skimming the surface: a students journey into digital history

Digital History(DH): a definition, some examples and the people behind DH

I personally would define Digital History as the recording and presenting of historical data and interpretations. Ideally the goal of digital history is to bring the past to the public.

There are four types of digital history presentation styles:

Data banks, exhibits, media storage, geospatial, and self made

Data banks: are huge amounts of specific collected statics that usually has some sort of search function. A good example of this is the website It contains over 300 years worth crime statics and court paperwork. The website itself has search functions to find and map. This very useful for pulling up detailed or specific data.

Exhibits: are interpreted by historians media; usually texts or pictures. A good example of this type digital history is where it contains interpreted data and presents data on buffalo bill. It focused on providing context and a linear chronology. Some focus more on making history more digestible to the populace.

Media storage: Are exactly as it sounds a collection of free stored media (texts, podcasts, blogs, maps, videos, etc.) A good example of this type of digital history is the gutenberg project. It has the largest collection of free books all available for downloading. It focuses on getting information to the public for free not presenting it in any specific way. Other sites focus on regions or chronology but the format generally remains the same.

Geospatial: is a digital history format that focuses on showing changes overtime in specific areas. A good example of geospatial is the website it shows changes in locations of buildings over time and explains why these changes occur.

Self made: is more of a visualization tool that lets the user input their own data and see it on a map.

Overall these different formats focus on different aspects of DH and I found interactivity really helps to draw the user’s attention. Each of these styles have their own pro’s and con’s and depending on what the user is using the information for they should try to find the a site in the style best suited for their purposes. If the user is interested in specific artifacts from the past then favor storage sites or if maps are interesting then try to find geospatial sites.

Another aspect of DH is the historian’s personal/professional social media. You can ask questions or find direct interpretations of artifact from a historical thinker’s perspective. These feeds/blogs often have links to source material or be requested and have further related readings or media from scholarly sources to help one delve deeper into the Historian’s area of expertise. I find the coolest part of the blogs/feeds it that they often offer differing perspectives that can offer insights on modern problems and often in political debates that we wouldn’t otherwise think of.


Diving Into British Opinions on Flag Burning

In England in the 1970’s there was a generational gap for some elders and youth. For the Youth the “Union Jack” is both fad and a way to protest the US. For example in the 1970’s July fourth on page two of the Idaho Statesmen “Penny Wharton, 22-year-old London secretary, wears her country’s flag on her panties and tosses waste paper into a Union Jack-bedecked basket labeled “British rubbish.”  To Penny this isn’t  desecration instead its joining in on a fad. (0)


For elders Flag burning is desecration of the symbol of freedom and unity.  For extreme patriot  James Scott Penny’s actions are desecration and an insult to his country, “No wonder the pound had to be devalued. No wonder the country is going to the dogs.”  (0) This is much like the current NFL debacle where many elders are happy with the fact that Colin Kaepernick, previous NFL Quarterback who knelt during the national anthem, got fired for his actions. They believed his social misconduct was an insult to the country and particularly veterans.  Colin himself says “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” (1) There was significant public out rage. Obviously the protests are different seeing as theirs over forty years since the article on flag desecration was published in the Statesmen. However; The ideas that the protesters are very similar: both are anti-violence both are attempting to change there country and promote liberty and justice. Did It work for those British punks in the seventies? The short answer: yes and no. The longer answer: It effectively brought both negative comments and awareness to the issue and sparked controversy. Historically, it has become all but a distant memory with no legislative impact; however, it has had a cultural impact on the British pop culture and punk as a whole.  The British youth’s flag burning was not the first group to spark controversy. In 1969, The US supreme court ruling in Street vs. New York upheld the Flag burner’s liberty to insult the flag and burn it.(2) This established that freedom is more important then the Flag’s Symbology. It seems today we have forgotten the past and that many still find the Flag’s symbology more important than an individual’s freedom. Outraged Americans must have forgotten about the ruling and several other similar ones all upholding freedom over the Flag’s symbology.  However; Kaepernick’s protest has both worked and not. Much like the protest in the seventies in England, it has raised awareness and funding but we have yet to see any major legislative actions as result of his actions. Kaepernick’s  actions twords social Justice did win him GQ’s 2017 citizen of the year award and other NFL player’s are are following in his footsteps currently.


(0) Thomson, Ronald. “Britons’ Respect for Flag Varies Between Generations .” Idaho Statesmen, 4 July 1970, pp. 2–2.

(1)  Wyche, Steve. “Colin Kaepernick Explains Why He Sat during National Anthem.”, NFL

(2) Apel, Warren S. “A Brief History of Flag Burning.”

Expansion of foreign articles into national articles


First,  I searched through the dublin core spread sheet using control F to find all instance of of united states. after finding three articles about the nation I saved them and began digging deeper. I expanded my search by looking at america I got over 400 results most of which were “amerias readex” in the publisher column so I copied the first couple columns and into a blank excel sheet and tried looking at america again this time there were under 100 results so I looked through them all and sorted out the ones about america or the nation not just birthday mentions.

Secondarily, I uploaded my new corpus to voyant and read the nine articles and got the following word cloud:0407SS4

The important words to pay attention to are Communism and Ford; since they convey the most unexpected results when talking about our nation. Its worth noting the article span from 1950-1986 and all were published on the fourth.

