History 9808: Digital Public History (2022)


This course introduces students to the theory and practice of digital techniques for public history. It explores methods of presenting, communicating, researching, and reconstructing history with digital technology in ways that deepen the public understanding of the past, and foster the inculcation of historical thinking skills. Digital public history can preserve the past and make it more accessible, but its affordances can also challenge authoritative narratives and complicate our experiences with history in surprising ways.

History 9808 complements material in History 9800 and is intended for students in the Public History MA program.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of the course, students will have:

  • a familiarity with many of the digital technologies used by public historians, museums, and heritage sites.
  • an understanding of how historical communities, identities, and consciousness are formed online.
  • experimented with a variety of digital platforms.
  • an understanding of the pedagogical, ethical, and practical problems found in digital public history.
  • developed skills to research, evaluate, and apply new media for public history.

Methods of Evaluation:
Blogging: 25%
Participation: 20%
Podcast: 15% (Due Sept. 29)
Place-based Digital History Project: 15% (Due. Oct. 27)
Research Project: 25% (Due Dec. 8)

Blogging: 25%. Blogging and other forms of social media engagement play an important role in this course. Students must write publicly about their work, share their thoughts on digital and public history, and other aspects of their professional development. This can be done as a traditional blog or students can explore other social media platforms or techniques. Student work will be discussed in class each week.

Podcast: 15%. Due Sept. 29 Each student is required to create and upload a podcast or video. The format – documentary style, essay, or free flowing discussion – is up to the individual student. More details will be provided in class.

Place-Based History: 15% Due Oct. 27. Using one of the digital platforms explored in class, students must design a functional tour or place-based history lesson, game, or other experience.

Participation: 20%. Students should be prepared to actively participate in class discussions.

Research Project: 25% Due. Dec. 8. Students explore a digital technology and its current and potential applications for public history. There are a variety of forms this assignment can take from an experiment with a digital platform or software with an accompanying paper (15% experiment and 10% paper) or a more traditional investigation of a digital topic (25% essay). Possible assignments could include digital landscaping, 3D modelling, augmented reality, visualization projects, website creation, game design etc. Details and options will be explored in class. Because students will begin the course with varied levels of experience, evaluation of this final assignment will focus on student willingness to engage with and think about the technology, and not necessarily on technical outcome. Students must submit a proposal outlining the project and the digital tools they propose to use and will present their work to the class on Dec. 1. Due Dec. 8.

Course Schedule:
Sept 8: Introduction to Digital Public History
Sept. 15: Public Engagement, Crowdsourcing, and Shared Authority
Sept. 22: Pseudohistory, Misinformation, and Public History.
Sept. 29: Introduction to Digital Mapping and GIS.
Oct. 6: Place-Based Digital History. (Podcast Due).
Oct. 13: StoryMaps with Liz Sutherland
Oct. 20: Virtual Museums, Material Culture, and Digital Reproduction
Oct. 27: Ethics, Dark History Tourism, and Digital Public History. (Place-based History Assignment Due)
Nov. 3: Fall Study Break. No class.
Nov 10: Digital History Games, Play, and Simulations
Nov. 17: Digital Genealogy
Nov. 24: The Future of Digital Public History
Dec. 1: Independent Project Workshop
Dec. 8: Independent Assignments and Papers Due