Digital Public History

Department of History, Public History Program
Texas State University
Fall 2014
History 5375N CRN# 20267
Monday, 6:30-9:30 p.m.


Danielle Cunniff Plumer, Ph.D.
Office hours: By appointment (virtual preferred)

Complete syllabus (PDF)

Course Description

This course will focus on technologies that enable outreach and visitor engagement in a public history context, using the objects of history to tell stories that make history come alive. We will review options for presenting historical information online, though blogs, social media outreach, crowdsourcing, and virtual exhibits. As a case study we will participate in the Digital Public Library of America’s Digital Curation Program, whose goal is to engage graduate students in curating and writing exhibitions using, at least in part, content available through the DPLA. Students will use Omeka, a flexible, open-source tool developed and maintained at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, to describe digital objects, manage their metadata, and tell a story on a topic of national interest and scope using those objects. This class has been designed so that students need know nothing about digitization, metadata, or digital asset management systems to begin with, apart from proficiency in using a personal computer.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of standards and systems commonly used in creating digital surrogates of historical documents and artifacts
  • Create basic elements of digital object metadata for purposes of identification, description, rights management, and reuse
  • Explain how copyright, privacy, and other concerns affect how institutions can use and share materials in an online environment
  • Identify specific circumstances in which institutions can appropriately use social media outreach, virtual exhibits, crowdsourcing, blogs, and other technology-mediated forms of outreach
  • Develop metrics for evaluating outreach and visitor engagement efforts

Method of Instruction:

The course will be taught in a face to face environment, with supplemental instruction and participation online. Internet access is required. Attendance is required and failure to attend class sessions will affect course grade.



  • Cohen, Daniel J., and Roy Rosenzweig. 2006. Digital history: a guide to gathering, preserving, and presenting the past on the Web. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Retrieved from
  • Lacher-Feldman, Jessica. 2013. Exhibits in archives and special collections libraries. Chicago: Society of American Archivists.


  • Hughes, Lorna M. 2004. Digitizing collections: Strategic issues for the information manager. London: Facet.
  • Kalfatovic, Martin R. 2002. Creating a winning online exhibition: A guide for libraries, archives, and museums. Chicago: American Library Association.
  • Kotler, Neil G., Philip Kotler, and Wendy I. Kotler. 2008. Museum marketing and strategy: Designing missions, building audiences, generating revenue and resources. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Mason, Thomas A., and J. Kent Calder. 2013. Writing local history today: A guide to researching, publishing, and marketing your book. Lanham, MD: Altamira Press.

Additional readings will be assigned for specific topics.


  • Class participation (15% of grade): Students will be expected to read assigned readings and come to class prepared to discuss them. In-class exercises will allow students to put readings into practice.
  • Social media assignment (20% of grade): Each student will be expected to create a minimum of 8 blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, PInterest, or other social media entries discussing themes and issues relevant to class topics. Additional information will be provided in class.
  • Online exhibit assignment (50% of grade): Students will work in groups to produce an online exhibit using the class Omeka installation. Using this system, the student will (a) describe a set of objects using appropriate metadata; (b) create an exhibit using the available objects; and (c) develop a plan to publicize and promote the exhibit using traditional and virtual methods. This assignment will be the basis for a class presentation in the final week(s) of the class.
  • Exams (mid-term, 5% of grade; final, 10% of grade): A brief mid-term exam and class evaluation will allow students and instructor to get an idea of how well we are doing and will cover course content to that point. The final exam, which will be in the form of a take-home with several essay questions, will cover the whole course content.

Course Policies

All assignments are due by the date indicated. Work not received on time will be graded as late. Late assignments will not be accepted more than 24 hours after due date without prior approval from the instructor and may be subject to grade reductions, at the instructor’s discretion.

Grading Scale

90-100       A
80-89         B
70-79         C
60-69         D
Below 59    F

Course Communication

Communication between the instructor and the students outside of class will be facilitated by way of e-mail. GoToMeeting or other screensharing sessions will be available by appointment.

**  Each student is required to e-mail the instructor at the beginning of the semester and to provide his/her e-mail address, mailing address, and ALL telephone numbers where the student can be reached.

Disability Statement

Any student with a documented disability who requires academic accommodations should contact the Office of Disability Services at 512-245-3451 (voice) or (email) as soon as possible to request an official letter outlining authorized accommodations.

Revised August 20, 2014