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Experiences with the Crafting Digital History Course

Earlier this year I participated in a Digital History course as an open access participant. The course was run by Shawn Graham, otherwise known as the writer of the Electric Archaeology blog. Shawn was a great distance teacher, always available via the Slack group and always up for any form of discussion. Even though I was in a completely different time-zone Slack allowed us to communicate freely and as synchronously as possible.


The course consisted of a theoretical side, where we were linked to various articles regarding digital history. Each of the 6 sections was followed by a set of practical exercises.

Two websites were provided for information about the course:

The course consisted of 5 modules:

  • Open Access Research: A module discussing why historical data should be open and easily accessible to the public.
  • Finding Data: A module discussing how to search for and scrape data.
  • Fixing Data: A module discussing how to clean up and process data.
  • Analysis: A module discussing quick visualisation and analysis of data.
  • Visualization: A module discussing the visualisation and presentation of historical data.

During the course we had to keep a repository with notes on the course. You can find my repository here. I didn’t complete some of the exercises due to work commitments and visiting Namibia for a holiday, but I did complete most of them.

We also had to do a project that could range from an info-graphic to a full website. I wanted to create an interactive map, but due to time limitations on my side I decided on an info-graphic instead. You can see the info-graphic here. I used the Early Tana Tradition and the Swahili Coast dataset for my info-graphic.

The exercises varied from theoretical exercises to technical ones. Some worked 100% using the instructions provided, others gave Windows users like me a bit of a troubleshooting experience before being able to complete them. The details of how the exercises were approached can be found in the repository mentioned above.

Shawn also wrote an article on his blog about the course and the various projects created by his students.

I personally found the course very interesting. It was important for me, being a software developer interested in archaeology, to see technology from a historians point of view. It was also fun to solve the various problems given in the exercises as well as the additional problems one may have experienced. Lastly, the course introduced me to a wide community of digital humanities, including the Digital Humanities Slack group.

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