Lastly, I Looked at trends over time by looking at voyant’s trend tab and bubble lines:


Overall there were three types of articles: Reminders of our roots (just history), Go back to our roots (pushing outside political ideas), fight against the communists. There was also a Most of the articles wished america happy birthday and then plunged into there purpose. For example, there’s a speech about Thomas Jefferson and his impact on the declaration and our nation as whole that tied modern (during the time the piece was written) politics to the original writer’s ideals. In contrast, there were a few article just about the history nation; in particular the one article about General Washington’s reaction to the declaration of was  historically focused and was accompanied by a picture of a plaque from Yale’s archives of General Washington and his men. the third type was clearly focused on using patriotism to rally Americans behind the current war. It quoted founding father’s and the current president and was really pushing the idea that the founding father’s would support the war.

The older articles were more historical and patriotic in there focuses, where as the newer ones tended to focus on tying modern events to the time’s politics. There was one exception to the trend; which was written in 1976 for the bicentennial anniversary which had a more historical focus and was paired with a picture of the signed original final draft of the declaration of independence. It makes sense that on such a special occasion the statesmen would choose to put a historical article on the front page.

DH Project digging deeper: a close look at foreign articles

Another factor could be that The Russians were trying to ease tensions after the Hungarian revolution in October of 1956. In order to better understand why an Idaho Newspaper is writing on foreign article. There were six different countries written about. The search began by going through the dublin core spread sheet and finding the appropriate articles about foreign countries. Then to better understand the content I uploaded this corpus to voyant getting:
which didn’t yield much in terms of correlations or trends. After reading the corpus (only 14 articles in 100+ years)there are three major types of articles: Patriotic Military bombardment, Americans in foreign lands celebrating, and international good will. To further expand there were two articles one which was written during the Korean war detailing patriotic bombardment of the “Enemy” and a very similar article written during the Vietnam war which were short and sweet talking about artillery salutes on enemies. The second Major type which was most common talked about places like London and Warsaw celebrating the the fourth at Embassies, in Major cities or on ships. Lastly, there were a few articles about from Higher ups in the Russian Military sending good messages on the fourth to american ambassadors or the president during the cold war. There are two other major articles which didn’t fit into the three categories. The first was about General MacArthur visiting the Philippines and second was an opinion poll of British peoples feelings about the fourth. Delving further using unexpected words in the word cloud to get statistics to back up the trends finding: 0704SS1

It is worth noting that Berlin is really out of place since none of the article were about Germany or in Berlin. To prove most articles were about celebrations of the 4th in other nations war is compared to celebration, flag, party american:


Overall, The Russian Goodwill messages were surprisingly out of place, since both were written in the middle of the cold war. Perhaps those generals liked Revolutions? Maybe they were trying to ease tensions? Its hard to tell… my guess would be a bit of both. It is pretty unsurprising that reporters liked writing about foreign celebrations. Perhaps it was to promote the original ideas of founders are applicable internationally? Or was it that foreigner’s like to Party? From the readings they were mostly Americans celebrating in other places with the exception of Paris. The bombardments might have written about to boost patriotism or simply inform locals about foreign wars. MacArthur visiting the Philippines seemed more like a celebrity story than patriotic propaganda. It was focused on his Heroism and regret for leaving in 1942 that lead to the creation of the Philippines own independence holiday on July fourth.


Fourth of July Project: surface data

Nothing was too surprising with in the whole corpus.

chart (1)
I created a Histogram of Nation’s and US States Dublin core as a corpus. There wasn’t anything particularly surprising outside of England being used as often as america/USA.

Voyant nationstate data
I created a Histogram of Nation’s and US States that had more than nine counts using all of the files as a corpus. Voyant produced the above

DiRT Directory assignment

What is it?
Gephi is a graphing software that provides a way to explore data through visualization and network analysis
What does it do?
It graphs connections and correlations creating a story map
What could you use this tool to create, or help create?
It can be used to analyze spreads of viral ideas or diseases. It also can look at events impact on things, but really it depends on what data you input into it
Does the learning curve seem steep?
It looks like it is picky about data, but once you get the data formatted correctly it’s pretty easy to use
Are instructions clear?
Yes for the most part

What is it?
It is a web application for creating interfaces and visualizations of cultural heritage collections.
What does it do?
It Takes data and presents it in an interactive way. It also creates an html link to embed the presentations in other webpages as well make sharing easy.
What could you use this tool to create, or help create?
It can create interactive maps, timelines, facets, tag clouds, histograms, and image galleries.
Does the learning curve seem steep?
It seems similar to google fusion tables, so it seems to have much of a learning curve
Are instructions clear?
Yes for the most part

Wget and Open Refine: a failed attempt at use


I successfully downloaded the software, but I wasn’t able to get it to open. However;I was successful in getting to the unhelpful help page.

Open Refine

I successfully opened the software and got it running properly. I worked my way through the tutorial until I hit a roadblock in the form of a program that won’t open(at least on my computer) the software called Gephi(which is used for displaying data). In addition the Open Refine Cluster’s function wasn’t working( not matter what settings I imputed into the bar) for the data,all Presidential inaugural addresses, I chose.

Overall I found these tutorials pretty straight foreword and understandable but the software is not working on my computer.