Digital history is coming to York University in Fall 2016. That is to say, I finally got around to organizing and preparing to teach digital history. As I get ready to teach this course, I am surveying the landscape of digital history teaching in Canada, looking for ideas. Readers of this article, I hope, will help by posting suggestions and links to resources in the comments below.
For many years now, I have integrated digital history skills, assignments, and exercises into my history courses. This has included the development of a couple collaborative digital history projects in my fourth-year research seminar on the history of Toronto. “Development of Toronto: Urban Histories of Toronto and Its Region” is a collaboratively produced website featuring original student Web essays on topics in Toronto history. “Stories of the Development of Toronto” is a new collaborative project to develop audio tours of historic sites in Toronto. Using the tools provided by IZI.travel, we are developing tours that are integrated into a mobile app and website.
Building upon these types of digital history projects, I will now be offering a dedicated course in digital history. Last week, I launched the website for this course at digitalhist.com. The overall learning objectives for the course are to:
- Introduce students to key tools and technologies used in historical scholarship and public history
- Discuss and debate key issues concerning the use of digital technologies in history
- Engage in practical hands-on exercises in the use of such technologies
Based on these three learning objectives, I have designed this as a lab course. Students will meet once a week for a 3-hour session in a computer lab. Part of the session will be devoted to discussion of a given topic in digital history and the remainder of the class will focus on a lab exercise. I also hope to include some field trips to get us out of the classroom.
Because much of this course will focus on issues concerning open access to scholarly research and public history, I have decided to use a publicly-accessible website for course management. I am basically adopting the same approach as MIT’s OpenCourseWare. This will allow others to see how I have organized the course and to follow its progress as students work through the different topics and issues. The syllabus, readings, lab modules, and assignments will all be available to anyone who visits the site. The site also includes a blog, which will feature some of my writing and the writing of my students. Taking this one step further, I am publicly developing the syllabus on the course website here:
Readers can follow the development of the syllabus and post suggestions and comments here.
Obviously, I am following the footsteps of many other history professors who currently teach digital history. To guide my course development, I have been looking at syllabi for other digital history courses. This has led me to survey where digital history is offered in Canada. While there are plenty of courses now offered in digital humanities, I was interested in seeing how many such courses explicitly focus on history. I have also excluded courses listed as “Public History” and “Historical Methodology”. Again, many of those courses include digital history elements, but they are not necessarily focused exclusively on digital history.
In Canada, digital history is not yet a core course in history departments. Where it is taught largely depends on the faculty. Usually, one particular faculty member has initiated the introduction of digital history teaching into the curriculum and that faculty member typically sustains one or two courses on an individual basis. I found a couple instances in which digital history is occasionally taught as a special topics course, again on the initiative of an individual instructor rather than part of a core set of course offerings.
University of Western Ontario offers one of the widest ranges of courses in digital history. Here the influence of William Turkel, a leading scholar in the field of digtial history and digital humanities, is obvious. Wilfrid Laurier University offers a similar range of courses at the undergraduate level and even includes an “Applied Digital Option” for history majors. According to the program’s website, the Applied Digital Option “prepares students in the use of digital methods to manage and interrogate information, and educates them in how to disseminate their findings in creative ways.” Other universities offer single courses, usually upper-level courses. I found two graduate programs that current offer digital history. Occasionally, these courses appear to be tied to public history programs.
From what little syllabus information I could find, digital history courses in Canada tend to focus on a range uses of digital technologies in historical scholarship and public history. Broadly speaking, this includes the digitization of historical documents, search and analysis of historical records, and the dissemination of historical research findings via digital technologies. Almost all the courses included both academic and applied elements. Blogging as an assignment also seems to be common.
Overall, the landscape of digital history teaching in Canada is uneven. There are no standard textbooks and no common structures to such courses. This, I think, is exciting. It means that there are many opportunities for curricular innovation and experimentation. However, the range of course offerings is still quite limited. I was only able to find information about courses offered at
eleven fourteen fifteen universities across Canada. Most of this was concentrated in Ontario and few courses are offered in French. The close connection between course offerings and specific faculty members strongly suggests that hiring priorities will determine the extent to which digital history spreads to curriculum at other universities.
