Unit 2, Week 5: Maps Workshop

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

Here are some case studies using maps that I’ve come across recently for us to start with and consider.

Map of US with states labeled by how they’re ranked “worst” (Maps on the Web Tumblr)

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

Current wind patterns, mapped onto the US

Could North America be re-mapped into 11 nations?

What if there were no gerrymandering?

Mapping “witchcraft” in case law (appropos of Halloween)

After exploring those, spend some time exploring a few other links related to historical maps or mapping as a historical method. A recent 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 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, and creating digital environments of the past (We will talk more about this on our Digital History day next month). Some examples include:

Unit 2, Week 5: Mapping History

Please Note: we will discuss Robert Gaddis’s book The Landscape of History on Nov 5 and Nov 7. You might want to start reading it this week; here are the Discussion Questions we’ll be use for our class discussion. Note that Nov 7 is the SAME DAY that your Paper #2 is due, so plan out your time carefully so that you’re prepared with both on the same day.

For the last of our “play in the sandbox” workshop weeks, we’ll look at maps and mapping. Maps are a fascinating set of sources that represent–and to some extent also determine–reality. A clip from the TV show The West Wing helps illustrate this nicely.

For Tuesday Oct 29, please read Stephens, Making Sense of Maps (like Making Sense of Letters and Diaries, it has multiple sections, please make sure you read the whole thing navigating with the red table of context box). We will not meet in class on this day.

Thurs 10/31, bring laptops as usual, for our last Thursday “sandbox” session.

I also recommend you check out the Instagram feed of the Leventhal Map Center of the Boston Public Library; every day they post an interesting historical map.

Paper 2 Advice

During class on Oct 24th I asked everyone to check in about where they are with Paper #2. Most people haven’t yet begun to solidify their ideas, so I thought it might help if I offered some general advice. I am happy to follow up in office hours or individually with anyone, of course.

The most important rule of Paper #2 is TRYING SOMETHING NEW. Rather than starting with a topic (which might be your default thinking before starting an assignment), instead try identifying what you want to do that’s NEW-FOR-YOU in your paper *and* how that new thing connects to what we’ve done in class during this Unit. For example: Are you using a type of source you’ve never used before? Are you trying an interpretive method you haven’t tried before? Is there something you stumbled on during our “lab” days that you hadn’t known of or thought about before? Did one of our Tuesday readings inspire you or give you a model you can use? Would you like to expand on one of this unit’s journal entries? You don’t have to do ALL of these things, just choose ONE and pursue it in the spirit of taking an intellectual risk.

As with Paper #1, the smaller and narrower the scope, the better the resulting paper will be, since you only have 1000-1500 words. I will not be strict about the upper limit if you want to exceed it, but would encourage you to strive for a tightly constructed paper rather than one which rambles widely. As we’ve seen in working with different kinds of archives in Unit 2, something which is expertly curated and concise is clearer and easier to understand that one which is disorganized and overloaded with information.

Lastly, if you struggled with footnotes, citations, or bibliography formatting in Paper #1, review Turabian closely and work on references early in the paper process instead of leaving it to the very end, especially if you are working with less-familiar sources.

Hope this advice helps stoke your enthusiasm for the second paper assignment, which ideally emerges organically out of the hard work and “sandbox play” you’ve done during our discussions and workshop sessions in this Unit.

Government Documents Workshop (Thurs 10/24)

Congressional Record up to 1875

List of Federal Agencies

For a well-designed site featuring 100 key US documents, see OurDocuments.gov

Government Printing Office: FDsys

Government Documents online, via the Internet Archive

Constitution of the United States – see 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) http://www.llsdc.org/serial-set-volumes-guide#Overview

Checklist of Government Publications, 1789-1909

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

Congressional hearings, via the 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
MA Historical Legal Documents and Laws

Unit 2, Week 4: Government Documents

In our Historian’s Craft discussion and workshop this week, you’ll be learning about sources produced by, for, or about official governments, past or present.

Ohio Supreme Court, Columbus Ohio. Photo Credit: Andrew F. Scott

The assigned reading for Tuesday 10/22 is posted on Blackboard under Content, a 2001 article from American Libraries journal titled “Government Documents at the Crossroads.” After reading that, make a list of all the kinds of “government documents” you can think of (without Googling). What might fall into that category?

After making your list, spend some time in these two library subject guides: “Government Information Overview” (WSU Library) and “Finding Government Documents,” (University of New Haven) – some of the UNH instructions are specific for their library, but their list provides an overview of the spectrum of government documents and some resources that our library may not – try clicking around on a few of their tabs (Business, President, Congress, Judicial, CJ, etc) to explore some of the categories and see what you stumble onto. Add any new findings to your list.

Buck v. Bell case (Oyez / Justia)

More on the Buck v. Bell case (NPR Fresh Air 2017 interview with Adam Cohen, author of Imbeciles)

On Thursday 10/24, BRING LAPTOPS and I’ll post a list of sites and ideas for exploring Gov Docs in class.

Journal #7 is due on Friday, Nov 1.

Unit 2, Week 3: The Sound of the Past

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.

Tuesday, Oct 15 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 Thursday Oct 17, everyone’s assignment 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 if you have them available.

