Grant Proposal

Contested Place-Names: Re-described Geographies of the Atlantic World


            The project aims to create the most extensive database solely related to place-names of the Atlantic World in the age of colonialism. During an era where colonial powers and individuals attempted to redraw and rename landscapes along Atlantic coasts, maps rarely appeared the same even when drawn by mapmakers of the same nationalities.  This project seeks to create a database of the various names given to geographic areas along the Atlantic Ocean from the late sixteenth through early nineteenth centuries. It will look from an Atlantic History perspective to show how these same processes and discontinuities are both part of global and local histories. This is an ambitious large-scale project because of its long-term and global view so it would require a fairly large budget and would be fairly focused in its goals. The ultimate goal of the project is to historicize place-names of the Atlantic world, to demonstrate the socially constructed and the contested nature of geographical names. This idea results from the frustration that often can come from looking at maps, both of places and time periods one is familiar with or unfamiliar with. Often people approach these documents as records of how people understood geography, society, and governance at a particular time but without the context of other similar or dissimilar maps made at this same time. The Contested Place-Names project seeks to bring together these many sources in a way that clearly reveals the changing and contested nature of geographic names. It can both be used as a tool to understand confusing inconsistencies in historical documents and as a way to complicate histories and raise new research questions. 

Literature Review

            While the specific mapping of place-names along the Atlantic Coast is a project that has not yet been done, other digital history projects have previously mapped place names, mapped chronological records of the Atlantic World, and mapped contested land claims.

            Prior to Contested Place-Names, other projects have also sought to map place-names through digital maps. Most of these examples focus on sites within Europe. Among this group, Columbia University’s Place Name Map maps place-names mentioned in medieval Icelandic sagas. While the plots are mostly concentrated in Iceland, Norway, and Britain, several outliers appear in Greenland, Turkey, and Egypt. The dots are color coded by the sagas in which they appear and search options allow users to narrow the search toward certain types of water, land, or social features such as “fjords”, “glaciers”, or “farm towns”. The site uses GIS, data mining services, and OpenStreetMap to map the historical information.

            Another interactive place-name map of the British Isles displays hundreds of data points about Gaelic place-names around Loch Torridon in Scotland. Each dot brings up a series of metadata, but perhaps most interestingly a source name that it is called today, a standardized spelling, the meaning of the term, and a physical description of the land. Although unclear who the creators of the resource are, the site is sponsored and advertised by Bord Na Gaidhlig, an organization that seeks to promote and develop the Gaelic language in Scotland. Another British map backed by a large institution appears in the online exhibition Vikings: Life and Legend, supported by both the British Museum and BP. Under the title “Old Norse Origins” users are invited to explore a map and discover Norse place-names in England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. On the site one could for instance click on a dot along the coast named “Redcar” and find that the term translates to “Red marsh”. Because of the great stretch of land being considered here the site represents a large-scale effort to identify Norse origins in place-names of the British Isles.

            Other sources also work first as search engines of place-names that bring up maps and descriptive information for place-names typed in. Examples of this type of place-name resource are the government of Western Australia and the government of Queensland, Australia’s Place Names databases. Each allows users to type in a known place-name into the search bar, which pulls up a series of data including a historical narrative of the origins of the word. These databases play a clear governmental role, although the extensive documentation of local history makes it also a historical tool. Another example from England, the Institute for Name-Studies at the University of Nottingham’s Key to English Place Names, also only allows access by directly searching place-name words.

            Having become a fairly common idea, these place-name databases provide important historical contexts for current geographical and topographical names, although the majority existing place-name sites have focused exclusively on sites in Western Europe. This may be partly due to the existence of organizations such as the Scottish Place-Name Society that circulate information to its members to encourage the creation of more place-name databases and calls for the recruitment of volunteers for the ongoing projects. However, at the same time each of these examples, while created with similar goals in mind, are organized in various ways and on different computer programs demonstrating the independent nature of each. For examples of more regionally relevant online resources, other types of digital projects have demonstrated ways to map the coastal Atlantic World and continental North America.

            A site currently in progress called Use and Occupancy Mapping (UOM) seeks to visualize the use and occupancy of Syilx/Okanagan territory in what is today governed by British Columbia. Through this project the Okanagan Nation hopes to document the mark of indigenous land titles, natural resources, and language and culture on the territory through a variety of place-names and other markings. Several preliminary photographs of the database display icons place topographical features, ecological characteristics, and human-occupied sites. The information for this project is gathered through questionnaires and is visually logged into the database with the hopes of being used later to support the rights and interested of the Okanagan Nation as decision-making and education tools. Once launched, this project looks to be an extensive and in-depth resource, although clearly geographically focused. 

            Another site with also a strong focus on Canadian land called Native-Lands displays the locations of indigenous lands in North America and Australia mostly but also parts of Central and South America. While openly un-academic, the site reaches a popular audience in widespread way. Beyond simply mapping contested land claims, this site importantly reveals the nature of historical Euro-American claims upon which current governments and settlements today are based. The source does not include names such as “Massachusetts” or “the United States of America” and rather expects users to rely on the landscape to locate familiar places and to determine the Native people of that land.

            Another digital history project supported by NEH, Voyages: TransatlanticSlave Trade Database, focuses less on place-names and more on movement, but it offers a model for database design and geographical focus. Looking at historical records from a transatlantic perspective, this resource demonstrates the possibilities for taking a broader approach to mapping historical movement over time. The database presents information related to 35,000 transatlantic slave-trading voyages and 90,000 African individuals between 1520 and 1866. This large-scale collection of information represents a variety of regions and eras, as it maps the global movement of people because of the slave trade over the course of four centuries.In addition to visually showing movement and distance, the project includes names and estimates of populations transported on ships. As a digital resourceit allows people to explore routes and compare size and frequency of movement across regions in an individual interactive way. Additionally, as an online resource people can access this information from anywhere with Internet and therefore are not reliant on expensive travel to multiple distant archives to calculate these numbers. Similarly, this project hopes to provide a large-scale look at the process of colonial mapmaking in the Atlantic World. Additionally, Voyages serves as a model for the layout of this project, as it is comprised of various search options that lead to tables of historical data collected from the sources.

            Each of these projects, in addition to many other similar place-name, transatlantic slavery, and Native land projects, represent necessary work for making historical geographies understandable and accessible to a modern-day public audience. Using a range of designs and interactive features, these examples display different options for presenting large-scale historical data through maps. The projects mainly influencing Contested Place-Names each represent ambitious tasks for collecting large amounts of records and implementing them into maps with several search and organization options for exploring the patterns. However, because none of these resources, within their own scope, present mapped data of changing place-names that result from colonization of the Atlantic World, this project seeks to fill this gap. Building off of previous projects, this proposed digital history project would combine the geographical scope of “Voyages”, the goals of Native-Land, and the content of the European place-name projects to produce a database for critically exploring the contested place-names of coastal geographies.