Readers can find a working list of courses offered in digital history at Canadian universities below. This list is based on published course information from department websites and may not include all digital history courses offered in Canada. If you are teaching digital history at a university or college in Canada and I missed your course, please post it in the comments section below. I’d also appreciate any suggestions as I continue to develop my course. You can post responses to my syllabus document or post comments to this article below.
Here is a working list of courses offered in digital history at Canadian universities:
***Updated 12 April 2016***
HIST 2F27 Historical Geographic Information Systems
HIST 3P36 Digital Innovations: History and Computing 1
HIST 3P37 Digital Innovations: History and Computing 2
HIST 3F31 Virtual Worlds and the Discipline of History
HIST 5V71 Humanities Computing
HIST3907O Crafting Digital History
HIST5702W: Digital History as Public History Performance
HIST 388 Telling Stories: Oral History, Memoryscapes and Digital Storytelling
Huron College at University of Western Ontario
HIST 2897F Digital History and American Popular Culture
Université de Montréal
Université du Québec à Montréal
HIS7008 Initiation à l’informatique de recherche en histoire
Université de Sherbrooke
HST 279 L’informatique appliquée à l’histoire
University of Manitoba
HIST 3340 Studies in the History of Digital Culture
HIST 7382 Archiving in the Digital Age
University of New Brunswick
HIST 6388 Understanding the Virtual Past: Making Digital History
University of Saskatchewan
University of Toronto
HIS 389H1-S, L0201 Topics in History: Digital History
HIS 495Y1-Y, L0101 Topics in History: Hacking History
University of Waterloo
University of Western Ontario
HIST 2816A Introduction to Digital History
HIST 9877A Digital Research Methods
University of Windsor
History 397 History on the Web
HI286 Interpreting Digital Data
HI393 Multimedia Applications in History
Applied Digital Option in History
Sean Kheraj is an associate professor of Canadian and environmental history at York University. He is also the director and editor-in-chief of the Network in Canadian History and Environment. For more info, visit seankheraj.com.
Hi Sean, I’m Assoc Prof in History at Ryerson Univ. I developed & taught for first time last term “History and New Media”. Taught it as a collaboration with 3 digital librarians in our Digital Media Experience lab in the RU library/SLC.
You might be interested in these:
HIST3907O: Crafting Digital History http://craftingdigitalhistory.ca
HIST5702W: Digital History as Public History Performance http://grad.craftingdigitalhistory.ca
Thanks for posting your course to the comments. Is there a course number or website link available?
Hi Sean, I don’t teach digital history per se, but there is a substantive lab component in my DMO 2700 Histoire des populations transatlantiques course at the Université de Montréal in which I show students how to access and analyze historical census micro data. Cheers, Lisa
I hope too that I was clear that several course descriptions that I found included digital history elements. This was especially true for public history and methodologies courses. In fact, I’m quite glad to see digital history integrated into other history courses rather than being isolated to individual separate courses.
Thanks for this post, Sean. My university (the University of Lethbridge) doesn’t currently have any digital history offerings, and I’m very interested in integrating more digital tools and assignments in my history of childhood courses — so am looking forward to checking out these syllabi and will follow the comments thread with interest!
Glad you found this useful. I noticed Lethbridge doesn’t yet offer digital history. It makes sense, I think, to continue to integrate digital history assignments and exercises into existing curriculum.
Thanks also to Shawn for sharing links to some additional courses. There are a lot of digital history courses that have been previously offered as special topics courses that are not currently offered so I wasn’t able to capture many of those in my search.
By the way, here is the link to HIS 500 History and New Media at Ryerson University. Looks like a fantastic course!
