Bethlehem, from the digitally restored Oxford Outremer Map
Graduate students and fellows from the History Department and the Center for Medieval Studies at Fordham, under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Paul and Dr. Laura Morreale from each department respectively, are collaborating in an effort to open up the conversation and further understand a 13th century map which has not previously been studied in depth. Their project is called The Oxford Outremer Map and it is their goal to “use digital tools and the open global forum of the internet to bring to light a neglected medieval intellectual and cultural artifact.” Through the creation of their website, these collaborators not only hope to provide someone with a foundation of understanding of the map but also encourage other scholars to analyze it and contribute to the unfolding discussion.
Toby Hrynick, a first year PhD student in the History Department who received his MA in Medieval Studies, has been working on the project since its inception in the summer of 2014. On November 6, Toby will be taking the map project on the road, giving a conference paper about the map and participating in a digital workshop at the Haskins Society‘s Conference at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota.
We talked to Toby to get some more details on the project and his experience working on the map… Continue reading
BAAHP celebrating uploading of interviews to Digital Commons with professors, students, and members of the community (l-r Morgan Mungerson, Eddie Mikus, Andrea Benintendi, Danielle Rowe, Dr. Jane Edward, Dr. Mark Naison, Robert Gumbs, and Damien Strecker)
As a follow up to the launch of the Bronx African American History Project’s archive of digital recordings, we asked Damien Strecker, a PhD student in History at Fordham, to tell us more about the project. He writes:
Last fall, I began my journey towards a PhD in History under the helpful guidance of Professor Mark Naison. Dr. Naison’s Communists in Harlem During the Great Depression greatly influenced my Master’s research on the nationalist activity of Harry Haywood, an active member of the Communist Party USA during the interwar period. My initial meeting with Dr. Naison to discuss my research assistantship with the Bronx African American History Project (BAAHP) provided a window into my new work environment. He passionately described to me the history of the project and the goals for the academic year—and then proceeded to crank up the bass on a Redman hip hop track he told me I had to hear. Entering my second year working on the project, the music is still playing and the important historical work continues to march forward.
Last year, I worked to accomplish a number of goals: 1) organize, label, and safely store the hard copies of all BAAHP files 2) digitize and safely store electronically as many files as possible 3) finish transcribing and summarizing old interviews. With the help of five undergraduate workers, we succeeded in transferring the physical materials of the project to Fordham’s Rare Books and Special Collection, digitizing the interview audio, and finishing nearly all of the transcriptions and summaries.
While the tasks seem straightforward, each week provided new and unforeseen challenges, especially in regards to file formatting. Where on campus can I find a mini-DV player? What audio and video formats are the most common and universal now? Do we format our files for Apples or PCs? The BAAHP began over a decade ago and the archive reflects the monumental changes in technology over that time period. The BAAHP collection includes VHS, DVD, analog audio cassettes, Mini-DVs, and CDs as well as a number of different antiquated electronic file formats. The general trend within history to digitize primary sources is a fantastic development that will bring the tools of history to anyone with internet access. However, the rapidly changing pace of file formats may complicate things as technology changes over time. One can envision a future historian in 20 years trying to unearth Windows Media Player software or QuickTime to read an important file. Despite possible technical difficulties, the digitization of historical archives is an exciting development that will make materials much more accessible to everyone. Don’t throw away your white gloves and microfilm reader just yet, but digitization is happening rapidly and the BAAHP is proud to be a part of this movement.
With the task of general organization and file format uniformity secured last year, we quickly accomplished the long held goal of making the interviews accessible electronically via Fordham’s Digital Commons. Now that the public can access the interview files via the internet, we can concentrate efforts on publicizing the archive’s content. People from 5 different continents accessed the files within the first week of going public. People from all over the world will get to access files covering topics ranging from early jazz, church activism, hip hop, education, and African immigration. Dr. Jane Edward of the African American Studies Department initiated the important work of chronicling the story of recent African immigrants in the Bronx.
The global reach of the BAAHP is promising, but ultimately, it is about the Bronx. In an effort to engage the community, the BAAHP will be creating curriculum materials that local educators can use in their classrooms. As a former middle school and high school social studies teacher, I know the actual process of interpreting and writing history can be intimidating for students and teachers alike. Starting next semester, we will begin giving presentations in local schools about Bronx history, oral history, and the BAAHP collection. Also, we will be disseminating a 3 day model mini unit for teachers. They can use it to get students excited about writing histories of local relevance and familiarity.
In the world of graduate school and academia, it is easy to get lost in our own worlds, reading, teaching, and researching. In the end, we all should desire to share what we have learned with the world—not just those privileged enough to scan their ID onto campus. I’m proud to work with BAAHP in their efforts to preserve and share the rich cultural history of the borough Fordham calls home. The cultural contours of the Bronx continue to change and the BAAHP will be there to make sure the people’s stories will not be forgotten.
A new conversation has started within the History Department at Fordham. Under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Paul, graduate students in his Crusader States class are developing podcasts as a means to initiate discussion. The course, “charts the social, political, and cultural history of the feudal principalities (sometimes called “Crusader States” “the Latin East” or the ‘Frankish Levant”) that were established by Latin Christians in the Eastern Mediterranean in the wake of the First Crusade.” The podcasts, in turn, each focus on a specific theme within the current scholarship, from the background to the First Crusade in the Eastern Mediterranean, to the relationships between Latin Europeans and eastern Christians and Muslims, through the cultural, social, and political development of the Crusader States themselves
What are the advantages of the podcast format? Tom Schellhammer, a student in the course, commented that, “Historical scholarship must also embrace the current trend towards technological interaction,” as “Technology allows us to reach a wide audience, and this idea is a fantastic intro to anyone interested in learning more about the Crusader States. A podcast can build interest by succinctly covering the important discussion points on any one topic, and highlighting the importance of the topic and asking intriguing questions that spark even more debate and scholarship.”
For Tom, and all of the students in The Crusader States, further and broader discussion about the aftermath of the First Crusade is the ultimate goal, and they believe that using podcasts promotes that within and beyond their seminar. Tom says, “I think that as a class we have come up with some thought provoking questions which might benefit a larger community studying the Crusader States. I find the material challenging and want to hear outside comments upon the work that we are doing, so I appreciate the opportunity to be heard and receive feedback on our discussions. On a topic that has interest in such widespread and diverse communities, the podcasts truly help reach outside thoughts and opinions and ignite those same thoughts to be shared here at Fordham.”
Check out all the podcasts and listen to Tom address issues faced by the Crusader military and debate whether the creation of new states was inevitable in the aftermath of the First Crusade. History is about so much more than the sources analyzed and papers written– it is about sharing what we learn with others in hopes of creating an atmosphere of inquiry, debate, and ultimately, understanding.
This week, the Bronx African American History Project of Fordham celebrates a major milestone with the uploading of more than 200 of its oral history interviews to the BAAHP’s Digital Research Site at Fordham libraries, making them available to scholars around the nation and around the world. More than twelve years in the making, this collection represents an unparalleled resources for scholars in African American and Urban History. Keep reading for further details of the project provided by Professor Mark Naison.
Looking for faster and easier ways to publish? Want to interact with people in your field from all over the world? H-Net Commons is such a source for historians everywhere. Continue reading