Details about THATCamp AHA 2016: times, places, and proposals

Schedule for THATCamp AHA 2016

THATCamp AHA 2016 will start in a few days on Wednesday, January 6. Here is the information you need to know about finding the location, the start time, and proposing sessions.


We will begin at 9:00 a.m. by putting the schedule for the day together. (Please see the section on proposing sessions below.)

  • 9:00 – 10:00   Welcome, voting, presentations, etc
  • 10:15 – 11:45 First session
  • 1:00 – 2:30 Second session
  • 2:45 – 4:15 Third session

After the sessions are over, anyone who wishes is welcome to join us at Side Bar Atlanta
(79 Poplar Street, Atlanta, GA 30303).


THATCamp will be held at Georgia State University, near the location of the AHA hotels (about 4 or 5 blocks). The sessions will be held in Student Center East and Student Center West. In the morning you should come to the Student Center East Auditorium and lobby (44 Courtland St NE, Atlanta, GA 30303).

To find the GSU Student Center East, click through to this map, which offers walking and public transit directions.

Proposing Sessions

There are two kinds of proposals we’d love to see from each participant. The first is for lightening presentations (sometimes called Dork Shorts). The idea is for you to give a three-minute presentation on some project, research, tool, etc that you want everyone to know about. You’ll have access to a web browser and three minutes of our undivided attention. These presentations will happen during our opening session. To sign up, please leave a comment on this post.

Second, we’d like to know what you want to talk about, build, or experiment with at THATCamp. You can propose as many hour-and-a-half long sessions as we like, and we will vote on them during our opening session. To propose a session, please log in to the THATCamp website using the credentials that we e-mailed. (Having problems? E-mail .) Click “Add a post” and write up your sessions proposal. There are more details here. You can see the sessions which have been proposed below.

See you in Atlanta in a few days.

Session proposal: FrEEBO anyone?

In October of this year, there was an outpouring of rage on Twitter (where else) when the Renaissance Society of America announced that it would no longer be able to offer access to EEBO to members because ProQuest had decided to cancel their contract. According to the official statement from the RSA the cancellation was because “members make such heavy use of the subscription, [it] is reducing ProQuest’s potential revenue from library-based subscriptions.”

The furore didn’t last long because Proquest backed down and renewed the contract, but it brought a long standing concern that many scholars have about access to primary sources to the top of the agenda for a brief period. With a lot of digital primary sources in the hands of for-profit companies, and subscription costs that prohibit all but the largest research universities from providing access, how can we ensure equality of access to all researchers?

Are there ways that scholarly societies, major research libraries, and academic users could work together to overcome what represents a significant barrier to access to vital resources for many scholars? Projects like the Text Creation Partnership, and 18thConnect have gone a long way toward making certain aspects of these resources broadly available, and large scale (at least partly open) efforts like HathiTrust and individual efforts at major research libraries provide others with necessary resources, but is there more that can be done? How do we identify priorities for digitization? What other help can associations and others provide researchers to find and obtain what they need?

Open Educational Resources in History: Where to Start and What to Do

There has been a great deal of discussion in the news lately about the cost of colleges texts and rightly so.  But not all Open Educational Resources are created equal, and most have been aimed at introductory classes or at replacing textbooks.  That can be quite helpful, but that doesn’t always meet the needs of upper-level undergraduate or graduate history classes.

I propose a session in which we talk about existing openly available resources for teaching history, identify the key components in good resources, discuss the possibilities of working with students to create openly available resources of our own, and collaborate on a Google doc to share those ideas.

Obligatory Valuing Digital Scholarship and Teaching Session

I titled this “obligatory” because the issue of convincing departments, administrators, hiring committees, and tenure and promotion boards of the value of digitally enabled scholarship and teaching has been coming up since the very first THATCamp in 2008 (and most of the hundreds since then).  The advantage of the question coming up that often is that lots of people have had chances to talk about it and even formulate some responses. [The AHA itself released its Guidelines for the Professional Evaluation of Digital Scholarship by Historians just this year.]  And yet, each situation, each school, each project, each individual’s work is different, so it continues to be a topic worth discussing.

So, I propose a session where we discuss people’s concerns in this area, talk about strategies others have used in the past, and talk about the ways that the AHA’s new guidelines provide some structure for the profession going forward.

State of the art in DH mapping

I’d love to compare notes among people who are using mapping for DH research projects. I’m particularly interested in moving away from GIS (e.g. ArcGIS or QGIS) and GIS-in-the-browser (e.g., CartoDB) to using the various libraries that let us create our own custom maps. For me that looks like the leaflet and lawn (an R wrapper around Turf.js) packages for R, tied together with the Shiny web framework. But I’d like to know what everyone else considers the state of the art in mapping for DH, and how they are using it.

As a part of that, this session could also include people showing the projects that they’ve worked or otherwise admire, and talking about next steps for coming up with meaningful conclusions from DH mapping data.

Or we could just talk about how awesome Shiny is.

Getting down to work in DH classes

An iron law of DH software is that it is easier to use than to install. Philip Guo has memorably identifed the problem in a post titled “Helping my students overcome command-line bullshittery.” I’d like to talk about ways teachers, whether at the undergrad or the grad level, use to overcome this problem. How do we get students into the real work (necessary complexity) while avoiding as much as possible the unnecessary complexity of installing and configuring software? Or, in some cases is there pedagogical value in understanding how computers really work, such as by dealing with the Unix command line?

I can explain what I’m planning to do with my graduate class using RStudio Server this semester, and I hope that others have their own techniques.