I should also note that several universities and history departments have centres for digital scholarship and host events focused on digital history. For instance, Brock University has the Centre for Digital Humanities:
And uOttawa holds a Digital History Open House to showcase student projects:
Hi Sean — I don’t know if it counts as a ‘course’, but I think one of the liveliest places to do DH is at U Vic in the summertime: http://www.dhsi.org/
I teach HIST 3340: History of Digital Culture at the University of Manitoba (umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/departments/history/media/163340bak.pdf). This course is a bit different from some of the others that you discuss in that I am looking at the history of digital culture rather than using digital tools to conduct or communicate historical research. Of course, you kinda have to do digital history to examine the history of digital culture. Students are required to use digital archives to complete their major paper. I taught this for a couple of years as a topics course, but it is now part of the course catalogue.
I also teach HIST 7382: Archiving in the Digital Age (umanitoba.ca/faculties/arts/departments/history/media/167382bak.pdf), which is a graduate course that is offered as part of the Master’s Program in Archival Studies. In this course students explore digital systems and tools that are used to manage both analogue and digital archives, in addition to exploring the many implications that digital systems and digital cultures pose for archival theory and practice.
It sounds like your students are in for a really interesting course.
Sorry, should have identified myself:
Assistant Professor, Master’s Program in Archival Studies
University of Manitoba, Department of History
Archival Studies Program Web site:
Indeed, UVic among a handful of other institutions have terrific centres and other resources for digital humanities scholarship and teaching.
On that note, I also want to note our own PsyBorgs Lab at York University, a digital history initiative in the Department of Psychology:
Thanks for sharing your courses here. I don’t know how I missed them. They are listed right on the course listings! My error. I’ll be posting an updated list later this week to integrate all the additional courses added to this comment thread.
Salut Sean, Donna Gabaccia is teaching Digital History at the undergrad level at UTSC (http://digitalscholarship.utsc.utoronto.ca/projects/dighist/), so is Nathalie Rothmans (http://dsu-beta.utsc.utoronto.ca/projects/serai/hisd18-digital-history). I think they are planning a co-taught graduate course at the St George campus for next year. Wish I could sit on that one!
I will be teaching the first installment of “HST 2007 — Histoire numérique”, an intermediate-level undergraduate course, at the Université de Montréal during the Winter 2017 trimester. I will be putting the syllabus together over the next couple of months, so there isn’t a whole lot more to say at this point, but students in our area who might be interested are welcome to contact me via twitter at @fdlaramee
Thanks for adding your course to the comments. I’m going to try to update this post later this week.
Hi Sean, I’m a bit late in the game here but in addition to your posting about the Centre for Digital Humanities at Brock I’ve also taught a digital history course in Brock’s History department since 2005. It’s gone through multiple iterations in numbering, format (it was initially a seminar, now it’s a lecture course), and of course content (things are always changing), but you can find more here:
It seems to me that the work I’ve done with the 3D Virtual Buildings Project might be of interest to you in your urban history course Sean. In my various courses, I’ve taught students to use fire insurance plans and photographs as a basis for creating models of heritage buildings. The value in so doing has been that it has provided a basis for students to engage in archival research, learn 3D and features of architectural history, and also to develop critical thinking skills while engaging in the task of historical reconstruction. Initially I used VectorWorks, a CAD package that took some time for students to learn. But in the past three years I’ve shifted to SketchUp, which is easier and faster to learn, and has the advantage of offering a free version.
I’ve written several pieces on the 3DVB Project which you and others can access here so long as you have an academia.edu account:
Cheers, John Bonnett
Thanks so much for posting your links here. I think 3D modelling is fascinating for digital history. I’m also curious about the use of virtual reality headsets for historical 3D models. I recently saw that Fort York has one such project:
I received a link to info on an excellent summer school program at UQAM:
The University of Victoria has been offering digital history courses for almost ten years. The course was started by John Lutz with students developing history web sites using HTML code and more recently moving over to a WordPress based course. We combine digital history with micro history and archival research with the topic area focused on Victoria. Initially the course looked at the city in the Victorian era (see https://web.uvic.ca/vv). A couple of years ago when I started to teach the course (HSTR 430) we moved the time bracket forward to focus on the period of the Great War (see http://www.acitygoestowar.ca)