Module 2: Digitization and Data

Module 2 is another foundational module, intended to get you thinking about the “building blocks” of digital history: digitized sources and data. The readings and discussion will prompt you to think about the impact of the digitization of historical sources as well as the ways historians interact with data. The technical activities will provide you with tools to deal with research photos (Tropy) and messy historical data (Open Refine) respectively, which may prove useful in your group projects or future research.


1. read Lara Putnam, “The Transnational and the Text Searchable: Digitized Sources and the Shadows They Cast” in American Historical Review 121, no 2 (April 2016): 377-402.

2. read Jonathan Blaney and Judith Siefring, “A Culture of non-citation: Assessing the digital impact of British History Online and the Early English Books Online Text Creation Partnership,” Digital Humanities Quarterly 11, no 1 (2017).

3. read Christof Schoch, “Big? Smart? Clean? Messy? Data in the Humanities,” Journal of Digital Humanities 2, no 3 (2013).

4. explore the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database and Old Bailey Online database

5. participate in the Slack discussion

Technical Activities

1. download/install Tropy and watch the Introduction to Tropy video ; try to import and organize 5-10 of your own research photos, if you have them, or download and use some sample photos from an electronic database like Chronicling America or Early English Books Online (VPN required).

NOTE: Tropy is really intended for use with archival/primary sources; if you find at some point that you want something to help you keep track of secondary sources, check out Zotero

2. download/install Open Refine and complete the Open Refine tutorial; use the sample dataset provided on Basecamp

NOTE: you may want to grab 2-4 classmates to help you complete the Open Refine tutorial exercise at the end. I think the name exercise is easier than the date exercise, if you’re feeling intimidated.