It’s the End of the Beginning

John Ronzino

It is July 28 and I am sad to report that our week-long conference is in its final hours.

Fear not historians, we will meet again, in person, on December 1, March 2, and June 1. I do not know if there will be crispy bacon but I’m sure there will be loads of outstanding student work that will demonstrate your dedication and hard work throughout the school year. Congratulations!!!

Although I had a great time at the Queens Library on Thursday, today was my favorite day of the week. It’s not because it was the last day (I can read your mind). Today was the day that you guys showed us why there is hope for our public school system. After the excellent presentations from April Lynne Earle and Andy Mink the teachers began to create assignments and artifacts in Chronozoom for the year-long project. They got their feet wet and just by listening to the conversations and even looking at the expressions on their faces, this is going to be a huge success and a great benefit for our students.

We started off today with a presentation from Professor April Lynne Earle, a librarian at Farmingdale State College. April, who is 3/8 Canadian and seems to have a problem with North Dakota, gave a witty and informative presentation on how teachers could use genealogy websites for their students’ projects. She spent time on the pros and cons of the major search websites such as Ancestry and Family Search. Our students will have difficulty finding valuable family data from the big search engines since many of them are first or second generation. April emphasized the importance of the family interview. Our students need to develop interview questions prior to the family interview. The preparation for the family interviews will be a key component for successful student projects. April can be reached at

Our second presenter was Andy Mink who gave a detailed presentation on why we should be using Chronozoom and how it can put visualization to historic records. Andy stressed the benefits for students in understanding their family history. It gives them a sense that they are part of a bigger continuum and that they are not alone in the big picture of history. Chronozoom will be the flagship for the year long project. Our students will enter their research in a timeline that will connect their family and cultural histories with each other and to see how their world fits in the greater world of global history. Andy can be reached at

We are at the precipice of something special.

Good luck!!


Teaching Arsenal

Matt Halikias

The accessibility and utility of all of the tools presented today is astoundingly useful. First we observed and learned how to navigate the Queens Memory Project. This project has the potential to truly allow students to become citizen-archivists. It would allow for teachers to allow students to pursue historical and present-day places and people that actually have a deeper meaning to their own personal lives. Allowing for history to feel personal motivates students to actually want to both learn about the objective and perhaps teach themselves beyond the subject.

            The digital and physical archive of the Queens Library also allows for the classroom setting to be both more interactive and personal for students. These resources were demonstrated to us, as a group, today as sources of local information that could be used for tailored projects. Even more interestingly, the physical archive at the main Queens Library even allows students to see the evolution of neighborhoods and blocks of where they live. Allowing for students to actually see how these sites changed over time both as a development and demographically.

            The final tool that was demonstrated was DocsTeach. DocsTeach is a fantastic platform that both as an enormous pool of primary sources and potential lesson plans. These lesson plans allow students to interact with primary documents to gain insight on a snapshot of a moment in history. The lesson plans provided by the National Archives and Records Administration are not only of high quality but can also be molded or newly created at the instructor’s discretion. All of the tools demonstrated today allow teachers to expand their teaching arsenal to the digital realm.


DPLA, Audacity, and Scones

Ashley Bozian

Wednesday, July 26th proved yet another fantastic day of the NHPRC teacher workshops (due in part to the surprise addition of scones to our breakfast platter)! The day began with a presentation by Dr. Elaine Carey on Latin American immigration history which, in keeping with the theme of our project, was geared toward teaching students of Latin American descent how to trace their family histories. Dr. Carey provided many unique and innovative ideas, methodologies, and pathways for students to trace this lineage, in addition to a fascinating history of these migration patterns from Imperial Spain to the post-NAFTA era. Dr. Carey also incorporated elements of gender into her presentation, detailing the fascinating history of matrilineal societies native to the Americas.

Following Dr. Carey’s presentation, Professor Kathryn Shaughnessy presented a series of invaluable tools for the classroom: Audacity, historical newspapers, and the Digital Public Library of America. The latter two offer possibilities for students to search millions of public-domain and/or easily accessible digital archives and resources, and form two indispensable sources in researching family and immigration history. The former, a sound-mixing and -editing application, is intended to be used by students to record oral histories of their own and from their family members. This is especially promising, as oral history is unfortunately under-utilized in both secondary and collegiate classrooms.

We continue to update our joint LibGuide and Zotero folder as our participants contribute new materials, and we are very pleased that these living documents are already beginning to grow. Tomorrow we will continue our activities with a field trip to the Queens Library, and we are looking forward to another great day together!

Student Explorers Make Great Archivists

Dean Guarnaschelli

Family history is captivating; quite often it doesn’t matter whose narrative we are listening to before the ‘film’ in our imagination begins to play.  Our second day of the workshop began with Shala Hussein’s presentation of South Asian migration, an eye-opening account that reminds us that migration is rarely moving simply between two geographic points.  In the case of South Asia, migration involves fascinating strains of stops around the globe due to colonization and its aftermath, labor opportunities as well as changing attitudes towards immigrants.  The message this particular history tells us as educators is that when given the opportunity to track migration, a student can’t help but discover unique and surely previously unknown sub-histories. What students discover by exploring has the potential to become a great archival contribution.

