Film as History, History on Film

Some early films for our consideration:

Early Lumiere Brothers films, screened on Cinematograph, 1895

At the Foot of the Flatiron Building, 1903 American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 2:45 min.
New York City Jewish “ghetto” Fish Market, 1903 American Mutoscope and Biography Company, 3:15 min.
New York City in a Blizzard, 1902 Edison Films, 3:32 min.

A Trip Down San Francisco’s Market Street, 1906 (just before the great earthquake / fire) 11 min.

A Brief History of Film (Project Happening)

Gunning: “How was this film shot and edited?”

1943 Twentieth Century Fox / Office of War Information film, “It’s Everybody’s War,” narrated by Hollywood star Henry Fonda

Sergio Leone, Final Shootout, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

NYT “Anatomy of a Scene” from The Revenant (2015)

The Long Take, Atonement (2007)

Last Unit 2 Workshop: Maps and Mapping

Begin with the Instagram feed of the Leventhal Map Center of the Boston Public Library; every day they post an interesting historical map.

The BPL Leventhal Center also has a digital exhibition up now, through April 2024, titled Getting Around Town: Four Centuries of Mapping Boston in Transit

Check out some of these map-related links:

A 2014 Map of US with states labeled by how they’re ranked “worst” (Maps on the Web Tumblr — which also posts at least one map a day)

What if the NY Subway Map stops were all renamed for women?

Current wind patterns

One Author Reimagined North America and its internal regions as 11 nations in 2012 – how well has his analysis held up over the last ten years?

2022 was the last redistricting year, which happens every decade in every state. Try your hand at redrawing Congressional districts

Mapping “witchcraft” in case law

Map slave voyages during the era of the transatlantic slave trade (

You might also want to spend some time with a few other links related to historical maps or mapping as a historical research method. A 2017 article in Forbes magazine talks about how digital mapping helps us understand racism and the history of segregation, including:

An especially expansive and beautiful digital library of maps (at high resolution) is David Rumsey Map Collection (Stanford University)

Stanford also hosts the Mapping the Republic of Letters project from Dan Edelstein and Paula Findlen, tracing (and mapping) the trajectory of thousands of letters from the pens of European Enlightenment writers. Here’s a brief video explaining the project:

Other innovative projects work with recreating or layering historical maps to create digital environments of the past:

Government Documents Workshop Day, March 10

Group Work Google Docs

Muller v. Oregon
Schenck v. US
Buck v. Bell
Roe v. Wade

Other Government Document Resources to Explore

Congressional Record up to 1875

List of Federal Agencies

Milestone Documents of the U.S. Government

Government Printing Office: FDsys

Government Documents online, via the Internet Archive

America’s Founding Documents virtual exhibit on the National Archives website

State Constitutions
(University of Maryland Baltimore)

US Serials Set (some of which are online, some of which are only in bound volumes in depository libraries)

Checklist of Government Publications, 1789-1909

Understanding Su Doc Classification Numbers: an online tutorial (Michigan State U)

Research Guides of the Library of Congress

Locating Congressional hearings, a Beginner’s Guide (Library of Congress)

See also Senate hearings on the US Senate website

Federal Register (National Archives, since 1994)

Supreme Court cases: see the US Supreme Court website, also the Oyez Project

National Security Archive – a massive document dump of declassified material from FOIA requests (George Washington University)

Native American Tribal Law, Constitutions, and Treaties – National Indian Law Library

Miller Center for Presidential Studies (University of Virginia)

American Presidency Project (Univ of California Santa Barbara)

Many 20th-century presidents have Presidential Libraries: e.g. Nixon, Truman, FDR, Hoover

Massachusetts State –
Massachusetts Archive Collection (1629 – 1799)
MA Historical Legal Documents and Laws

Radio and Recorded Sound Workshop Day

This week we explore sources which existed as sound recordings, sound performances,
or audio in some form. Learning to “read” and interpret these sources is quite different from handwritten documents and scientific evidence we’ve we worked with so far, but they are an important part of the cultural landscape of the past.

