not only limited to attendance. When in class you will be expected to discuss each assigned reading/podcast/DH project listed in the course schedule. This means you should be ready to come to class with a good knowledge of each assigned reading/podcast/project and ready to ask questions to prompt class discussion.

Pop Quizzes:

Pop quizzes will be given at random throughout the course.

Blogging Assignments:

Twice a week you are responsible for answering blog prompts listed in the course schedule. Blog posts should be an appropriate length (not too short) and include images and links when necessary.  Please remember that these blog posts will be live on your personal website. This means that it will be accessible to the public. It is not only in your best interest to put effort into these posts for your grade, but also for your professional online presence. I suggest downloading the application “Grammarly” to ensure typos and grammatical errors are at a minimum.

All blog post assignments should be published no later than 11 pm the evening before the next class period. For example, Tuesday blog post assignments are due on Wednesdays at 11 pm; Thursday blog posts due the following Monday by 11 pm. However, the final blog post will be due Saturday, June 22nd by 8 am so they can be counted for grade submission.

Course Projects:

You will note that this class contains no midterm or final exam. The vast majority of the class will be based off of a variety of class projects. The requirements and expectations for each project will be posted on the course website. These projects include personal Omeka exhibits on our class Omeka site, a mapping project using StoryMap JS, and smaller projects using OCR and Network Analysis tools.

Lightning Round Presentations:

You will be expected to present two lightning round presentations throughout the course. One presentation will be after you complete your Omeka exhibit. The second will be a presentation on a draft version of your StoryMap JS project. Each lightning round will be a short 5 minutes long and an additional two minutes per presentation for class questions.

Class Policy:


Students are encouraged to visit me during office hours for any questions they may have about lectures, projects, or assignments. I am also available via my university e-mail. Our class will not use blackboard, but will have access to a class Slack group. While I welcome all questions on class projects and assignments, it is my hope that Slack will be a useful tool for students to communicate with each other and on messenger, boards soliciting advice and help from others in the class.

Required Purchases:

All students will be required to purchase a student website plan via Reclaim Hosting. The cost of the student plan is $30. Students should come to the first day of class ready to purchase their website view PayPal, credit, or debit card.


Laptops/Chromebooks/Tablets are required for every class since we will be testing online software and tools. You will also need access to a computer to complete all blog and project assignments at home.


While this class does not focus on a specific historical topic, you will be expected to conduct some historical research—specifically for your Omeka Project. It is important to practice academic integrity and completely avoid plagiarism by properly citing where you receive information for your projects and blog posts. All citations must be in the Chicago Manual of Style format for your Omeka project. However, when writing blog posts you can feel free to use your personal citation format preference (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc) since it is the hope that you will continue to keep up your website into your future careers.

University Honor Code:

Click the link for a copy of the 2018-2019 university honor code

Useful information:

  • Writing Center (writingcenter.gmu.edu): A114 Robinson Hall, 703-993-1200
  • Counseling and Psychological Services (caps.gmu.edu): 703-993-2380
  • Learning Services (academic skills help housed within CAPS
  • Disability Services 
  • Last day to add or drop with no tuition penalty: Wednesday, May 22, 2019
  • Last day to self-withdraw: Monday, June 3, 2019
  • Selective withdrawal period: June 4-11, 2019