Georgia Virtual History Project Among Highlights of Digital Humanities Lab Research Cluster

Having successfully launched our Faculty Research Clusters program August 29, the Willson Center will now spotlight one of the clusters each month. We hope these features will help you to become familiar with these individual projects and convey a sense of what is possible with this new interdisciplinary initiative.

The Digital Humanities Lab is a Research Cluster co-directed by Bill Kretzschmar of the English department and Stephen Berry and Claudio Saunt of the history department in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. It is a broad initiative that combines digital humanities courses and the strengthening of the university’s digital humanities research core through projects such as the Linguistic Atlas Project and One of the initiatives aligned with the eHistory effort is the Georgia Virtual History Project, a nonprofit organization directed and co-founded by Willson Center Digital Humanities Fellow Christopher Lawton.

The GVHP’s board of directors includes co-founder Mark Evans of MoWerks Learning; Berry, a Willson Center associate academic director; John Inscoe of the UGA history department; TJ Kopcha of the UGA College of Education; Randy Reid of Athens Academy; and Greg Smith of Smith, Temple, Riley, and Santos. Support for the Georgia Virtual History Project is provided by grants from the Georgia Humanities Council and the Georgia  Department of Economic Development’s Tourism Division. Additional funding has come from the McIntosh County Historical Society.

The GVHP is an effort to use new and interactive technologies to record the history of the state of Georgia and make it available to multiple audiences, from eighth-graders and the general public to college students and academic professionals.

In its first stage, GVHP was built around original research and data collected and analyzed by faculty, undergraduate, and graduate students in multiple departments at the University of Georgia and by advanced high school students at Athens Academy. It has field tested local Athens components of the project with K-12 students both at Athens Academy and in the Clarke County School District. In fall 2013, it will expand to begin incorporating additional content developed by students and faculty at both Georgia State University and Columbus State University.

GVHP’s goal is to spread this model out across the state, ultimately creating a system whereby students in countless communities can help build their own virtual records of their local past.

The Georgia Virtual History Project will have not only a permanent website, but also a dedicated mobile app that will allow participants to access mini-documentaries, historical resources, and tourism-related information using image-recognition software at multiple locations across the state. As a prototype of this model, GVHP is currently building streaming content for another eHistory initiative, “From Civil War to Civil Rights in Georgia.”

One component of this effort will commemorate the life of Melvinia Shields, who was enslaved in Clayton County, and connect her story to that of her great-great-great granddaughter, the current First Lady of the United States of America. Another component will connect slavery and rice cultivation in McIntosh County with the burning of Darien during the Civil War and the struggle for civil rights there through the 1980s. Additional pieces will cover people, places, and events across the state and work to connect those histories to local tourism and K-12 curricula.

In November 2013, the GVHP and Athens Institute for Contemporary Art (ATHICA) will present Seen/Unseen, a two-week exhibition dedicated to public history and the local past of Athens, Georgia. Co-curated by Hope Hilton of ATHICA and Christopher Lawton, executive director of GVHP and a history instructor at UGA, the show will include digital media projects by UGA and Athens Academy history students. The opening reception on November 9 will be part of the Willson Center’s programming for the university’s 2013 Spotlight on the Arts festival.

Watch for further announcements on GVHP and the Seen/Unseen ATHICA show in the near future. See a video trailer for the Georgia Virtual History Project here.