Project Narrative

            This project seeks to use data from historical maps of the Atlantic World, as drawn by colonizers, to demonstrate the long and disunited process through which colonial naming of places happens. The goal of the database is to demonstrate the unnatural nature of adding foreign names to already inhabited stretches of land. Because of the nature of colonization and the resulting conflicts among intra-colonial and native land claims, the database will show frequent changes of linguistic naming. Especially among European names for colonies and settlements, the places will also often depict the influence of other places across empires, revealing the movement of people to and from these spaces during these periods of colonization. In browsing through the changing and conflicting names for the same stretches of land, the database will illustrate the socially-constructed nature of colonial property-making. At times, the results will show words that are consistent with or connected to indigenous names, and at others they will display names that are totally unrelated to Native terms. This will at various times and places show both the impact and persistence of indigenous land on European-claimed colonial lands and a conscious disregard for indigenous names and habitation.

            The technical design of the database will involve a function searching and organizing data by region, date, or other criteria. By hovering over the named sites on the interactive map, windows will appear that reveal historical descriptions of the sites, as well as other Native names associated with these lands. The project is envisioned as a digital map, where one could click on points along the coast or search a known name which would pull up a list of names documented in reference to that location. For example, typing in the phrase “New Jersey” could bring up a chronological list including the names Nieuw Nederland, Nva Sverige, Nova Caesaria, New Jarsey, West Jersey and East Jersey, and the Jerseys. In each box’s list of different names, the names would appear in different colors, each of which could indicate the frequency and distribution of each name appearing in the entered data. A major complication of the project will likely result from the difficulty of matching names and points on maps that are drawn from different estimates of geographical size and location. Because of these errors that are inevitably part of maps, the program in which the cartographic data will be entered must be designed to pair similar words and shapes together to ensure that the measured count of names us an accurate number. Contested Place-Names will be a searchable database, creating networks of place-names both within a specific location and across Atlantic coasts. The ability to search all results for a place-name will be useful for recognizing if multiple places shared the same names, especially when the same or similar groups of people rename multiple places. Another useful function of this project would be the ability to categorize and search maps based on their creators. With this function one could, for example, see how English mapmakers tended to describe a set of locations in comparison to Dutch mapmakers. In addition to visualizing locations along a map, names will be organized by year and by spellings.

            Beyond displaying the historical and colonial contexts of the Atlantic World, a major goal of the Contested Place-Names: Re-described Geographies of the Atlantic World project is to create a digital pool of data that can be used by researchers, students, inhabitants of these regions, genealogists, and other interested parties. In particular, this site offers a research tool to professional or recreational researchers hoping to locate places they have seen or heard referenced. One can imagine this tool being especially useful for genealogists as they search their family histories in regions of the past with which they are less familiar. For these groups of people the project offers a practical solution to frequent struggles of understanding the Atlantic World that come from the contested nature of place-names.

            In addition, this digital project can serve wider audiences by offering a new outlook on colonial history that regard place-names as examples of political and social claims rather than as universally agreed-upon facts. The place-based nature of the project could be of interest to a general public because of the fairly universal nature of its subject. One way in which this resource can be used for educational purposes is its ability to serve as a helpful tool for lessons on geography. In browsing through the changing and conflicting names for the same stretches of land, the database can act as a teaching tool to illustrate the socially constructed nature of colonial place-making. In classroom, library, and at-home settings, students can play with the search features to consider maps through the perspectives of different social and colonial backgrounds. Local inhabitants or descendants of these mapped regions may especially find the site interesting, as they search the named maps and descriptions to learn more about the history of the landscape in which they or their families have lived. Overall, this project will be designed to serve a variety of purposes to a general audiences while still communicating a clear set of goals.

            While maps provide people today with a view into certain geographical, political, and social perspectives from earlier periods, their production also requires the possession of uncommon resources and skills, which greatly limits the perspectives represented. To address the fact that maps along cannot capture what places are called the project can also create a more open feature that allows individuals and organizations to upload documents or narrations preserved orally that also refer to these places. I envision the crowd sourced aspect of the website being something one could open by clicking on the hyperlinked location-names. In addition, to keep the focus of the project clear, each of these images and writings will highlight the specific words identifying the term used for the place. To ensure that this project includes various voices and perspectives on these lands, there will also include functions for imputing alternative names, editing listed ones, and leaving comments for each geographic site. 

            Because of the contentious nature of these historical maps and disagreements over colonial and Native lands, the site will present this history as a set of data from the perspective of mapmakers and will add additional interpretive text for context. Rather than treated as absolute truths, maps will be seen as mediums through which people, and colonizers particularly, communicated and documented their land claims and their understandings of Atlantic geography. However, because the expectation is that users will not be able to comment on every site along the Atlantic coasts, because of the large time commitment involved of users, the crowd sources section may be relatively incomplete. Therefore, the project will seek to also apply descriptions that expand the contextual narrative of these sites along the Atlantic coast, adding especially indigenous names and perspectives for these places.

            Because of the inherently broad and expansive nature of the Contested Plac-Names project, it must be designed with set limitations for the scope of its content and reach. Therefore, the project will be interested primarily in cartographic sources to limit the historical medium being observed. Of course other sources exist that could similarly communicate much of the same information, such as letter, land deeds and surveys, oral history, and the physical landscapes themselves. However, this project limits its list of place-names to just those that appear on maps to ensure a narrower focus. By collecting and organizing this large yet singular group of data, the project opens up the possibility for future digital history projects to take up the task of collecting place-names of the Atlantic World from other sources of documentation and knowledge.

            In order to limit the scope of this project and make it ambitious within reason, the project will be focused in certain respects. First, the project’s primary purpose will be to observe changing and contested names through maps rather than other sources. This will allow for the project to be expanded in a second phase so that it doesn’t stay static. Second, the project will remain focused on coastal regions, both in terms of human habitation and environmental features, rather than the whole of the relevant regions. Lastly, the project will focus more on making available the compiled lists of names, rather than displaying the digitized maps themselves. The images will only be accessible from the word list itself, which will also ensure that the original archive sites are still the primary site for viewing these materials. 