For Monday Reading: Susan Douglas, “Radio Comedy and Linguistic Slapstick,” from Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination.

Read not only for content (in this case, her chapter is about radio comedy and some of its notable programs and stars), but also for historical method: HOW is she writing about sound? HOW is she using radio programs as historical evidence? How does she construct an argument using evidence which she cannot “show” us as text or illustrations, but must describe for us–since we cannot hear it along with her? In one sense, Douglas must translate the shows into a written form, just as the shows themselves must translate physical comedy and “sight gags” into linguistic/aural comedy and “sound gags.”

If you’d like to hear the people / shows she discusses…
Amos ‘n’ Andy
Joe Penner
Ed Wynn
Eddie Cantor
Burns and Allen
Jack Benny
Who’s On First (Abbott and Costello)

For Wednesday, everyone’s assignment *ahead of time* is to listen to at least an hour of old-time radio or recorded sound and be ready to share your findings with the class. Bring headphones for private listening during the workshop, too.

Library of Congress Recorded Sound Division
Their blog is called “Now See Hear
LOC Audio Collections
American Archive of Public Broadcasting

Chase down old radio through these links or through Youtube (ignoring any visuals, of course): – Old Time Radio Network – this is a fabulous old-time radio website, but its best content is by subscription only. The link goes to a selected list of free downloads.

All the programs of Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater of the Air are online, including the 1938 Halloween “War of the Worlds” broadcast that so terrified the East Coast. (Better quality audio may be found on YouTube)

National Jukebox (Library of Congress) is a massive digital archive of recorded sound prior to 1925.

Thomas Edison’s Attic is an archived radio program and podcast that replays old recordings (wax cylinder, phonograph and other now-extinct exotic formats) from the Edison National Historic Site’s collection – lots of interesting old American sounds from 1888-1929

Rand’s Esoteric OTR is a blog & podcast of the author’s gigantic collection of transcription disks (i.e. records of radio shows meant for later playback), many of them from Armed Forces Radio during WW2. A great source for high-quality web broadcasts of old radio programming.

Vintage Radio Scripts can be found here

Internet Archive’s Old Time Radio section has a lot of material, including news from the 1930s, and WWII news recordings

Other resources, museums and archives for radio history:

Old Time Radio Researchers Group

Vintage Radio and Communications Museum, Windsor CT

Pavek Museum, Broadcasting Hall of Fame (St. Louis, MN)

Museum of Broadcast Communications (Chicago)

American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WBGH, Boston)

Other Links for Class This Week: Fibber McGee’s closet (1940), 1930s Radio News (Hindenberg #67-68) — footage & description on later newsreel, On the Media “The X Factor” (2007), Frasier S4 Ep18 “Ham Radio,” available on Hulu.

Genetic and Scientific Evidence Workshop

Use class time to explore one or more of these historical episodes that uses scientific, archaeological, and/or genetic evidence.

1) To what extent are the Jewish people a genetically distinct group whose ancestry can be traced to the land of Palestine, now known as Israel?

Jewish Researcher Attacks DNA Evidence Linking Jews to Israel (Genetic Literacy Project, 2013)

“When Ancient DNA Gets Politicized,” Smithsonian Magazine, July 2019

2) What can genetics tell us about Egyptian mummies?

“Egyptian Mummies Yield Genetic Secrets” (Nature, 2013)

“Black or White? Egyptian Race Mystery Now Solved,” ThinkBig (January 2022)

“First Genome Data from Ancient Egyptian Mummies,” Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (May 2017)

3) Who were early Europeans and what can we know about them from genetic evidence?

“Who Killed the Men of England” in the 4th Century AD? (Harvard Magazine, 2009)

“The Genetic History of Ice Age Europe,” Nature (2016) — view an animated map video about the researcher’s findings

“Scientists Say Otzi the Iceman Has Living Relatives, 5300 Years Later” (NBC News, 2013)

“The Iceman’s Last Meal” (NOVA, 1998)

4) More on Neanderthal Genealogy

Using WSU library resources, track down and read two articles from the scientific journal Nature. Their titles are:

“The complete genome sequence of a Neanderthal from the Altai mountains”


“An early modern human from Romania with a recent Neanderthal ancestor”

What are their findings? How might historians use their conclusions and/or their evidence? Explore how these articles were covered in news outlets at the time.

