What is the final project?

Throughout the semester you will create an Omeka website and exhibit. This exhibit will be focused on a city of your choice, and it should uncover some aspect of the city’s history during Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era (from 1865 to 1914).

How do I pick a city and a topic?

You will have to find a city that is of interest to you AND for which you can find sufficient sources. All things being equal, cities that were bigger during our period will be easier than smaller cities.

You should also look for a topic that will unify your research. For example, creating an exhibit about Boston as a whole is too large a project. But creating an exhibit about Catholics in Boston is far more manageable. You will discover a suitable topic by looking for sources about your city and seeing what you find interesting. You may also look at our textbook (The American Yawp) to see what the most important questions are. The topic/question will determine what sources you include and what arguments you make. The best projects will have be tied closely to their topics.

What should the final project include?

Your final project should include:

  • two maps, including one interactive map
  • either a visualization from text-mining or a visualization from quantitative sources
  • a minimum of 5 primary sources, marked up with metadata including contextual descriptions
  • an exhibit that ties the sources, maps, and visualizations together, including approximately one thousand words of introduction and contextualization, with appropriate references
  • a copyright statement and appropriate information about the creator of the exhibit (i.e., you) on the front page of the exhibit.

You are of course free to include other materials that are relevant.

How does my work on the project relate to my work in class?

The work we do in the classroom is designed to walk you through the process of being a digital historian, from creating a research question, to finding information, to interpreting it with various tools, to presenting it on the web. Each week’s assignment is designed to help you make progress on your project by (1) learning skills and (2) doing some of the actual work. By the end of class each week you should have learned the basics of whatever skill was presented, though you will have to practice on your own to get better at it. And many weeks, you should be able to create work during class that you will become a draft of your final project.

In other words, if you come prepared to class each week, you can expect to complete a lot of the work for the final project in class. The final project is similar to a portfolio, in that it gathers together the work you are doing in class.

What should I be working on each week?

  • Weeks 1–2: Become familiar with digital history and some of the projects that scholars have created.
  • Weeks 3–4: Form a basic question about a city of your choice. Begin investigating sources at the DPLA and other databases to see whether your research question is feasible. By the end of week 4, you should be have found enough sources that you can settle on a particular city and question.
  • Week 5: This is a crucial week, because during this week you will learn how to create the Omeka.net site that will host your final project. By the end of this week, you should have a site and the beginning of content for it. You can begin adding primary sources with the appropriate metadata.
  • Weeks 6–7: During these weeks we will focus on mapping in class. By the end of this week you should have georectified a map of your city and started creating an interactive map of places of note. Both of these will be embedded in your final project.
  • Weeks 8–9: During these weeks we will make visualizations in class. You should use census data about your city. If you have found some other quantitative information, use that too. By the end of these weeks, you should have created the visualizations mentioned above.
  • Weeks 10-12: During these weeks we will focus on creating exhibits in Omeka to tell a story or make an argument. You should create an exhibit that ties together the materials on your site, and you should begin drafting the introductory essay. By the end of these weeks, all of the materials for your project should be on your site, and you should have begun to tie them together.
  • Weeks 13–14: During these weeks you will give a brief presentation on your project, which need not be finished when you present. You should use the time to put the finishing touches on your project.

What do I do if I get stuck or feel like I’m falling behind?

Feel free to e-mail me with questions (lmullen@gmu.edu), or we can arrange a meeting to help you make progress. You can also ask me to look at your work in progress to see if it is going in the right direction.

When is the project due?

The final project is due May 8 by 10 p.m. (the same time as our final exam would have been scheduled). Make sure that your project is available online, then send me the URL via this Google form. No late projects will be accepted under any circumstances.

What are the guidelines for the final presentation?

You will give a presentation in class during one of our final two sessions. (The schedule will be announced via e-mail.)

The following are the requirements for the presentation:

  • Don’t be boring! (Seriously.)
  • The talk should present the research you are doing for the final project. Tell a story; make an argument.
  • Your presentation must be exactly five minutes long, neither shorter nor under any circumstances longer.
  • You must use a slide deck containing exactly five slides.
  • You should create this slide deck using Google Drive. No later than 5 p.m. on the day that you present, please fill out this form with the URL for your slide deck. It is important that share your slide deck publicly. This is crucial so that I can have all the slide decks ready on the classroom computer so we don’t waste time in class.

I don’t recommend all of the advice, but I’ve found Zach Holman’s Speaking.io to be helpful.

How to share your slide deck publicly:

  1. After creating your slide deck, click the “Share” button in the top right.
  1. Click the part which says “Anyone at ______” can find and view. You will be presented with some options. Click “more.”
  1. You want a window that looks like this. Click “Public on the web.” Be sure to click save.
  1. Finally, click “copy link” and send that link to me via this form.