Fall 2012

Spring 2012

Fall 2011

Spring 2011

Fall 2010

HGIS in the classroom at Carolina

As historical GIS and digital humanities offerings have expanded, instructors have put less emphasis on promoting their courses, and therefore this page has not been updated recently. What's here should perhaps be thought of as an archive of early offerings, at least until instructors have time and motivation to list their courses again.

Geography 591, Fall 2012
"Practical GIS"
Taught by Rebecca Dobbs

Non-geographers! Human geographers!

This course, intended for those not following the Geography Department's formal GIScience track, will help students develop skills with ArcGIS software to use in the context of the spatial aspects of their research or coursework.

Topics and skills explored will include (but are not limited to) basic use of the software, manipulation and creation of spatial datasets, joining and displaying non-spatial (attribute) data, working with analysis techniques and spatial critical thinking, working at different scales, choosing and setting projections, georeferencing digital images of paper maps, and producing maps that communicate information effectively and attractively.

Instruction will include short lectures, demonstrations, and graded lab exercises. Coursework will culminate in a project applying GIS to a research topic already familiar to the student. Students who have completed GEOG 370 will find the background useful, but 370 is not a prerequisite for this course. Basic PC file management skills are expected.

Note that the course is not specifically oriented toward historical uses of GIS. Rather, it will help those wanting wanting to do HGIS gain some fundamental skills in GIS, which can later be adapted for work on the past.

Geography 454, Spring 2012
Historical Geography ("Lost Chapel Hill" variant)
Taught by Rebecca Dobbs

Historical geographers use the tools, concepts, techniques, and approaches of geography to study the past. In this course, students will learn something of these tools, concepts, techniques, and approaches and how to apply them to their own original research on the past at a local scale. Students will learn about major themes in the historical geography of the United States and about the kinds of archival sources that historical geographers use to create new knowledge about the past. The final course output will be a research poster presenting the student's (or team's) research results in visual form.

One strand of the course material and activity will involve the use of GIS in studying the past. Students will read some published works on this research approach and learn some basic GIS skills. Students may choose to use these skills to create building blocks for a larger project on "lost Chapel Hill", or may choose another local-scale project on a historical geographic topic of interest. A particular focus in the Chapel Hill projects will be on social justice and exploring the ways that historical geography can add meaning to current local debates.


American Studies/Information Science 890, Fall 2011
Digital Humanities: Representing and Recovering the Past
Taught by Robert Allen

Technology has already had an immense impact on the sciences. Fields like biology, chemistry, astronomy, and mathematics rely heavily on technology. But not simply for increased efficiency. It isn't a matter of getting things done more quickly; rather it is about getting things done that couldn't be done before. That's the game-changing aspect of technology. . . . [S]ince the widespread use of the Internet browser, the world has seen significant change in the way people read, write, learn, and communicate. . . . This isn't a fad or a trend but, I would argue, a permanent change in our society that needs to be addressed - and needs to be addressed by humanists.

--Brett Bobley, Dir., NEH Office of Digital Humanities "Why the Digital Humanities?" (2008)

In this interdisciplinary graduate seminar, we will explore the implications of the application of digital technologies to the materials, questions, practices, and potential of humanities scholarship. Although we will range across issues and problematics from the humanities broadly defined, we will pay particular attention to the impact of digital technologies on historical inquiry. We see this as a convergence point for scholars and practitioners in a number of historically inflected fields in the humanities and social sciences (American Studies, folklore, public history, social history, urban and regional studies, cultural history, art history, cultural studies, ethnic and racial studies, geography, mass communication, literature, etc.) and in library/information science, archives, historic preservation, and museum studies.

We will consider the implications for historians and other humanities scholars, libraries, archives, and museum of the digitization, organization, and circulation of a massive amount of cultural heritage materials over the past twenty years, as well as the ongoing development of digital tools for analyzing, managing, representing, and interacting with these data.

We will engage with digital projects and practitioners around key themes in digital history and digital humanities more generally, among them:

Throughout the semester, a persistent point of reference and area of collaborative project work will be the application of geo-spatial representation to the history of urban spaces: virtual cities/digital history projects. We will explore recent innovation in this growing field, including several locally-produced, nationally-recognized projects: "T-Races" (http://salt.unc.edu/T-RACES/), awarded a National Leadership Grant by the Institute for Museum and Library Services; "Main Street, Carolina" (http://mainstreet.lib.unc.edu), awarded the 2009 Harvey Award for the Advancement of Institutional Priorities at UNC-CH, and "Going to the Show" (http://www.docsouth.unc.edu/gtts), awarded the 2010 American Historical Association Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History. We will also have conversations with the historians, archivists, and digital practitioners responsible for other cutting-edge digital history projects, such as those showcased in the December 2010 virtual symposium, "Virtual Cities/Digital Histories" (http://virtualcitiesdigitalhistories.web.unc.edu).

In addition to class discussions of the growing literature on digital history and digital humanities and engaging with digital history projects, students will have an opportunity to work on group digital history projects about the history of urban spaces in North Carolina. These projects will be developed in collaboration with local cultural heritage organizations (libraries, museums, preservation organizations, etc.), demonstrating the intersections between academic scholarship and public history.

No technical knowledge or digital production experience required, although students with such experience are welcome.

For more information about the course, email Professor Allen at rallen@email.unc.edu.