Chase down old radio through these links or through Youtube (ignoring any visuals, of course):

Red Hot Jazz – lots of early recordings from the 1920s

OTR.net – Old Time Radio Network

RUSC.com – 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.

America in the 1930s (a UVA Project) has very good resources, including a “Day on Radio,” with all the programming from one representative day in 1939 for one station. Flash Player required.

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

Paley Center for Media; Museum of Television and Radio (NY & CA)

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

Museum of Broadcast Communications (Chicago)

Other Links for Class This Week: Fibber McGee’s closet (1948), Amos&Andy law book episode 1929/07/03 #28 (10:39), Burns and Allen (Maxwell House, 1947-1948), e.g. #25 Gracie Buys George an Easter Outfit, Jack Benny 1939, 1930s Radio News (Hindenberg #67-68) — footage & description on later British newsreel, On the Media “The X Factor” (2007), Frasier S4 Ep18 “Ham Radio”

Unit 2, Week 2: Scientific Evidence

For Tuesday and Thursday, Oct 8 and 10:
UVA Magazine composite portrait of Jefferson
Reading: there’s a lot. All the readings are found in a folder under Unit 2 on Blackboard. Many thanks to Dr. Daron Barnard for his expert guidance on the genetics of this case in our Tuesday class.

Begin with Williams “Genetic Evidence” for an overview of this controversy. Then read:

Maura Singleton, “Anatomy of a Mystery: The Jefferson-Hemings Controversy in the Post-DNA Era,” UVA Magazine Fall 2007.

Eugene Foster et al, “Jefferson Fathered Slave’s Last Child,” Nature Vol 396, 5 November 1998;

“James Callendar’s Reports,” published in 1802 – (sorry for the poor-quality PDF reproduction). These are transcripts of the original primary sources that all Jefferson-Hemings scholars have to come back to. What do you make of them? What conclusions would you (or WOULDN’T you) draw from them?

Optional reading: Steven Shepard et al, “A Case Study in Historical Epistemology: What Did the Neighbors Know About Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings,” in Historical Knowledge, Historical Error: A Contemporary Guide to Practice (U Chicago, 2007).

Want more? Annette Gordon-Reed, mentioned in the UVA article, is the author of two outstandingly researched books on this topic. The first, Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy, was published in 1998, before the DNA evidence was made public. In it she argued (from the documentary evidence alone) that it was likely that Hemings and Jefferson had a sexual relationship and that he was the father of at least some of her children. The second won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009, The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, which Publisher’s Weekly called “a scholar’s book: serious, thick, complex” – which also revealed that Sally Hemings was a biological half-sister to Thomas Jefferson’s wife Martha.

In 1986, B. R. Burg wrote a scathing article for Phylon, reviewing bias and rhetoric in how historians had treated Jefferson’s alleged affair with Hemings over time. He noted that historians used words like “illicit affair” or “indiscretion” when they talked about Jefferson (or Hamilton’s, or other white men’s) extramarital activity with white women (even with married white women), but chose words like “vulgar liaison” to refer to the same kind of activity with the enslaved Sally Hemings. In the accounts of the historians he analyzed, white women had “families” or “children,” while Hemings had a “brood.” Burg argues that this was, in part, a product of the racial politics of the times in which these historians wrote – a charge that should give us plenty to talk about in class.

Link to the New York Times 1619 Project and podcasts mentioned in class

Thursday 10/10 – Laptop Workshop – use class time to explore one or more of these questions

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

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

“A Mosaic of People: The Jewish Story and a Reassessment of the DNA Evidence” (Journal of Genetic Genealogy, 2005)

2) What can genetics tell us about Egyptian mummies?

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

“The Mummy Code” (The Scientist, 2013)

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)

“Modern Europe’s Genetic History Starts in the Stone Age” (National Geographic, 2013)

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

“The Iceman’s Last Meal” (NOVA, 1998)

4) 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)

5) 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

“Experts Say Teen’s ‘Discovery’ of a Mayan City is a Very Western Mistake” (National Geographic, May 2016)

6) More Nature articles: Neanderthal Genealogy

Using WSU library resources, track down and read two articles from Nature that Dr. Barnard mentioned on Tuesday. 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”

Then, explore how these articles were covered in the news at the time.

Unit 2, Week 1: Archives, Letters, Diaries, Manuscript Collections

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

Thursday Links:

Letters and Diaries Online

Martha Ballard Diary

Journals of Lewis and Clark

Joseph Smith Papers Project

Ireland 1916-1923 Letters Project

Paleography Tutorial

By the People transcription projects

Want More?

This week: Prince Harry and Duchess of Sussex Megan Markle sued the publisher of the Daily Mail for publishing a private, handwritten letter to her father. “The royal couple filed a claim against Associated Papers for the misuse of private information, infringement of copyright and breach of the United Kingdom’s Data Protection Act 2018, according to the law firm representing the couple.” (NBC News)

Also this week is #AskAnArchivist week on Twitter

Tuesday Links:

Doing Research at a National Archives Facility (our closest = Waltham MA)

Visiting the Archives (Delaware Public Archives)

Visiting the Archives (Hawaii State Archives)

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