            The most important characteristic of the Contested Place-Names project is its digital format, which allows the growth, usability, and dissemination of digital projects. Through a digital format the project could present a visual way of observing and searching named landscapes chronologically. On the Internet the chronological lists of names could also be more accessible from a variety of locations and could allow for more interactive ways of categorizing and ordering changing landscape names. The placement of this data on a website allows for the archiving and preservation of the place-names, allowing them to be reused later. Additionally, as an online resource the information presented through mapping and visualization of data can be accessed from any location around the world, spreading its audience and the possibilities for its usage. The interactive features for ordering and categorizing place-names allows new ways for observing, searching, navigating, and manipulating colonial place-names of Atlantic geography. 


            This project is seeking an award of $100,000 for the technical design of the operating system and interface, as well as the initial application of data into the program. In its initial phase the Prototyping Grant would allow the project to begin implementing its plans into a preliminary model and begin the process of gathering data. The proposed sum of money would allow the project to invest in the technical equipment necessary, hire the appropriate digital media professionals and humanities scholars, and create systems for a sustained digital system. 

            The plan for this project is structured into a series of tasks, each tackling a different priority of the database. First, a program and useable interface that allows for the storage, presentation, and manipulation of data that will be later collected from analog maps. Likely, this part of the process will be most costly, as outside digital media professionals will need to be hired for the initial design and possibly again later to respond to any problems or needed upgrades with the system. The goal is to make the interface easily navigable and interactive to encourage active exploration of the site and its data visualization. 

            The second task necessary to the completion of the project is the initial gathering of data. In order for the resource to provide sufficient evidence to make accurate conclusions and display reliable patterns, enough data must be included within the dataset. Therefore, this part of the work plan must be begun fairly early to ensure that the database represents a significant number of maps before it becomes available for use or viewing of a public audience. This step in the project schedule will require contacting archives to gather maps from which to record information about the recorded names environmental structures like mountains as well as human-inhabited sites like colonies, towns, ports, forts, and other Indigenous settlements. These identified places will be later placed into the database at once to ensure the efficiency of the process.

            After enough data has been collected from archives regarding these place-names, staff working on the project will begin to digitize any maps allowed by the participating archives and to input specific data into the program. The data of utmost concern during this phase of the project includes temporal, geographic, and later linguistic characteristics of words. Therefore, this task involves taking note of names of places, years in which the maps were created, the individuals and origins of the maps’ creators, and the coordinates of the identified locations. Collecting such categories of information will allow both for sufficient metadata to map, categorize, and compare these place-names as well as additional information for citing and locating these sources of information on the back-end of the database.

            With the security of the above descriptive information for sites depicted in the maps, the project will then move on to group entered items together and to implement functions for searching the database. By creating searchable categories based on the geography and production inherent in maps of the Atlantic world, users of the site will be able to explore various perspectives, interests, and differences of land claims represented in maps utilized by various colonial powers. Additionally, connecting place-names by these characteristics will enable researchers or local persons entering the site with specific research questions or inquiries to save time in relying on their visual identification of the site in question to locate the information being sought. This stage of the project will likely be less costly than earlier steps as the function for searching data will have already been created and the categorizing itself will be rather routine and systematic. Therefore, additional technologies should not need to be purchased nor additional contractors or scholars hired.

            Lastly, the project will need to add a linked feature to each location that would allow for the crowd-sourced end of the database for discussions and feedback relating to the place-named recorded for each site. Having an option for users of the site to input scholarly or local knowledge regarding the historical or contemporary context of a location and its place-names could greatly strengthen the accuracy of the information being conveyed throughout the site. This feature can be seen as a check on the authority of the maps and the interpreters of these materials to demonstrate the limits of this data, the historical contexts surrounding them, and the contradictory views for the land claims represented within the database. For this aspect of the program all that is needed is comment features that will allow text, attached images, or the inclusion of links. This last step is not expected to require great expense because it will largely consist of simply activating an already-designed feature at each data point.

             In addition to these essential tasks, a procedure is also needed for ensuring that the data added to the site and the resulting maps, tables, images, texts, and comments require a preservation plan. Without these materials and metadata backed up the site could lose its information, connected categories, or visual organization. As this project is largely inspired by Voyages, the transatlantic slave trade database, it also must pay attention to some of the struggles with this former project. The database had been at risk of losing its entire database as the code in which the site was written was becoming abandoned by the evolving operating system. With recognition of this danger posed to digital programs, this project aims to apply systems of digital preservation early in its design and throughout its production. While several hundred thousand dollars may be needed later for the continued preservation of the project data, it will initially be housed on University of Massachusetts servers and preserved in an offsite location for additional protection over the course of the next few years.

            If the project secures financial support, the following work plan will be followed to ensure that each task is followed and structured in an orderly manner. See proposed work plan below:

December-April, 2019Design a central program and interface for the site, and begin putting in place a system for digital preservation.
March-May, 2019Visit archives to gather samplings of maps and to research indigenous names for these lands and waters.
July-October, 2019Begin to digitize maps and input data into program.
October, 2019Create searchable categories based on the collected data and add features for crowdsourcing additional information.
November, 2019Website will be launched to the public.

Reflection: Digitizing Material Culture

            Throughout the course of the semester we have encountered countless examples of the many approaches to creating digital history projects, with each demonstrating the unique forms in which historical content to can become digital.  Influenced by the many digital projects studied these past few months and the readings offering varying viewpoints about the potential and dangers of digital content and technology, our class worked to design an online exhibit that could be useful to both the Emily Dickinson Museum’s goals and the goals of its visitors and neighbors. These interpretive decisions understandably shaped the audiences, types of interaction, and possibilities for future growth of the digital exhibit. In particular, using Roundme to present both the history and current state of the collections within the Evergreens kitchen has provided experience in collaborating with a small historical institution to create digital materials for broad audiences and an opportunity to test many of the guidelines, developments, and recommendations discussed in the course readings this fall semester. 

            The project consisted of meeting with the museum staff to discuss the possible material available for the exhibit, photographing the objects, researching their histories, and then deciding upon a platform to showcase the kitchen’s history. By choosing Roundme as the specific platform on which to present the material culture, rather than on Omeka as originally planned, the project’s approach to selecting and studying the objects became greatly changed. Because of the more record-based and exhibit-like focus on Omeka, images and information entered onto that platform would have required greater consideration of metadata related to each object. In stark contrast, the limited features of Roundme meant that the assignment focused less on the data behind each image and more on the presentation of the images themselves. 