Geography 454, Spring 2011
Historical Geography: Focus on GIS
Taught by Rebecca Dobbs

The use of GIS technologies for studying the past is a rapidly expanding field of endeavor among not only geographers but also historians and people in several other disciplines. This section of GEOG 454 Historical Geography will focus on the use of geographic information systems to reconstruct, make visible, and/or analyze spatial conditions in the past. Students will read published accounts of such work as well as scholarly discussions of the larger trend; learn basic GIS skills and look at the range of things that can be done with GIS; learn about the importance of the database for archival data capture, and practice elementary database design tailored to their own data sources; and plan and work on a project of their own choosing. No prior GIS experience is required; students with such experience will be able to devote more time to actual project work. Students who have received credit for GEOG 454 previously should contact the instructor (grdobbs@email.unc.edu) to discuss independent study credit for this section.


American Studies 890, Fall 2010
Virtual Cities: A Digital Humanities Laboratory
Taught by Robert Allen

This program is designed to bring together graduate students from a wide range of disciplinary and inter-disciplinary interests to develop digital humanities projects using a new digital toolkit, Main Street, Carolina (MSC). Main Street, Carolina is a free, open-source, web-based digital history toolkit designed for local libraries, schools, museums, preservation and local history societies, and other community organizations across North Carolina who wish to preserve, document, and interpret their history, as reflected in the growth and development of their downtowns in the first decades of the twentieth century (1896-1922). It provides organizational users with a flexible, user-friendly digital platform on which they can add a wide variety of local data: historical and contemporary photographs, postcards, newspaper ads and articles, architectural drawings, historical commentary, family papers, and audio and video filesall keyed to and layered on digitized historic maps. MSC is a library/faculty collaboration developed by Professor Allen and Wilson Library's Carolina Digital Library and Archives. Participants will be among the first to use the toolkit to document and illuminate the history of towns and cities and display a broad historical content on geo-referenced historical maps (Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps); participants are welcome from all fields--this experience might have special appeal for graduate students in history, city and regional planning, information/library science, geography, computer science, and folklore/American studies; and participants will have the opportunity to:

More About MSC
MSC was awarded the first C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities at UNC-CH and is also supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Main Street, Carolina leverages the North Carolina Collection's outstanding archive of printed and published material about the state, including its complete collection of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for towns and cities in North Carolina. Sanborn maps are recognized as among the most important spatial records of the development of urban America, and they are the most requested maps at public and academic libraries in the U.S. These large-scale, color urban ground plans, produced at roughly five year intervals for more than 12,000 towns in the U.S. between the 1880s and the 1930s, show every downtown structure, its dimensions, building material, and use. A number of state and university libraries have launched projects to digitize the Sanborn maps for their states, but MSC is the first--and only project so far--to digitally stitch individual map pages together to form a composite downtown view of a town or city a century ago, georeference that view so that it can be displayed using GIS systems, and utilize Google Maps and Google Earth as the user interface. In addition to the more than 1,000 map pages representing the downtowns of forty-five strategically selected towns and cities in N.C. that have already have been digitized, electronically stitched together, and geo-referenced (including all of the Sanborn maps produced prior to 1923 for Charlotte, Wilmington, Durham, New Bern, Kinston, and Asheville, N.C., and covering more than 90% of the urban population of the state at the beginning of the 20th century), MSC also can be used with the more than 150 digitized and geo-referenced historic overlay maps available through the North Carolina Maps project. MSC can also display content directly on contemporary Google map and satellite views.

MSCs innovative system for displaying Sanborn maps builds on that developed for Going to the Show, also developed by Professor Allen and CDLA.

MSC will be launched and available for download in the summer of 2010. Five demonstration projects involving collaborations with cultural heritage organizations across the state are underway and include:

For more information about the course, email Professor Allen at rallen@email.unc.edu.

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Geography 454, Fall 2010
Historical Geography: Doing Local Research
Taught by Rebecca Dobbs

This course is normally taught as a survey of the historical geography of the US and Canada, but in Fall 2010 the course will focus on local-scale research in historical geography--examples, methods, sources, and practice. GIS will be introduced as one of the methods available to historical geographers, with guided exercises and the opportunity for students to use GIS in their own research projects. Class fieldwork, archival work, and GIS exercises will focus on local-scale and even microscale projects in and around Chapel Hill, though students will be free to locate their own projects elsewhere. Readings designed to show students how local-scale research has been done by others will include some examples employing historical GIS.

Download course flier here

For more information about the course, email Dr Dobbs at grdobbs@email.unc.edu.


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History 671, Fall 2010
Introduction to Public History (with a digital twist)
Taught by Anne Whisnant

What is it? This is the only course at UNC that will give you a systematic overview of the field of public history. We'll look at the theory, scholarship, politics, and practice of historical work conducted in public venues (museums, historic sites, national parks, government agencies, archives), directed at public audiences, or addressed to public issues. We're also going to be heavily involved in examining how digital innovations are changing the face of public history.

Yes, but I'm not a history student -- what is in this for me? The course project will involve students in working intensively on an innovative new, interdisciplinary geospatial history project that I'm developing with the Carolina Digital Library and Archives as a part of their premier collection, Documenting the American South. The project, "Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina" involves digitizing, archiving, and presenting historical information about the Blue Ridge Parkway (469-mile scenic highway/National Park in NC and VA) in a way that uses digital technology to represent historical change over both space and time. Geospatial history is a growing area of interest that crosses the boundaries of information science, GIS, geography, history, and other fields, and our project would benefit greatly from work by an interdisciplinary team of capable graduate students. This work will take us all out to the frontiers of the "digital humanities."

Ok, that sounds great, but how else might this course help me? This course offers several things that are either difficult to get in other humanities-related, historically oriented graduate courses or are rarely found in combination. But all are especially pertinent to graduate students in an era of shifting employment prospects:

For more information about the course or to discuss whether it's a good fit for you, email Dr Whisnant at anne_whisnant@unc.edu.

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