Student Learning Through Digital History Projects

December 30, 2009 by

Teaching at a small liberal arts college means that most of my digital humanities work focuses on the classroom. During the fall 2009 semester, both my Colonial Latin American History course and my Global History course built digital history exhibits using Omeka: Colonial Latin American Material Culture and Global History before 1000ce.  Both of these projects involved students curating a range of primary and secondary sources to build a larger historical argument.  During THATCamp, I’d like to share ideas about student learning through digital history projects.

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About Amanda French: (Please ask any THATCamp questions on the THATCamp forums at -- I'm no longer THATCamp Coordinator.) I am now a member of the THATCamp Council, and I am the former THATCamp Coordinator and Research Assistant Professor at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, in which capacity I provided support for THATCamp organizers and participants, maintained, traveled to some (not all!) THATCamps, and directed large-scale projects such as the Proceedings of THATCamp. Before that, I worked with the NYU Archives and Public History program on an NHPRC-funded project to create a model digital curriculum for historian-archivists. I held the Council on Library and Information Resources Postdoctoral Fellowship at NCSU Libraries from 2004 to 2006, and afterward taught graduate and undergraduate courses at NCSU in Victorian literature and poetry as well as in the digital humanities and in advanced academic research methods. At the University of Virginia, while earning my doctorate in English, I encoded texts in first SGML and then XML for the Rossetti Archive and the Electronic Text Center. My 2004 dissertation was a history of the villanelle, the poetic form of Dylan Thomas' "Do not go gentle into that good night" and Elizabeth Bishop's "One Art."

5 Responses to Student Learning Through Digital History Projects

  1. Erin Bell on December 30, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    Hi Katie,

    We’ve also been using Omeka with various groups, including middle and secondary teachers in our TAH workshops, and undergrad and graduate students in the History Dept. (see: I like the fact that your students are not just collecting and exhibiting existing artifacts but also engaging in original content creation such as the multimedia slideshows. Looking forward to hearing more about your approach and experience.

  2. Lewis Ulman on January 1, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Delighted to hear about this project! The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN –, which I co-direct with my colleague Cynthia Selfe, is about to issue a call for guest curators to create digital exhibits based on subsets of the 900+ literacy narratives currently in the archive. I look forward to learning more about your project!

  3. Eric Limbach on January 7, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Those are both really impressive projects, and I can’t wait to hear more from you on the mechanics of putting something together on that scale, especially considering the technical aspects (Omeka isn’t difficult, but there is a learning curve). Did you have some students who were willing/able to help out their peers? With my students, I’ve stuck with smaller-scale (individual/small group) projects – websites, podcasts, new wikipedia entries – but I really like the idea of a large scale, full-class project.

  4. Marjorie McLellan on January 11, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    I found Omeka to be a terrific learning tool as well. However, we did run into problems regarding copyright for the materials that students assembled as well as with permissions to make student work public. I would like to learn more about the assignments and logistics. I will be using Omeka again for student assignments during Spring Quarter.

  5. skuceyeski on January 12, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    We like to have teachers who participate in our Teaching American History grants complete final projects. We have been using History Day as a model, but I’d be interested in possibly incorporating your ideas into what we are already doing. Looking forward to it!

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