            In combination with the cooking videos, the material culture digital exhibit offers a virtual experience of the Emily Dickinson Museum’s kitchens, characterized more as a visual aid than text-heavy research. Fascinated by the many interesting cooking objects in the Evergreens kitchen, the only kitchen on the property available for visit, we decided to create a virtual tour of the space including highlights of several tools and appliances. Before first entering The Evergreens Kitchen tour, an introductory page appears featuring a thumbnail of the room and a short description of the project. The short paragraph on the welcome page also serves to offer some cursory details about the historical house and room to be entered. Once inside, visitors immediately face the two open doors and the icebox, where they can already find three information icons and an additional panorama in to the pantry. Users can drag the mouse around the image, moving left and right, as well as toward the ceiling and floor. In addition to this zoomed-out, 360 degrees view of the room, visitors can also achieve an interesting look into specific objects within the kitchen to think about the particular tools and appliances of which historical kitchens were comprised.

            As we visited the site and identified our many options for material culture to study within the Evergreens kitchen, our team chose objects that represented a common time period and type of material. Deciding that it was important to identify items that specifically related to the central period of interpretation within the home, the objects that entered the exhibit largely came from the late nineteenth century. To reflect this decision, the detailed explanations written up about each object sought to ground its interpretation in this time period. The effort to establish a focused time period to be observed through the virtual tour also affected the introductory text to the panorama. Importantly, while wanting to show objects from this particular time, the team also recognized that visitors will be most interested in cooking utensils that resemble ones they may be familiar with today. Because of this, the objects chosen represent mostly late nineteenth century material culture objects found in the kitchen that are earlier models to similar tools and appliances today.

            The format for displaying these materials was a digital panorama that allowed for interactive movement through the space. Influenced by readings throughout the semester related to the effectiveness of interactive features on digital projects, we sought to include various ways of exploring the room that would allow for visitors of the webpage to have choice in what aspects of the room they would delve further into. Additionally, we recognized that the most interactive digital projects are the more engaging and memorable ones, especially to persons with little prior knowledge of or connection to a site, like younger visitors. In “Telling Stories: Procedural Authorship and Extracting Meaning from Museum Databases”, Steve Dietz discusses the idea that interactivity requires going beyond navigation of a linear story and making more personalized digital exhibits .[1]   Similarly, working within the Roundme program, we found that the interactivity of the digital experience could not go far beyond linear storytelling because of our inability to add hyperlinks or to insert data visualization, maps, or videos as we had considered.

            While the interactive nature of the Roundme panorama indisputably makes for an interesting virtual experience, it also presents several limitations that make it difficult to work beyond the few features, formatting settings, and multimedia options available through the program. Additionally, planning for the long-term maintenance of this exhibit can be difficult because of its ultimate reliance on the continuation of the Roundme website. The text Digital Historywarns extensively about the fragility of digital materials, especially when relying on outside programs.[2]Relying on the digital tool to remain accessible to all users and to plan future expansion on the tour requires the host site to continue to operate and without any major changes, including an increase in price for building new tours. The platform itself must continue to work for the tours to be viewable, and the data on the site, from the images to the panorama interface itself cannot be downloaded outside of the program limiting the ability of museums to back up the materials.

            These many restrictions create a significant challenge for sites looking to add significant amounts of information and additional images. One major frustration with Roundme comes from the inability of creators to resize images or to format text, which greatly limits the amount of either that can be included at each information pinpoint. Additionally, texts and images cannot be applied to the map themselves in its free version, making every addition to the panorama only accessible through the pinpoint icons. For users that plan to explore the digital room in its entirety this does not create a major problem, but for those who would like to see a specific object or label without clicking on every available hotspot, this could be a major source of frustration with the tour. Perhaps most frustrating for this specific digital project, there are no options for uploading videos into the virtual tour, even at any level of membership. Having the ability to link videos of people using similar objects would greatly enhance the understanding of how these objects were used. For example, one could imagine a video appearing of someone mixing dry goods into a bowl upon clicking on the bowl on the back table. Because of these constraints, there is little ability for virtual tour creators to go beyond these basic features, discouraging the application of too much creativity or time spent on these projects.

            To an extent there are benefits to these problems, as the simple functionality of the digital tool ensures quick and uncomplicated projects. The simple features of the program allows the tour to be easily edited and quickly replicated if changes are wanted after its publication. Additionally, because of its clear purpose and layout, users can easily navigate through the virtual tour. The tour opens first by automatically rotating around the room, visibly demonstrating the way in which users are expected to move through the space. Additionally large information icons figuring prominently throughout the panorama and contrasting sharply with the dark image are easy to spot and to click. Rather than requiring too much introductory text to understand the space being entered, the digital project represents an uncomplicated activity, especially fit for casual and quick exploration.

            In addition to the ease and unfrustrating usability of the Roundme program, some alternative options are available on the website that would allow historic sites like the Emily Dickinson museum to expand their control of the virtual tour. The lowest upgrade allows users to create a floor plan and to expand the types of image files used in the program, both of which would be useful for a historic house museum like the Evergreens. Additionally, another purchase option would allow more options for customizing the appearance and functionality of the virtual tour. Like many digital programs these extra features come with additional pricing, which could discourage many small institutions from upgrading their memberships. However, even the most expensive upgrades are relatively cheap, ranging from five to fifteen dollars per virtual tour, and discounts are offered to nonprofit institutions.

            This digital project also allows for growth, as history students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst or staff members of the Emily Dickinson Museum could add addition panorama images to create a greater tour of the house. This would particularly be useful if a series of panoramas were placed through the door leading to the upstairs staircase, where many rooms are not currently open to the public. This would allow the museum with an opportunity to get people interested in the bedrooms above that visitors are often curious about. This would also be within the interest of the institution itself, as encouraging visitors to virtually experience exploring rooms that they would otherwise not see could foster an interest in creating excitement and advertising the future opening of this space. One feature that would be especially effective at expanding the way through which this room could be experienced is through the use of audio recordings featuring sounds from the room. For example, by clicking on the floor one could hear the creak of the floorboards or by clicking on the bells one could hear ringing, which would add an additional audiovisual component to the virtual experience. Perhaps even more exciting, a future phase of the project could link panoramas above each bell to the rooms they are connected to show the ways in which the network of kitchen bells connected the rooms, inhabitants, and workers of the Evergreens. As we spent much time this past semester locating and assessing history websites, I often found that within my own and my classmates’ judgments of these digital spaces and tools that the ones that appeared most complete and static seemed less promising than the ones that clearly showed room for expansion. This digital history project of the Evergreens Kitchen on offers such an opportunity, allowing it to be a part of the site’s ongoing online interpretation rather than an independent and completed product in itself.

