A new podcast—or rather, a longstanding podcast—has joined R2 Studios at RRCHNM.

Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant is a women’s history podcast that showcases 18th and early 19th-century women’s letters that don’t always make it into the history books. Using her training as a historian and documentary editor, Kathryn Gehred and her guests dig into the story behind each letter and the lives of the women who wrote or received them.

Gehred began the podcast in 2020 and has released 38 episodes with approximately 50,000 downloads to date. “I am THRILLED to announce that Your Most Obedient & Humble Servant is joining the R2 Studios podcast network!,” Gehred said. “This means you’re going to see more episodes, with better editing, produced on a regular schedule, with all the same great 18th and 19th-century scandals you’ve come to expect.”

News about four students from GMU’s PhD program in history: one off to be a postdoc, one off to work at the Center for Military History, two off to positions as assistant professors.

The May newsletter from RRCHNM contains news of a visualization about Victor Recording’s expeditions in Latin America, two graduate student successes, and a grant for American religious history. Subscribe here.

We are grateful to acknowledge a second NEH grant in support of our American Religious Ecologies project. The National Endowment for the Humanities announced this week that RRCHNM will receive a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant for $350,000 to continue our work with the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies for the next three years. This new grant follow on our previous award, also from the HCRR program in the NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access, which was received in 2019.

At the start of the twentieth century, Congress authorized the U.S. Census Bureau to survey the nation’s “religious bodies.” For five decades, the Bureau partnered with religious organizations to identify hundreds of thousands of individual congregations across the country. Though the Census Bureau conducted several censuses of religion, only for the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies are the original schedules, or forms, preserved.

A schedule from the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies, showing a Seventh Day Adventist congregation in Maine.

A schedule from the 1926 Census of Religious Bodies, showing a Seventh Day Adventist congregation in Maine.

These schedules are a rich source of information about American religious institutions in the early twentieth century. They contain a wealth of information about each congregation, including its membership by age and sex, its expenditures on buildings and missions, its minister’s name and whether he or she had gone to seminary, and its denominational affiliation, which the Census Bureau cataloged into 213 different groups. The schedules also include the location of the congregations, usually by county and city or town, and in many cases the street address as well.

Thanks to the previous support of the NEH, the American Religious Ecologies project team has already photographed many of the census schedules at the National Archives, despite the delays and closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those schedules are then cataloged by denomination and county and made publicly available. Using the NEH-supported DataScribe software created at RRCHNM, a team of researchers is also transcribing the schedules into datasets which can be analyzed and visualized.

“Thanks to the NEH’s continued support, we will be able to complete our digitization of the 1926 census, which is already well underway” said co-project director Lincoln Mullen. “Those schedules will be of interest to local historians, as well as to scholars of American religion. But just as important, we will be able to create datasets from these schedules which will be useful for understanding the demography and geography of American religion. And we will be able to fill in gaps for religious groups that the Census Bureau failed to count. Once completed, the 1926 census will be the single most comprehensive dataset for the study of American religion.”

A large team at RRCHNM, including thirty-nine different people over the course of the past several years, have been working on the 1926 census. A large number of those team members are students at GMU, who get hands-on experience learning how to work with historical sources and ways of thinking about the past. “Undergraduate, M.A., and Ph.D. students have been central to American Religious Ecologies,” said co-project director John Turner. “They photograph census schedules, catalog batches of photographs, and prepare items for public display. Students have learned a variety of research skills, but they have also contributed to the project in many unexpected ways. They notice quirks in the ways that congregations recorded data and raise key questions about the procedures of the Census Bureau.”

You can see the work that the American Religious Ecologies team has already published at the project website. To follow the work, subscribe to RRCHNM’s newsletters, including the “Religion@RRCHNM” newsletter.

If you care about the open web, you probably use RSS feeds. And if you use feeds and you’re on a Mac or iOS, then NetNewsWire is the best RSS reader available. And it’s free and open source.

The American Historical Association is accepting entries for the 2023 Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Creativity in Digital History.

The Roy Rosenzweig Prize for Creativity in Digital History is sponsored jointly by the AHA and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University (GMU). It was developed by friends and colleagues of Roy Rosenzweig (1950–2007), the Mark and Barbara Fried Professor of History and New Media at GMU, to honor his life and work as a pioneer in the field of digital history.

This prize is awarded annually to honor and support work on a creative and freely available new media project, and in particular for work that reflects thoughtful, critical, and rigorous engagement with technology and the practice of history. The current prize amount is $4,000, funded by donations to GMU’s AHA/RRCHNM Rosenzweig Prize Fund.

You can see the AHA website for details about how to enter your work for consideration for the prize. The due date is May 15, 2023. RRCHNM will also accept donations that go towards funding the prize.

The Congregational Library and Archives has kindly invited me to talk about America’s Public Bible: A Commentary with them on April 19. The event is online and open to the public if you register here.

Join us for a virtual discussion with Lincoln Mullen to celebrate the release of America’s Public Bible: A Commentary, an interactive scholarly work that uncovers the history of the Bible in the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century United States.

Throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century, newspapers in the United States—even newspapers which were not published by a religious denomination or organization—made frequent recourse to the Bible. Newspapers printed sermons and Sunday school lessons. They featured jokes whose punchlines required familiarity with the Bible and aired political commentary that cited the Bible on all sides of a given issue.

By identifying and studying quotations in American newspapers, America’s Public Bible offers a commentary on how the Bible was used in public life, uncovering trends and patterns that would be invisible to a single scholar’s reading of these documents.

My colleagues Jason Heppler and Mills Kelly in the Washington Post today about their collaboration with two local public history sites in Northern Virginia. The houses contain graffiti left by Civil War soldiers, which they will be digitizing and preserving.

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media is launching a newsletter. You can sign up here. This is the best place to keep up with how our students and staff are creating history for public audiences. The first issue is out tomorrow, featuring news of a new podcast on the history of the American revolution; a grad student exchange with a European university; and a new data visualization about the plague in early modern London.