History Harvest Blitz Week opens April 8

Students examine History Harvest items collected as part of the North Omaha project.
Students examine History Harvest items collected as part of the North Omaha project.

Organizers of UNL's History Harvest are planning a weeklong social media event to generate ideas on how to propel the program nationwide.

The History Harvest Blitz Week is April 8-12. The event will allow individuals to discuss the project — which archives historical artifacts into a digital database — through Twitter, the History Harvest blog and a Google Hangout.

"The real purpose of this project is to help us create interest and energy around the History Harvest concept and spread it nationwide in a coordinated manner," said Will Thomas, professor of history. "Anyone can run a history harvest anywhere. We just want to find a way to coordinate the activities and create a single digital archive for the results."

History Harvest is a UNL course organized by Thomas and Patrick Jones, an associate professor of history and ethnic studies. Undergraduates lead the History Harvest project, planning events to gather and digitize artifacts and stories from members of the public. The projects include partnerships with institutions and individuals within the featured community.

"There has been lots of talk within academia and the humanities about teaching history in new and different ways, making it more hands on," Jones said. "That's what History Harvest does. It is a student-led, community-oriented project that also integrates digital technology directly into the classroom.

"These students are leaving behind a trove of new historical information available to anyone — from the community members they interviewed to scholars."

UNL students have completed four History Harvest projects, developing digital archives on railroads, Nebraska City, North Omaha and refugee communities within Lincoln. The results of the History Harvest are featured at http://historyharvest.unl.edu.

Thomas said the idea to expand and organize the project on a national level launched after the Chronicle of Higher Education featured History Harvest in December.

"After the article ran in the Chronicle, we received direct responses from about 25 places that wanted to do a History Harvest," Thomas said. "The project had been pretty internal and low key. But the buzz generated from the story got us thinking about how we could harness that interest and get a conversation going that leads us to something bigger."

Institutions that expressed an interest in the History Harvest project included the Big Ten's Committee on Institutional Cooperation, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of California at Santa Barbara, George Mason University, James Madison University, University of Central Florida and Concordia College. Faculty from several of these institutions plan to join UNL in the History Harvest sessions during blitz week.

The History Harvest Blitz Week will feature three themed discussions on Twitter, a Google Hangout discussion and a seminar reserved for members of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education. Participants in the Twitter discussions should use the hashtag #history_harvest.

The blitz also includes student-produced audio and video features that will be released on the History Harvest website. The “History Harvest Minute” audio files may be featured on a local radio station.

Events scheduled for the History Harvest Blitz Week are:

April 8 — Twitter discussion, "The Student Experience: How Do We Create Authentic Learning Experiences for Undergraduate Students?"

April 9 — Twitter discussion, "Archiving the People's History: How Do We Digitize, Curate and Manage Community History?"

April 10 — Twitter discussion, "Building Community Partnerships: How Do We Work Effectively With Partners to Share Resources and Materials?"

April 11 — Google Hangout, "Teaching the History Harvest," 3 p.m., http://historyharvest.unl.edu/hangout

April 12 — Seminar for NITLE members, "Reflection and Planning the National History Harvest," 2 p.m., led by Thomas and Jones. Register at http://www.nitle.org.

"Our hope is that the blitz will be a dynamic process through which we can continue to spread the word about History Harvest and better gauge the interest of potential collaborators," Jones said. "We want to engage in a conversation with all interested parties — from faculty and students to tech people and public historians — so we can learn from it and continue to push the concept forward."

History Harvest Blitz Week can be followed at http://historyharvest.wordpress.com, https://twitter.com/HistoryHarvest and https://www.facebook.com/HistoryHarvest.

For more information on History Harvest or the blitz events, go to http://historyharvest.unl.edu.

— Troy Fedderson, University Communications