            As part of the creation of this project, the team spent considerable time thinking through the various audiences of the digital webpage and how these groups could use the project. In the widely accepted Digital Historyguide by Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, they approach the tasks of identifying and attracting an audience as one of the central steps in any digital history project. In their chapter “Building an Audience”, the two authors encourage historians to overcome their discomfort with marketing and to actively seek to advertise and track visitorship to their website. They also recommend finding a balance between focusing the website content enough to be of interest but without too narrow of a scope.[3]The Evergreen Kitchen exhibit naturally satisfies a focused character because of its connection to the homestead of Emily Dickinson, who already brings a large following of enthusiasts both as a historical figure and a poet, but it also seeks to achieve a broader audience in its design for both local and distant visitors of the site. Often the largest groups of people who search the websites of historic house museums like the Emily Dickinson Museum are those intending or hoping to visit. For these individuals, the digital tour provides them with a way to glimpse the type of museum that they will be entering or to explore a site of which may be too far for them to travel. The Evergreen Kitchen 360 exhibit offers an informative experience for both local and remote audiences.

            Another audience that we envision this site serving is teachers, who can use the virtual tour for educational purposes within classrooms. For example, an elementary or secondary education history teacher could assign students to go onto this website to explore how kitchen in the past may have been different or similar to ones today. In the article “No Computer Left Behind”, Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig make that case that computers present an opportunity for education to move beyond rote memorization and to embrace technology as a way of computing historical facts.[4]While this tour could hardly serve a purpose on exams like Cohen and Rosenzweig propose it can train young students to view history more as a search for answers and path of exploration rather than a set of multiple-choice answers. From my own educational experiences, I recall being assigned several tasks in elementary school to research town history, where I would go around Morris Plains, New Jersey with a camera in hand and would have to interview people about their memories of the town. Similarly, one could reasonably imagine a similar activity using the Internet where, say, fifth graders could venture onto the website of the Emily Dickinson Museum and explore the two interactive maps of the Homestead and the Evergreens.

            This introductory experience with Roundme demonstrated the many advantages of displaying material culture and physical structures through the use of digital tools like panorama tours. In its final version, The Evergreens Kitchen exhibit offers an engaging way for exploring a room that features the stories of many different historical individuals, both resident and working. This project provided an opportunity to test out the various ways in which physical objects and textual information can be transformed in digital programs to create novel ways of experiencing and accessing this history.

[1] Steve Dietz, “Telling Stories: Procedural Authorship and Extracting Meaning from Museum Databases,” (1999),

[2]Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005).

[3]Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, Digital History.

[4]Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, “No Computer Left Behind,” (Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media: Chronicle of Higher Education, 2006).

Popular Public History

Through, the National Archives fills an important role needed by many teachers, tutors, and self-learners who want to access historical documents without investing too much of their own time searching physical or digital archives. The Docs Teach page provides a great amount of primary sources related to America’s recent past that are both central to U.S. primary and secondary school curriculums and accessible enough to be taught to students of varying ages and educational backgrounds. The site includes hundreds of digitized primary sources about U.S. history, including  letters, photographs, speeches, posters, maps, and videos. In addition to these many documents, additional resources are provided that contextualize the sources and place them within thematic groupings. Within these collections the documents are presented as possible materials for lesson plans with suggestions for classroom activities and explanations of the relevant skills targeted by each.

By offering primary source documents along with short historical contexts and activity ideas, the National Archives essentially repackages documents published on Docs Teach as teaching materials. Therefore, the major audience of the website is teachers and other educational workers. One can see the site clearly catering to this group as it provides teachers with adequate tools and material to include within their own lessons and to meet national standards.

However, unlike many other sites that promise lesson plans and historical evidence for educational purposes, Docs Teach is entirely open to any browser of the site. This expands the potential audience of the historical material to invite use by students and a general interested public. I have personally often relied on the site because I can easily locate documents for college-level discussion sections without needing to create an account or pay a fee for accessing the material. Furthermore, unlike other similar websites the information is fairly easy to understand without deep knowledge about educational curriculum in the United States.

Across educational and more general audiences Docs Teach provides multiple perspectives and mediums to explore related to some of the most studied parts of United States History. For example, exploring the Post-War U.S. category brings one to a series of activities including “Analyzing a Letter to Congress About Bloody Sunday”, “Examining Where Rosa Parks Sat”, and “We Shall Overcome: March on Washington”. In these activities students can:


Study the language of a letter from Selma,





Study a seating map from a Montgomery Bus,




And zoom in and out of a photograph of a young girl on a Civil Rights march to consider her perspective.




The documents themselves include descriptions, transcriptions, zoom features, search features, and download options that increase their usability. Additional resources like dozens of downloadable primary source reading guidelines  for different types of documents and iPad app further make the material accessible to a range of educational levels and learning settings. By including an easy-to-use and well-organized interface designed minimally with short texts, Docs Teach demonstrates a strong design that effectively serves it predominantly educational audience as well as a range of interested publics.


Digital Mapping

Admittedly I struggled to find a scholarly digital mapping project significantly more than I expected. As I quickly learned, digital maps mostly serve as tools that accompany larger websites or digital projects and rarely stand alone. Unlike other forms of digital history like websites, blogs, and apps it is easier to find digital maps through larger history sites than it is through a simple search engine. Often they are tagged onto a page that features several other maps, both digital and digitized, that illustrate distributions of populations, demographic data, and movement. The digital mapping project considered here, maps from the Equal Justice Initiative’s Lynching in America site, stood out from many others because of its extensive features that encourage deep investment into the mapped history. In addition, this example struck me as an interesting use of digital mapping to tell histories for contemporary purposes.

The project shows great expenses of time and money in its creation, clearly different from many digital maps produced by scholars working in history and spatial humanities. While created ultimately by a nonprofit organization, the Equal Justice Initiative had received several grants from Google in its creation. Rather than being used for scholarly or even documentary purposes like many of the maps discussed in the readings this week, this particular set is designed to showcase the previous documentation and the goals fo the organization. It accompanies EJI’s report that quantitatively lays out records of lynchings between 1877-1950 and is meant as a visual representation for public audiences with or without prior knowledge of the history. The first map counts the number of reported lynchings by states and counties between the years 1877 and 1950 and includes a range of narrative videos and texts. The second digital map allows users to witness changes in black populations across the country between 1910-1970.

The Great Migration and lynching maps present an interactive way of exploring historical data related to a tragic part of American history. While browsing through the sites, I appreciated the ability to stop and linger on  numbers and captions that surprised or troubled me. Unlike a video that moves through information at the same speed and order each time, the digital maps can be clicked through at one’s own pace and direction. There are other many ways in which this information could have been shared and conveyed that would have required far less creativity and funding. For example, static bar graphs could have technically captured much of the same information. However, the choice to present statistics about reported lynchings and migratory patterns through digital maps appears to be because of the strengths of this method of display. The ability to let users choose their own path to explore America’s history of lynching adds an element of personalization that is immensely important for such an inherently personal subject.