During our second presentation, Phil Misevich made a valuable remark about quantitative data; although it is often how ‘history’ is conveyed, is the first step in researching.  Hard data can mask the ‘lived’ history involved.  A great reminder to pass on to students during their research is to make the marginalized qualify the many numbers we be confronted with.  A family history is as much a plausible account of life within the time and place targeted as any statistics.  Seeing data in different ways, such as through the eyes of an ancestor, is what we want classes to aim for as they plot out their digital projects. Noticing outside influences on historical events such as the Transatlantic Slave Trade, be it ties between wealth and political power or the effects of war on voyages, help us compare and make connections.

Our family history project is aligned with our learning standards and is also a motivating and thought-provoking learning experience.  History and genealogy intertwined; this statement by Janey Chao during our third discussion brings to mind the importance of the NHPRC project.  Family history has been a part of our culture for quite some time, but its role as a catalyst for the development of critical thinking skills is currently enjoying a revival.  The documents and other resources students will want to consult involve employing reading and interpretation skills.

So far, we have experienced great resources to help launch the project later in the new school year.   Navigating their way through the project, students will see their own local history juxtaposed against ‘larger’ history and develop a sense of connecting to world events.  Keeping in mind that students enjoy personalized aspects of learning, the relevance of digital family history can be seen.

Digital History and the Public School Curriculum

Dean Guarnaschelli
Creating new curriculum in which today’s technology is showcased can maximize student involvement in the learning process.  Digital History is one facet of the humanities in which students can add a personal note to this experience.  The idea of sharing history is also a powerful learning tool.  There are several elements to the NHPRC project that will surely excite students as they begin the designing stage and they can be described as being part of historical ‘scale’:
  1. Family history is valid component to ‘overall’ history; images that students find representing the neighborhood where they have roots are just as important as written items are in telling their particular ‘history’.  Chronozoom is the perfect match for all media forms.
  2. Students can see their family history as matching a theme that is usually presented on a larger level, such as ‘expansion’.  Some families were part of neighborhoods in Queens that grew through connected areas via bridges and subways/railways.  Today’s travel routes are no less important.  Students can use current subway art as a continuation of this idea.
  3. Music connects.  Students can see their family as illustrating what music (pop or otherwise) reflects on regarding belonging and an identity with ‘home’.  This may be useful for students with shorter family histories.
  4. Themes have potential.  Students who choose to follow a theme can see their family history as being living proof of something otherwise thought to be ‘non-historical’, such as flavors and food trends.  These ideas can shape a neighborhood’s development.
Keep students’ search productive by helping them find a niche for their own family history and provide materials that guide them in making the project one to share.

New version of Zotero – 5.0 released, just in time to share with the group

Our NHPRC team has been using Zotero to co-ordinate research related to the grant, and I plan on sharing the wonders of Zotero with the Teacher-participants this summer in a couple of weeks.  If the teachers haven’t tried it before, it is a real treat.  If anyone is already familiar with it, it is helpful to know that Firefox 5 is now available, and runs only as a stand-alone.   More information can be found in this blog post.

Main take-away for those who previously used the in-Firefox-browser version of Zotero, a re-install of Zotero and a new extension/connector is needed — this can happen in one of two ways (below):

“If you’re using Zotero 4.0 for Firefox, be aware that Zotero 5.0 now runs only as a standalone application, and a new Zotero Connector for Firefox replaces the full Firefox extension. We’ve [zotero] written a separate post explaining this change. [1st way]  Existing Zotero for Firefox users will be automatically upgraded to the Zotero Connector for Firefox within the next few weeks and will need to install Zotero 5.0 to continue accessing their Zotero data locally.   [2nd way]  If you install Zotero 5.0 now, be sure to install the Zotero Connector for Firefox from the download page as well. “

I went through the process today with a patron, and it runs fine.  The zotero-connector functions the way the old Zotero-add-in did, but instead of having both the “Z” and the “resource icon” in the upper-right-hand corner of the browser, you just have the “icon” in the corner, and you need to have the Zotero-stand-alone open in a separate window.

I haven’t had a chance to update our tutorials yet, but thought that those who already use it (including our own team) would want to know that if you get a prompt from Zotero to change anything (i.e. add connector or re-download Zotero to update to 5.0) it is legit.

Looking forward to sharing the even-more-improved version with more researchers!

Digital History vs. Social Media

Dean J. Guarnaschelli

There is no doubt that social media, in all of its many forms, has helped to connect people based on their relationship to given events. Digital history however, is not the same as social media.  While both can be seen as avenues that allow a forum for a specific topic or action, digital history has the ability to relate the same event to world history.  The scale that revolves around digital history makes is a segue for interpreting the event at hand to similar events over time and space.  During our workshop, participants may want to answer for themselves questions such as, ‘How is this project different than my students joining a social media page on this topic?”