History 9808: Digital Public History (Fall 2016)

Course Description:

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 is intended for students in the Public History MA program.


Blogging: 25%
Participation: 20%
Podcast: 15%
Place-based History Project: 15%
Independent Project: 15%
Reflection Paper: 10%
Blogging: 25%. Blogging and other forms of social media engagement play an important role in this course. This is a vital skill for public historians to become comfortable with and master. Students should blog and tweet about their work, their thoughts on digital and public history, and other aspects of their professional development. Blogs will be discussed in class each week.

Podcast: 15%. Each student is required to lead and upload a podcast. 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%. 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.

Independent Project: 15%. Students explore a digital technology and its current and potential applications for public history. There are a variety of potential assignments students can complete such as 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 proficiency and attainment. 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 Nov. 24.

Reflection Paper: 10%. A 10-12 page reflection paper (ca. 2500 words) must accompany the final submission of the independent project on Dec. 1. Details to be discussed in class.

Weekly Seminar Schedule:

Sept. 8: Part I: Introduction to the Public History Program (With Michelle Hamilton and Mike Dove).

Part II: What is Digital Public History?

Sept. 15: Engaging Audiences with Digital Media, Podcasting, and Video.

Sept. 22: Place-Based Digital History

Sept. 29: Introduction to Processing (Guest Lecturer: Devon Elliot).

Oct. 6:  Place-based History Prep and Planning (Podcast Due)

Oct. 13: Ethics and Dark Histories

Oct. 20: Introduction to GIS (Visit to the Map and Data Centre, D.B Weldon Library).

Oct. 27: Fall Study Break. No class.

Oct. 31: Place-based History Assignment Due

Nov. 3:  Digital Preservation, Sharing, and Crowdsourcing

Nov. 10: Digital History Games and Simulations.

Nov. 17:The Digital Museum

Nov. 24: Presentations/fine-tuning independent projects.

Dec. 1: Independent Assignments and Papers Due