Another great strength of digitally mapping lynchings and migrations comes from the power of maps to illustrate location and movement. While clicking through the maps one can quickly place distributions of populations and violence across space. Yet even more than a traditional map, this digital map shows the direction and reach of movement through this same space. Most striking, the visual nature of the map encourages users to look beyond the lynching and population counts as mere numbers and rather to understand them as individual stories happening across a real stretch of land. Because of the intended wide-reaching audience of this project, this encouragement of emotional connection to the history being presented is an important part of the project.

Another way in which these maps show the relevance of the data is through the creation of a narrative – which appears less through any explicit interpretation of the statistics and more through the presentation of the two maps alongside one another. Equal Justice Initiative’s digital maps allows for the inclusion of additional information that further contextualizes and explains the patterns visible on the page. For example, in the second map, after one watches the Great Migration progress and mass amounts of Black persons leave the South in great numbers a series of plot points appear that compare the drastically changing populations in cities across the country in 1910 and 1970. Observing the rapidly falling populations in many of the same states that presented such high numbers of lynchings in the previous map links the two trends together to imply cause and effect. In addition to this, by scrolling up, one can find a range of videos and audio recordings of individual stories that recall flights from racial terror. This implicit narrative brings together two separate data sets to draw out the connections between them.While not based on any data collection or research from a university or public history field, the Lynching in America project demonstrates how historians and others interested in spatial humanities can use these tools to create narratives and show large-scale patterns in personal and targeted ways.

Digital Scholarship

The ever-changing development of digital scholarship in history opens up many possibilities for locating sources, grouping information, and analyzing data. The availability of digital tools drastically changes the ways in which historians do research by offering many searchable databases and programs for visualizing and manipulating data. Some of the great advantages of digital scholarship is the accessible and unchanging nature of online archives. Especially valuable for me, the ability to return to a text multiple times is crucial as my research projects are constantly evolving. For many, not all of the sources that they need to complete history scholarship are within close distance, so having searchable, annotatable, and savable digitized documents available allows for an easy process as projects change.

Same Data, New Tools

Also helpful, digital tools that allow historians to manipulate data can reveal larger patterns and processes that are otherwise undetectable. While experimenting with the features of Public Tableau earlier in the semester I watched as seventeenth century burial records that I had previously struggled to find meaning in revealed greater patterns of migration, age distribution, and gender attitudes. I tested a single data set within different graph, map, and table structures to consider the various ways of finding meaning in quantitative data. Using digital tools in historical scholarship allows academics and students to expand the questions being asked and the processes through which they find answers. However, those wary of new technologies might be agree that computation and visualization tools can only contribute so much to the research process. Because the numbers, percentages, and categories represented in graphs, maps, tables, and trees are only representations and calculations about people, places, distances, time, and objects one cannot separate the conclusive trends these tools reveal from the specific examples highlighted within the original sources. Because of this, historians will likely continue to devote significant amounts of time to studying examples and outliers alike. For instance, while the graph I produced about how individuals entered within the burial records displayed relational identifications, this generalization obscures the few young women who were identified simply by name.

You Can Always Return to the Details

Another way in which I have already found my own work transforming because of digital tools is through search tools. Some of the sources that I rely on the most are colonial land records and proprietary minutes which span many volumes, each hundreds of pages. In “Googling the Victorians” Patrick Leary argues that the ability to visually scan analog sources remains essential to the discipline. Many of these sources I have consulted in at least their print forms, because much important data is not searchable such as specific land features and events without known dates. However, the value of being able to turn toward a computer to sift through thousands of pages is immeasurable, especially when focusing on specific towns or persons.

Digital tools enable students of history like myself to save large expenses of time and immediately understand a source before delving too deeply into its content. In “No Computer Left Behind”, Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig propose that history classrooms encourage students to use technology to find easily answerable historical questions and devote more time to deeper learning. Specifically, while researching land disputes in seventeenth century East Jersey the ability to quickly locate land records allows me to dedicate more time to analyzing the systems in which these transactions took place and their impacts on inhabitants of the region. Relying on search tools does not mean that historians do not read extensively into texts but rather that they read more efficiently.


Copyright issues often lay in the background of digital historians’s work as it poses many inconvenient and ambiguous problems to individuals and institutions researching and publishing on the Internet. Copyright law, by its nature, limits the sharing of ideas and materials, which is a major component of digital history.

Of course, copyright protections ought to be regarded to an extent to avoid legal struggles with other content creators and to set a precedent of acknowledging the contributions of others. However, at a certain point, digital historians must step away from their copyright anxieties and trust their ability to understand what materials and ideas about the past fall in the public domain. Most small historical museums and institutions with limited funding and staffing cannot afford to invest too much time or resources into investigating every single tricky legal debate about copyright.

Compared to scholars and writers before the 1990s, Digital historians have a unique relationship to copyright, as their content uses new mediums and reaches new audiences. In many ways, the aspects of the Internet that make it such a valuable tool for  historians also make it such a liability to those sharing and publishing materials online. Digital history, in all of its forms, takes advantage of the newness of the Internet to offer novel ways to engage with the past. However, the evolving nature of digital platforms and programs also offers copyright lawyers and policy makers new territory to legally define that often cannot be predicted until issues arise. This characteristic of copyright on the Internet can be unsettling to small organizations and independent creators of digital history content in much the same way that small businesses can feel threatened by the legal and political power of large corporations. In the “Property” excerpt of Free Culture it portrays the Internet as yet another new technology entering the free market that ought not to be given new rules that favor work on older technologies. This idea is interesting when considered alongside the claim by Cohen and Rosenzweig that active policing of copyright is often motivated by trademark concerns.

So what does this mean for public historians on the Internet specifically? Because copyright law is subject to multiple interpretations the rules are not clearcut. This poses particular problems for institutions that are undergoing digitization, digital preservation,  and 3D scanning projects. This extra liability is especially apparent when a decades old publisher is difficult to locate or contact. For example, has made widely available a number of print histories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries about Newark, New Jersey published by individuals who are no longer living. In these cases, how can a small institution be sure that they have rights to each text and all of the images reproduced within them?

Digital Preservation

Because of the tremendous possibilities available for digitization and born digital archives, digital preservation is a necessary concern for historians to consider. Huge quantities of important data can be lost if historians, archivists, librarians, and institutions do not prioritize preservation as part of their digital work. The primary advantage of digital history is the possibility to engage with documents, data, and objects of the past in new ways. These sites and programs allow users to experience, explore, and study history through searchability, storage, annotation, linking, and zooming. However, even when records are preserved, they often lose these features.

