Assignments,  Project Critiques

Project Review Assignment

Due: Tuesday February 5

Undergrad: Approx. 300-500 words each (1 post per person)

Grad: Approx. 500-750 words each (2 posts per person)

Project critiques should be addressed to an audience of historians, not digital specialists.  Think of it as a book review of a digital project.  The Journal of American History has guidelines for reviewing the three most common types of digital projects:

Archive: a site that provides a body of primary sources. Could also include collections of documents marked up in TEI or databases of materials.

Essay, Exhibit, Digital Narrative: something created or written specifically for the Web or with digital methods, that serves as a secondary source for interpreting the past by offering a historical narrative or argument. This category can also include maps, network visualizations, or other ways of representing historical data.

Teaching Resource: a site that provides online assignments, syllabi, other resources specifically geared toward using the Web, or digital apps for teaching, including educational history content for children or adults, pedagogical training tools, and outreach to the education community.

For example, an archival site should be evaluated based on the quality of the materials presented; the care with which they have been prepared and perhaps edited and introduced; the ease of navigation; and its usefulness to teachers, students, and scholars. How comprehensive is the archive? Are there biases in what has been included or excluded? Does the archive, in effect, offer a point of view or interpretation? As with other types of reviews, you are providing guidance to readers on the usefulness of the site in their teaching or scholarship. At the same time, you are participating in a community of critical discourse and you are trying to improve the level of work in the field. As you would do in a scholarly book review, then, you are speaking both to potential readers and to producers of similar work.

Even within a single category, the purposes of the digital history projects can vary significantly. An online exhibition or a digital narrative can be directed at a largely scholarly audience or a more broadly public audience. It would be unfair to fault a popularly oriented website for failing to trace the latest nuances in scholarship, but it would certainly be fair to note that the creators had not taken current scholarship into account. In general, then, online exhibitions and essays should be judged by the quality of their interpretation: What version of the past is presented? Is it grounded in historical scholarship? Is it original in its interpretation or mode of presentation? Again, the goal of the review is to provide guidance to potential readers (who might be reading in their roles as teachers, scholars, or citizens) and to raise the level of digitally based historical work.

Classroom-oriented projects would be judged by the quality of the scholarship underlying them, but naturally you would also want to evaluate the originality and usefulness of the pedagogical approach. Will this project be useful to teachers and students? At what level?

Journal of American History, “Digital History Reviews

We will mostly be looking at the second type of project, but different projects may blend elements of each.  Your project critique should discuss:

  • The argument of the project
  • Its methods and sources
  • Its presumed audience–academic scholars, lay readers, public historians, etc.  Just because it’s online doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for a wide public audience!
  • How interactive is the project?  How does the reader interact with the content, if at all, and how does the interaction complement the argument?
  • What does the project do that could not be done in print?  What does the digital component of the project do to enhance the argument?

Your post should include a heading with a citation:

Name of site/title. Address/URL. Who set it up? Who maintains it (if different)? Link to credit/about page. When reviewer consulted it.


Panoramic Maps, 1847–1929. Created and maintained by the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC, Reviewed Dec. 25, 2000–Jan. 2, 2001.

Your post should be tagged with the “Project Critiques” category and include at least two screenshots of different parts of the project.

Select one project from Group 1 OR Group 2, and one project from Group 3:

Group 1 (older projects)

  1. UAlbany Campus Buildings Historical Tour
  2. The Normal School Company & Normal School Company History
  3. State Street Stories
  4. Black and Free
  5. Valley of the Shadow

Group 2 (misc projects)

  1. Mapping the Republic of Letters
  2. Every3Minutes
  3. Coins
  4. Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery
  5. Forms of Attraction: The Data Behind the Forms We Wear
  6. Visual Correspondence
  7. [Re]Activate Mama Pina’s Correspondence
  8. Mapping Texts
  9. Viral Texts
  10. Virtual St. Paul’s Cathedral
  11. Kindred Britain
  12. Six Degrees of Francis Bacon

Group 3 (mapping projects)

  1. Arabella Chapman Project
  2. Mapping Segregation
  3. Mapping Violence
  4. Digital Harlem
  5. The Negro Traveler’s Green Book
  6. Visualizing Emancipation
  7. Forced Migration
  8. Jamaican Slave Revolt
  9. Foreign Born Population
  10. Canals 1820-1860
  11. The Overland Trails
  12. Mapping Occupation
  13. Invasion of America
  14. Pox Americana
  15. Naonaiyaotit Traditional Knowledge Project Atlas
  16. Welikia Manahatta Project
  17. Layers of London
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