Tomorrow's Historian

Rachel's Adventures in Historical Research

Category: Past Projects

Oral History

Oral History: Using Voice as Evidence in the Digital Age

In the beginning…

International Oral History and Technology

This project began as an attempt to answer the question of whether digital tools could or could not be used to conduct international oral history interviews to replace historians having to travel in order to conduct interviews in person.  Instead, this project evolved into an exploration of how digital tools have changed the products of the research in the field of oral history.

Oral historians, unlike many traditional historians, have been quick to adapt to changes in technology and have adopted new technologies in the conducting of interviews.  Newer technologies have generally made the process of conducting interviews much simpler; therefore, like Microsoft Word or Zotero for the traditional historian, these tools are rapidly embraced by oral historians.  So the use of paper and pen evolved to the use of a tape recorder, which evolved to the use of the video camera, which evolved to the use of digital recorders, and so on.

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Brasov (aka Stalin City)

brasovAh, Brasov…today I consider the medieval city of Brasov to be my home away from home.  It is a beautiful, quaint, strikingly Eastern European city nestled in the valley of Tampa mountain.  Apart from it’s charm and history, the people of Brasov are incredibly warm and welcoming and the cafe culture in the city center is easy to get used to.

The crest of "crown city"

The crest of “Crown City”

Brasov holds onto many symbols, medieval and modern.  For instance the crest of Brasov – an ode to the German name for Brasov, Kronstadt or “Crown City.”  But during our first couple of weeks living in Brasov, the modern symbol that I could not escape was the one for which the city is best known: the enormous Hollywood-esque sign of the town name that is perched at the crest of Tampa mountain and is visible from virtually every part of town.  I learned quickly that the locals of Brasov generally hold negative feelings toward the Brasov sign.  One of my professors had to install black-out curtains in her apartment in order to block out the bright white light that the sign projects at night.  And travel blogs often refer to the sign as “kitschy,” a term often used to describe low-brow cultural icons.

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Story Map: Daniel Hawkins

Daniel Hawkins: Freedom Seeker

As an enslaved man, Daniel Hawkins sought freedom.  He escaped slavery on June 19, 1850 and was successful in reaching freedom in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  To Hawkins, the landscape was his ally and state borders served as his protection from the oppression of slavery.  However, almost three months exactly after his escape, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was passed and the safety that Hawkins had achieved behind state lines dissolved.  This map, available in the link above, explores Hawkins’ journey from slavery to freedom and seeks to track Hawkins experiences after recapture.


My first Romanian experience consisted of eight hours of gallivanting around Bucharest’s Old Town.  My husband and I had arrived in Romania a week before our Romanian language program was to start in Brasov and were staying one short night in the capital before we jetted off to Istanbul for a 5-day trip, a mini-vacation before we immersed ourselves in a language in which we had no previous knowledge.  My first experience in Romania was also my first experience in Eastern Europe, as I continuously reminded myself while we took in the sights and sounds of the city.  “You’re really in Eastern Europe, this is really Eastern Europe,” I thought to myself repeatedly in disbelief that we had actually made it there, fulfilling a lifelong goal of mine.  We lost ourselves in the bustle of the popular downtown district – the street violinists, fashionable women, and lack of English speakers.  We did our best to soak in the surroundings in an attempt to understand the new culture we would soon find ourselves studying intensely.  It wasn’t long before wandering the streets led us to the steps of the National History Museum and we were faced with a, somewhat disturbing, tangible example  of Romanian nationalism.

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Daniel Hawkins: Annotated Primary Sources

Baltimore City Jail's Runaway Slave Docket from the year 1851.  Accessed at the  Maryland State Archives 10/25/2014.

Baltimore City Jail’s Runaway Slave Docket
from the year 1851. Accessed at the
Maryland State Archives 10/25/2014.

Primary source documents regarding the history of the enslaved person Daniel Hawkins have proved to be limited, but the ability to trace his story through these documents appears to be promising.  Each of these sources requires further research and at this moment this bibliography is a mere introduction into the possibilities that each source offers to contribute to the narrative of Hawkins.  Initially, the only information concerning Hawkins was provided in the list of primary case studies from the Maryland State Archives (MSA).  The background of Hawkins reads “Daniel Hawkins (claimed by William M. Risteau of Baltimore County, Hawkins was sent back to Baltimore).”

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Walking through the Past: Historical Apps and Baltimore Heritage

Explore Baltimore Heritage App

Explore Baltimore Heritage App

If you are anything like me, most of your interaction with the digital world is conducted through a smartphone and a plethora of apps, or applications. The introduction of the smartphone to the public forever altered the way we view and engage technology. Today, we can use our mobile phones in numerous ways to ease the navigation of daily life. As we all know, there is an app for everything and the field of history is no exception.

There is no shortage of imagination in the creation of history apps, as outlined in HistoryToday’s article, “Digital History: Tapping into the Past.” The innovation in history apps is exciting, especially those that utilize  AR or “augmented reality.” Currently, one of the most common types of history apps are those pithily titled “map apps,” that act as an accompaniment to historic walking tours. These “map apps” are great for participating in heritage tourism and are useful to any history enthusiast – whether a student, teacher, traveler, or history “fan.”

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…One Giant Leap for Me

Taking in the streets of Amsterdam

Hello! You might recognize me by my busted backpack or my love of cheese.

I graduated from UMBC in May with my B.A. in History and International Affairs and I am the former president of the History Student Council (P.S. if you haven’t joined HSC yet, what are you waiting for?).  I returned this semester to take a digital history course because:  A) I just couldn’t quit UMBC cold turkey and B) digital skills are incredibly important for the future of the history field and sometimes I feel like I have next to none.

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