For example, perhaps the easiest way to back up much historical data, especially written sources and text files, is through physically printing the objects. This allows for materials to be stored away from computer systems and to be circulated and referenced if the digital copies disappear. This option is most attractive to historians who are wary of digital history. However, once the texts, images, and information are converted to this digital format they lose much of their value, as they are no longer able to be resized, reformatted, or searched. Specifically, a possibility that endangers the many oral history collections that have come about in the last several decades is the loss of audio files or access to them. While transcriptions of oral histories can be easily printed in physical form, these printed transcriptions cannot capture the valuable tones, voices, and expressions of emotion provided by audio files.

Another major way in which digital preservation can accomplished incompletely is through the processes of data migration and technology emulation. Unlike the preservation method described previously, these approaches allow historical data to be saved, moved, and shared within their digital form. However, beyond this, the formats and specific characteristics of these files and information are subject to change throughout the processes, particularly endangering their usability features. Additionally, while the files can be moved and the technological environment largely recreated, this does not guarantee that the data will remain compatible and accessible to all previous and potential users of the records.

Thinking about how digital preservation efforts risk the loss of convenience and usefulness of historical objects and information should be a major priority for historians in the future. Of course, preservation of any kind is preferable to not taking any action in this regard, as Roy Rosenzweig warns in “Scarcity or Abundance?”. However, when choosing how we will preserve digital history it ought to also be considered what the value of each record is within its digital form.

Coincidentally, while preparing to post this reflection, I witnessed firsthand the dangers that technology poses for historical text and objects. By simply deleting a few characters off of an Omeka URL setting by mistake (making it identical to the WordPress URL, the whole collection of information posted on WordPress became hidden behind Omeka. This, of course, is a very specific problem that will not relate to all digitally stored and created records, but it demonstrates the fragile nature of digital data and the need to pay attention to the technological environment as well as the continued accessibility to files as one works to preserve digital history.

Digital Libraries & Archives: Imperfect but Invaluable

Digitization of print texts has greatly transformed the way in which academics and the public engage with historical work and data. Just like many innovations in the digital world that increase the efficiency of researching history, the digitization of primary and secondary sources have allowed people to cut the time they spend searching for historical information. Yet, also like other technological advances of our time, the increased efficiency of digital history reading also threatens to alter our relationship with books and records of the past.

Digitized Secondary Sources

Beginning first with consideration of digitized secondary sources, I spent some time searching for historical texts that I have previously read in their physical form. Reading sources I am familiar with in a new way underscored that the process of reading historical books on websites such as Google Books both adds features that can make reading more efficient and that take away some of the conveniences of a physical book.

In one of them, Mark Krasovic’s The Newark Frontier: Community Action in the Great Society nearly every page was available to read, which is incredible for a book new as of 2016. I last consulted this text writing a historiography on Newark, where I recall struggling to get a hard copy of the recently published book. Had I known this was available at the time, I could have saved myself much trouble. However, I remember heavily annotating this book with post-it notes, a feature that is impossible on Google Books. Ironically the part of the book I needed the most for a historiography assignment, the notes, are the most incomplete part of the digitized text so this would have been of little help.

Also, in Carmen Teresa Whalen’s From Puerto Rico to Philadelphia: Puerto Rican Workers and Postwar Economies I sought to test the “search in this book” feature. The greatest strength for these digitized books is the ability to quickly scroll through texts and to quickly navigate key words.  When I had last read this book, I was using it to understand the regional context around Puerto Rican workers and activists in nearby 1950s-1960s Trenton, a subject that can be found in no other book. Remembering the time I spent sifting through the book for mentions of these workers and residents across the Pennsylvania-New Jersey line, I tried the simple “New Jersey” search on Google books and immediately came up with a dozen references. One drawback was immediately clear here, as each mention of the state appeared on a page with “no preview”. However, the ability to at least know where to look in a physical book for a term that does not appear in the book’s index is a valuable time-saver.

A more serious issue results from the failure of the site to link all chapters in both of these books under the navigation bar. Advertised as a way to skip between chapters, clicking on the navigation drop menu only gives opportunities to locate to some of the chapters. Similarly, from the index and endnotes of both texts only certain pages link to the content pages, providing only partial convenience. This can be frustrating to a user and can cause a reader to overlook parts of a text.

Digitized Primary Sources

Online archives similarly make the research process for historians easier while also not offering the complete benefits of visiting an archive and browsing through physical documents. The two documents I searched from the Open Content Alliance are also ones in which I have looked at in the past in physical format. The first, The Grants, Concessions, and Original Constitutions of the Province of New-Jersey is an edited compilation originally published in the late 18th century of Early American laws in East and West Jersey. I have used this on several different research projects to track changing laws in the period. The ability to search for words within this volume is enormously useful as this book is not organized logically in any geographical or chronological order. Additionally, while I own a hard copy of this book, the 763 page Concessions can be a pain to carry around with me. Having it in a digital format allows me to reference this important source wherever I am. One drawback, however, results (similarly to Google Books) from the inability to save pages on With the physical book I can color code flags to pair related laws and policies, which is nearly impossible on the Internet. One way around this is to download the file as a edit-able PDF but this often overloads my computer so is not a reasonable option.

Another source I located on the site that I have used frequently is the Town Records of Newark, New Jersey 1666-1836. I relied on these records very strongly during my undergraduate thesis on 17th century Newark, so having a legible and complete copy was important. Two different copies of this edited source have been digitized, each offering a significantly different view despite being of the same edition. The first, contributed by University of California Libraries, appears most like the physical book housed in many libraries, with faded pages that can be hard to read. It features a long map (several pages wide) of 1806 Newark which provides much important information about the town layout and population size. The other one, digitized by Google, had scanned the pages in such a way that increased the contrast of the image, with words appearing darker and the background whiter. This makes it much easier to read than the first, but it also allows readers to forget the age of this typed copy. The second one also has been scanned without folding out the map page, causing readers of this version to miss a critical part of the document. The clear difference between these two versions on the same digital platform demonstrates the extent to which different factors can affect the digitized appearance of a primary source.

Both of the primary sources discussed here are printed in book form, so when I say I own copies of them of course I am talking about as edited typed versions. Rarely do primary sources from this period appear on sites like or other large databases, although they are sometimes digitized by state archives or local historical societies. Still though, these appear in smaller numbers meaning that most of the primary sources available on Open Content Alliance are ones that have already been printed in mass quantities.


