NITLE Shared Academics: Doing Digital History with Undergraduates - TEI


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As students increasingly draw upon digital content as a primary source of information, how might they be taught to be both discriminating consumers as well as producers of online information? Doing history rather than teaching history is not a new approach, but the “doing” part of researching, writing, and publishing now includes drawing upon and creating digitized resources. In this NITLE Shared Academics seminar, NITLE subject-area specialist Michelle Moravec, Aaron Cowan, assistant professor of history at Slippery Rock University, and Kathryn Tomasek, associate professor of history at Wheaton College, provided concrete examples from their own work, and examined the opportunities and challenges of integrating digital humanities into the undergraduate curriculum. These are Dr. Kathryn Tomasek's slides.

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  • Over the past seven years, undergraduates at Wheaton College in Massachusetts have participated in transcribing and marking up primary sources from the Wheaton College Archives and Special Collections (WCASC).  The work I have done with them and a team of colleagues in Library and Information Services (LIS) has shaped the development of the Wheaton College Digital History Project (WCDHP), in which collaborations that include a faculty member, the College Archivist and Special Collections Curator, the Technology Liaison for Humanities, and undergraduates have been contributing to the digitization of a hidden collection.  The project focuses on documents related to the founding and early years of Wheaton Female Seminary, an institution for the higher education of women that was founded in 1834, and became a college in 1911.  The school was founded by the Wheaton family, and documents authored by Eliza Baylies Wheaton and her husband Laban Morey Wheaton are particularly abundant and instructive.
  • In fact at the time we began our work, most digitization projects that used TEI employed either graduate students or professional staff to transcribe and markup texts. Things have changed a lot over the past nine years. I understand that yesterday’s speakers were Northwestern undergraduates who have been working with Martin Mueller, who is a longtime member of the TEI community. In our case, LIS staff members and I collaborated in adding a TEI module to an introductory-level U.S. Women’s History course in Fall 2004. Students learned about the economic uncertainties in the lives of unmarried white women by transcribing and marking up the journal of Maria E. Wood, the daughter of a Baptist minister from Maine. During the period covered in the journal, Wood wrote about events in her life in Upper Alton, Illinois, about her father’s illness, about the family’s move back to New England, and about her life in the year following her father’s death. In a scaffolded assignment, each student was assigned a set of pages from the journal to transcribe, and then groups of students marked up the entire journal using themes from the course: family, work, religion, and death and mourning. Students responded to the assignment quite positively, noting that it was the first time they had ever had the opportunity to work with original sources. They expressed a sense of having gotten to know Wood and having understood the past better than they ever had before. We wrote up and published our experience, and I’ll be happy to share a copy (the journal is behind a pay wall).
  • Coincidentally, our encounters with TEI happened in the same year that our College Archivist and Curator of Special Collections received word of pocket diaries that had been kept by Eliza Baylies Wheaton and were available for purchase. She had long known of the existence of such diaries, but none had been preserved in the Wheaton Family Collection. Our recent success with the Maria E. Wood journal, combined with the presence on campus of students with experience using XML/TEI gave us the opportunity to propose the creation of digital editions of the diaries and a travel journal from 1862. (to paper)
  • In spring 2009, our project took a new turn
  • As students in the research methods course for History majors began to transcribe and mark up pages from the daybook
  • That Laban Morey Wheaton kept between 1828 and 1859. This book records financial transactions that reflect some of the range of Wheaton’s business interests during those thirty years, including agricultural pursuits and rentals for land and houses as well as tax collections, fees for legal services, and the operation of a general store in Norton, Massachusetts.
  • Students transcribed page spreads from the day book in courses I taught in spring 2009 and spring 2010. Here you see a detail. Handout—scaffolded assignment.
  • Paper p. 4
  • Paper p. 5
  • NITLE Shared Academics: Doing Digital History with Undergraduates - TEI

    1. 1. Project-Based Learning, Undergraduat e Research, and Digital Methods in the Wheaton College Digital History Project Kathryn Tomasek Wheaton College, Massachusetts NITLE Webinar, 14 May 2014
    2. 2. “do history” American Historical Association
    3. 3. Inquiry-based Learning How Students Learn (2005) National Research Council
    4. 4. High-Impact Practices Project LEAP: Liberal Education and America’s Promise American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
    5. 5. Extensible Markup Language (XML)
    6. 6. Guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)
    7. 7. The Wheaton College Digital History Project
    8. 8. Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton Laban Morey Wheaton Founders of Wheaton Female Seminary
    9. 9. Maria E. Wood Journal U.S. Women’s History Fall 2004
    10. 10. Eliza Baylies Wheaton Travel Journal & Pocket Diaries Spring 2005 Summers 2005-2008
    11. 11. Teaching Historical Methods with Text Encoding
    12. 12. History 302 Junior Colloquium Methods course for History majors Intended to be taken the semester prior to taking capstone course—Senior Seminar Students in Senior Seminar are expected to write a research paper of at least twenty pages, not including front and back matter The paper must be based on original research in primary sources. Assignment meant to model the process of research and writing
    13. 13. Day Book Daily accounting of transactions that reflect the many business activities of Laban Morey Wheaton between 1828 and 1859 Payments Rents Land, equipment Taxes Postage Labor Purchases Food Fabrics and sewing supplies Lumber and building supplies
    14. 14. Long Term Collaborations Building a database that can be used in future assignments Files available for use in other courses on campus. Computer Science Diaries and accounts can be coded for analysis in US History courses. Eventually, files will be available for use on other campuses. We built a website for the Wheaton College Digital History Project in 2010. TAPAS Project has created a tool that will publish XML files; it has just launched These projects feed my own research about women, work, and economy in the nineteenth-century United States.
    15. 15. TAPAS: TEI Archiving, Publication, and Access Service
    16. 16. Transcription and markup, as part of scaffolded assignments in which students engage deeply with archival materials and write about the stories they uncover, offer one model for the effective use of digital tools in teaching the practice of history to undergraduates.
    17. 17.