The mission of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media
RRCHNM develops projects centered around digital history, historical research, and education. The websites and open-source digital tools created by CHNM aim to preserve history, innovate humanities scholarship methods, enhance history education, and advance historical thinking. These initiatives—many of them done in collaboration with other institutional partners—are different in scope and content, which may range from interactive, interpretive, and pedagogical tools, to software creation, publication models, and community participation platforms. Among the dozens of CHNM-born projects: Mapping American Religious Ecologies, World History Commons, Who Built America?, Tropy, For Us the Living, and Omeka.
My role in RRCHNM and ways I support the mission
Under the mentorship of T. Mills Kelly, I am involved with the Appalachian Trail digital history project, a collaborative endeavor that will present the many histories of this iconic hiking trail. Within my role, I engage with a primary source and experiment with techniques for text analysis and data visualization. My goal is to apply the best techniques for users to interact with primary data for them to better make sense of large collections of textual information. For the corpus, I am working with the Appalachian Trailways News (ATN), which is the newsletter of the Appalachian Trail Conference (now Conservancy). This newsletter is one of various AT historical objects to be curated, exhibited, and accessed by future users.
As part of my work, I get to prepare the data so that it is suitable for text analysis and data visualization. To succeed, I am pursuing the following objectives: (1) get to know my work environment, (2) get acquainted with the history of the Appalachian Trail, and (3) explore the different approaches and techniques for humanists to process and make use of big data.
CHNM has been a welcoming and productive work environment, with a diverse team of researchers, scholars, computer scientists, graphic designers, project managers, educators, and students. Members contribute with their own subject specialties and passions. The onboarding process has been one where I have felt part the team right away, with frequent communications with my mentor, weekly briefings with the whole CHNM staff, and constant check-ins through the Basecamp and Slack platforms. I have gotten to know some of my co-workers and their unique projects. To get acquainted with the subject of the Appalachian Trail and with the different approaches to understand its past, my mentor has given me some great readings, which are complemented by insights and stories he shares along the way. These weekly conversations and meetings give me the “big picture” perspective, as well as the granularity needed to understand my role within the AT project and the greater mission of CHNM.
What I’m most excited to be doing
Every week I engage in activities that progressively help me through the process of working with data. So far, I have gained experience in preparing (cleaning) text, applying my current knowledge of VoyantTools, and exploring topic modeling techniques with software, such as Mallet. This work is very interesting, as I get to showcase some of what I have already learned from my coursework, while gaining in-depth skills with text mining tools. Some of the things I look forward to accomplishing during my internship are: discovering hidden topical patterns across the ATN data, enjoying the benefits of collaborative work, and gaining the confidence to teach others how to interact with innovative digital tools.