5) How can science and genetics help us understand plant domestication? (i.e. who invented corn?)

The Evolution of Corn (University of Utah Genetic Science Learning Center)

“Tracking the Ancestry of Corn Back 9000 Years” (New York Times, 2010)

“DNA Evidence from 5310-Year-Old Corn Cob Fills Gaps in History” (Science Daily, 2016)

6) A Case of Science / History “Fake News”…?

“Canadian Teenager Star Pupil Finds Lost Mayan City by Studying Ancient Charts of the Night Sky from his Bedroom” The Telegraph, May 2016

No, he didn’t (New York Magazine, May 2016)

7) Tracking the 1918 Flu

“100-Year-Old Lungs Yield Genetic Samples of 1918 Flu Viruses” The Scientist, May 18, 2021

Measuring Mortality in 1918 Flu and Covid-19 Pandemics Health Affairs Forefront, (April 2021)

Taubenberger J., “The Origin and Virulence of the 1918 ‘Spanish’ Influenza Virus,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, March 2006.

8) If you want more on the Jefferson / Hemings story…

The Monticello historic site has dramatically changed its public history programming on this in the last five years. Examples here and here.

Unearthing Sally Hemings’ Legacy (PBS NewsHour, 2018)

Archeology of Monticello Slave Quarters (Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery)

“Slave Subsistence Strategies at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Plantation: Paleoethnobotanical Analysis and Interpretation of the Site 8 Macrobotanical Assemblage,” MA Anthropology Thesis, Univ of Tennessee (2016) by Stephanie Nicole Hacker

Archives and Manuscripts

Tuesday Links

What’s in an Archive? (Delaware Public Archives)

Visiting the Archives (Hawaii State Archives)

1991: switching from analog to digital card catalogs (San Francisco City Public Library)

Archival Finding Aid examples: Jane Swift / Ellen Barksdale Brown

Thursday Links

Remember to bring laptops on Thursday so we can play with these types of sources

Letters and Diaries Online

Martha Ballard Diary

Journals of Lewis and Clark

Joseph Smith Papers Project

Ireland 1916-1923 Letters Project

Paleography Tutorial

Paleographical Commons at the Yale Beinecke Library

Try Your Hand at Transcribing Some Originals

By the People Library of Congress transcription projects

Documenting the American South

Trails of Hope: Overland Diaries and Letters, 1846-1849

JARDA – Japanese American Relocation Digital Archive

Class Cancelled Dec 3; This Week’s Readings

Class is cancelled today, Tuesday Dec 3, due to the (second!) 2-hour delay at Worcester State. Please use the time to catch up on the reading and viewing for today, including the two essays “Our Memorials, Ourselves” and “Re-Membering Vietnam,” and Mayor Landrieu’s speech from 2017 when New Orleans was taking down some of its Confederate monuments. See you Thursday, when we will discuss this week’s reading and also take a look at several statements of professional ethics applicable to historians.

Public History: Tues Nov 26

Links for today: Value of History

National Council on Public History

“Reopening a House That’s Still Divided” (NYTimes, 12/15/2010)

“Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy,” Southern Poverty Law Center

Michael Twitty, “Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors, Sit Down” (Afroculinaria, August 2019)

Look Closer: Historical Moment for Monticello June 2018 (6:39)

Unearthing Sally Heming’s Legacy at Monticello August 2018 (PBS NewsHour 8:06)

Digital History for Thurs Nov 21

For Thursday Nov 21, our topic is an emerging subfield of history: Digital History.

There is a Blackboard module to work through, and — this is key — it contains a downloadable worksheet to complete as you work through the module *before class.* This is a different kind of homework from what I’ve assigned before, so pay attention!

Please save, print, and bring your finished worksheet to class. There will also be an assignment portal on Blackboard to upload it if you can’t be there in person or you’re unable to print it. (Print is preferred, if at all possible).