Without a doubt, solely having historical sources available in digital form heavily detracts from its value as a resource. However, as an option available in addition to physical copies, one is not required to choose between the two and can benefit from the strengths of both.

Visualizing Dutch Church Records in East Jersey!

First of all, I really enjoyed this exercise and becoming familiar with the many options for organizing, contrasting, categorizing, and combining data in Tableau Public. However, one problem that I encountered in this process underscored the dangers of digital data storage. Long story short, in updating my software to prepare for the new program, my computer struggled to retrieve many of the files, bookmarks, and notes I had accumulated over the past week (including the ones later used here). Before beginning this post about the exciting possibilities of data visualization, the issue of first and foremost protecting previous data is an important reminder. Because what is data visualization without the data to begin with?

To experiment with data visualization, I used Tableau Public to display the earliest burial records from Bergen, New Jersey’s Reformed Protestant Dutch Church. With the goal to use data visualization tools to understand the population size, geographic spread, and social structure of the largest Dutch community in the first decade of British East Jersey, this project focused on the burial records of church members between the years 1666-1680.

Example 1: Graphing Names & Identities

This first graph (above) demonstrates the ability to visualize the language reflected in early American church records. These lists have always struck me as inconsistent in whether or not they name the individual, which seems like an important detail in books documenting death. To create a better understanding of why these entries are so different, I organized the data to reflect both who was identified and unidentified and what family descriptors were being used. After mapping these first fifty data points, it became quickly apparent that adult men were always named and never described in terms of family relations in these early Dutch documents, while  children were rarely mentioned by name, and even adult women, described always as either “married” or “widowed” to a named man, were less consistently identified. The graph presents an interesting burial trend that can tell historians much about gender and age relations in East Jersey’s Dutch communities.

Example 2: Graphing Populations

This second graph, taken from the exact same data entries used above tells a very different story based on these early burial records of Bergen’s Reformed Protestant Dutch Church. Created also on Tableau Public, it calculates the number of burials based on date and places of residence rather than on the individuals. In the end, it provides insight into the number of burials recorded each year as well as the spread of Dutch church members across geographic locations in the area. Some more striking estimates and changes in the the population of Dutch persons in late seventeenth century East Jersey could become even more apparent with the expansion of this data visualization into vital records of  later decades.

While I invested the bulk of my time on this assignment testing out the different features of the program to understand all of the ways in which I could manipulate the extensive church data, the fifty entries that I included are immensely helpful in revealing some general trends from the period that are often difficult to read in their original formats and in demonstrating the possibilities for further analyzing such information.

Public History Website Review

In this post, I will review both Princeton University’s Princeton & Slavery  and The Junto: A Group Blog on Early American History. Both of these websites offer useful information on easily navigable pages that can be reached by all users, making them valuable public history resources.  However, both group of creators also appear to define their public audience very differently.

Princeton & Slavery

Although many years in the making, the Princeton & Slavery website has only been open to the public for the past year. It represents a really incredible effort to begin a conversation about the Princeton University’s long and extensive history with slavery. The idea itself is not novel, as roughly fifteen other universities have similarly created websites to showcase how these institutional histories are linked closely with slavery. However, the website has stretched the possibilities for how these sites can reach new audiences and include room for growth. Upon the site’s launch, Princeton & Slavery immediately made available 360 primary source documents and eighty narratives interpreting the documents and specifically their relation to national, institutional, and local contexts.

The “About Princeton & Slavery” page describes the project as a collaborative one: “The Princeton & Slavery Project is an ongoing investigation. We invite you to explore the many stories and documents included here and to contact us with research, stories, and ideas of your own.” It is presented as an effort begun by students and professors of the university that invites outside contributions. Collaborating with local partners the findings of the project have been used in musical theater performances, short plays, and video productions. Explicitly including community groups into the project plays two key functions in reaching the public. First, by encouraging others to display the research in videos, performances, and exhibitions, the history can reach new audiences outside of the traditional readers of university online materials. Additionally, by encouraging local engagement, the relevance of the part that Princeton (as a town) played in the development and continuation of slavery is further underscored for local residents.

One key feature missing from the site is some way for people to be able to share feedback or add their own interpretations of the sources. On one side, the fact that each set of documents couples with a writing by a historian in the field guarantees expertise on the subject, it also leaves out room for local knowledge and memory. Aside from this, Princeton & Slavery makes an important contribution to public history sites of Early America and the 19th Century US by making available many documents and contextual stories about often under-discussed slavery in the northern East Coast. Directly providing links to other similar university projects also connects readers of the site with further examples for continuing the “ongoing investigation”.

The Junto

Created by scholars of Early American History in 2012, The Junto has published almost 1,000 blog posts related to the field. Unlike scholarly journals that usually include longer articles, take months to publish, and offer little potential for direct discussion, various authors and guest writers collectively contribute roughly fifteen posts a month that focus on recent research, debates, or events. Created for the purpose of encouraging dialogue on relevant historical topics, the site offers a comment section below each blog post and a general forum.

An important question I have often wondered about this site is who exactly is its audience. According to it’s “about” page, The Junto aims to bring together “early Americanists and those interested in early American history”. Keeping to its word, all of the site’s content is accessible to academics and hobbyists alike. In my own life, I can think of many people, not trained as historians, who would be interested in the posts “Podcasts for Thanksgiving” and “#WhatComesNext? Book Ideas for the Hamilton Lover in Your Life”. One way of reaching a wider audience is through the two podcasts created by the blog. The Junto prominently displays links for both of these on its homepage, encouraging online browsers to look into downloading the podcasts.

The Junto might be most valuable for those who have not yet entered or have left higher education/academic universities. Because of the expensive price of many academic databases like JSTOR, one who cannot afford access can easily miss much of the discussion and work about Early America. In such a case, one could access the following blog posts to keep in the loop: “Doing Digital History 2016: A Recap”, “It’s Pronounced ‘Woo-ster’: The OIEAHC’s 22nd Annual Conference Recap”, “What’s Livetweeting For, Anyway?”, and “The Digital Antiquarian: Keeping It Old, Making It New”.

Despite this, the focus of the site does still remain on Early America as an academic discipline that belongs foremost to universities. Few of the hundreds of posts make any reference to historic sites and museums that also have a part in shaping public access to historical knowledge. With a larger focus on academic research and teaching, a resource page includes a general bibliography “of (mostly academic) books” and shares information about upcoming conferences and funding opportunities. Although the focus of the site clearly tends toward academic interests, its mission to make information about the field available to all who are interested in Early America invites potential students and history enthusiasts to keep up with, and even take part in, Early American historical dialogue.