Digital Tools from the Center for History and New Media: Present and Future

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Dan Cohen

    Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media - George Mason University

  2. 2. Tom Scheinfeldt

    Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media - George Mason University

  3. 3. Jeremy Boggs

    Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media - George Mason University

  4. 4. Dave Lester

    Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media - George Mason University

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.

The need to “develop and maintain open standards
and robust tools” was one of eight key recommendations
in Our Cultural Commonwealth: The Report of the
American Council of Learned Societies Commission on
Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences.
It has become increasingly apparent that if digital
humanists are to have the right tools for their work,
they will have to build some of them themselves. Indeed,
many humanities scholars and social scientists have already
built valuable digital tools over the years, including
software and systems for text processing, markup,
visualization, metadata generation, cataloging, GIS, and
a number of other humanities-related tasks.
In the past seven years, the Center for History and New
Media at George Mason University has expanded its focus
from creating web resources for educational, scholarly,
and general audiences to include several major
open source software projects. Making this transition
has involved a considerable challenges, but also some
significant opportunities. In this panel the directors and
developers of these digital tools will speak about the
challenges of creating software for scholarship, research,
web publishing, and course management; discuss where
their tools are today and how others can get involved in
their production; and talk about future plans and trends.
Three projects will be highlighted:
For research management, CHNM has created Zotero
(, an easy-to-use yet powerful research sources
(citations, full texts, web pages, images, and other
objects), and share the results of their research in a variety
of ways. An extension to the popular open-source
web browser Firefox, Zotero includes the best parts of
older reference manager software (like EndNote)—the
ability to store author, title, and publication fields and
to export that information as formatted references—and
the best parts of modern software and web applications
(like iTunes and, such as the ability to interact,
tag, and search in advanced ways. Zotero integrates
tightly with online resources; it can sense when users
are viewing a book, article, or other object on the web,
and—on many major research and library sites—find
and automatically save the full reference information for
the item in the correct fields. Since it lives in the web
browser, it can effortlessly transmit information to, and
receive information from, other web services and applications;
since it runs on one’s personal computer, it can
also communicate with software running there (such as
Microsoft Word). And it can be used offline as well (e.g.,
on a plane, in an archive without WiFi).
Zotero has surpassed the milestone of over a million users
and more than a hundred colleges and universities
now actively recommend Zotero to their students, faculty,
and staff. The Zotero project has received recognition
in PC Magazine’s “Best Free Software” issue. Through
the open source community, Zotero has been translated
into 40 languages, ranging from Arabic to Vietnamese.
For web publishing, CHNM has created Omeka (http://, a free and open source collections based
web-based publishing platform for scholars, librarians,
archivists, museum professionals, educators, and cultural
enthusiasts. CHNM’s new open source platform for
publishing collections and exhibitions online hit a major
milestone with the release of the 0.10 Beta release. Designed
for cultural institutions, enthusiasts, and educators,
Omeka is easy to install and modify and facilitates
community-building around collections and exhibits. It
is designed with non-IT specialists in mind, allowing
users to focus on content rather than programming. Its
“five-minute setup” makes launching an online exhibition
as easy as launching a blog. Omeka is designed with
non-IT specialists in mind, allowing users to focus on
content and interpretation rather than programming. It
brings Web 2.0 technologies and approaches to academic
and cultural websites to foster user interaction and participation.
It makes top-shelf design easy with a simple
and flexible template system. Its robust open-source developer
and user communities underwrite Omeka’s stability
and sustainability. Until now, scholars and cultural
heritage professionals looking to publish collectionsbased
research and online exhibitions required either extensive
technical skills or considerable funding for outside
vendors. By making standards based, serious online
publishing easy, Omeka puts the power and reach of the
web in the hands of academics and cultural professionals
As educators increasingly use blogs in their classrooms,
CHNM has explored ways to provide open-source tools
for educational blogging. Currently an unfunded, staffgenerated
project, ScholarPress (
is a development hub for educational and scholarly plugins
for the WordPress blogging platform. ScholarPress
currently offers two plugins: Courseware, which enables
teachers to manage a class with a WordPress blog
with a schedule, bibliography, assignments, and other
course information, and WPBook, which works with
the Facebook Development platform to create an (addable
by users within the site) using a Wordpress blog.
Thus, someone using both Courseware and WPBook can
create a WordPress blog, add a course schedule, reading
list, assignments, and annoucements, and share that
information with students through the blog and through
a Facebook application that students add. ScholarPress
plans future plugins for grading, research, bibliography
management, and is working to make plugins compatible
with multi-user versions of WordPress, so services
like Edublogs can add the plugins and make them available
to educations using their services.
“Digital Tools from the Center for History and New Media:
Present and Future” will provide audience members
with an introduction to each of these tools, the challenges
involved in building each, the similarities and
differences in building tools for different purposes and
audiences, and some lessons learned in making the transition
from web development to software development.
The format for the session will feature short, 15 minute
presentations by four key members of the CHNM
tool development team. CHNM director Dan Cohen will
discuss Zotero, Managing director Tom Scheinfeldt and
Omeka Developer Dave Lester will discuss Omeka, and
Creative Lead Jeremy Boggs will discuss ScholarPress.
These short project-focused presentation will be followed
by a 15 panel discussion among the presenters in
which they will discuss the similarities and differences
between the three projects and some of the more general
aspects of software development. The balance of the remaining
time will be left to audience questions and answers.
All four participants live in the Washington D.C.
area and will be available during the week of DH09.

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.

Conference Info


ADHO - 2009

Hosted at University of Maryland, College Park

College Park, Maryland, United States

June 20, 2009 - June 25, 2009

176 works by 303 authors indexed

Series: ADHO (4)

Organizers: ADHO

  • Keywords: None
  • Language: English
  • Topics: None