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A Repository of Shared Pedagogical Practices: Assignments in Visualizing Objects, Places, and Spaces: A Digital Project Handbook

Published onJun 06, 2023
A Repository of Shared Pedagogical Practices: Assignments in Visualizing Objects, Places, and Spaces: A Digital Project Handbook

The following article originated as a presentation at Open/Social/Digital Pedagogy, Training, and Mentorship, a virtual conference of the ADHO Special Interest Group for Digital Humanities Pedagogy and Training and the INKE Open Social Scholarship Cluster at the 2021 Digital Humanities Summer Institute.

Land Acknowledgment

We live and work on the ancestral homelands of the Mohican people, whose community today is known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, and on the ancestral lands of the Haliwa-Saponi, Sappony, and Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation, part of which is now known as Durham, North Carolina. Learn more about and consider supporting the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi at The platform our project uses, PubPub, is institutionally located on the traditional land of the Massachusett people, in an area now known as Cambridge, Massachusetts. This acknowledgement reminds us of the significance of place even in a digital project, and of our ongoing need to build a more inclusive and equitable space.


Why might instructors incorporate digital humanities assignments into their teaching? What can students learn by creating a digital project? And how does an instructor create and facilitate such an assignment? With sample assignments published in Visualizing Objects, Places, and Spaces: A Digital Project Handbook (Handbook), instructors new to digital humanities or seeking new ideas for their digital pedagogy can learn from others’ experiences designing and delivering digital assignments, and use these examples as templates for building their own projects.1 The Handbook is an open online resource, published in English, providing guidance for anyone starting or working on their own digital projects. Structured around Project Stages and digital methods, the Handbook incorporates examples of research and teaching submitted by scholars and practitioners from around the world. Information accompanying these examples provides insights into digital teaching and research processes to help readers develop their own roadmaps for creating teaching assignments and research projects. In this article, we will describe the Handbook’s origins, present two example Assignments, and compare the Assignments’ implementations of digital technologies.

Project Background

The Handbook emerged from our collaboration during the National Humanities Center’s Summer Institute on Objects, Places, and the Digital Humanities, an initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, from 2017–2018 (“Summer Institute on Objects, Places and the Digital Humanities”). Participants in the institute were mid-career scholars aiming to incorporate digital humanities into their research and teaching. They came together for two week-long workshops to develop both practical and theoretical knowledge of visually oriented digital humanities. Together with the institute’s lead instructors, we engaged with a variety of visualization techniques and offered project management workshops and individual project consultations. After the institute, participants returned to their own institutions to continue working, with access to additional hands-on support from the instructional team, especially Beth Fischer in her role as Postdoctoral Fellow for the program, throughout the year. During this time, Beth also supported fellows at the National Humanities Center, who were not part of the Summer Institute, with weekly “office hours” to help with digital projects.

Our experience with the institute participants and National Humanities Center fellows inspired the Handbook. As we worked with faculty, we noticed repeated needs. There were ample resources on the theory behind digital humanities methods, for example, A Companion to Digital Humanities (Schreibman et al.); Doing Digital Humanities: Practice, Training, Research (Crompton et al.); Making Things and Drawing Boundaries: Experiments in the Digital Humanities (Sayers); and the methods section in each Debates in Digital Humanities volume (Gold and Klein). These and many other texts have provided important insights into digital methods across humanities disciplines and key issues to consider when creating a digital project as part of scholarly research. There were also examples of pedagogical work in particular, such as those compiled in Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments (Davis et al.). We could point faculty to guides to specific digital tools and approaches such as Programming Historian; Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web (Cohen and Rosenzweig); or Library Carpentry lessons (“Our Lessons”).

There were already plenty of fantastic resources available on project management in digital humanities such as the workshops offered year after year at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute; the Project Laboratory shared by the Digital Humanities Research Institute; and Development for the Digital Humanities (Appleford and Guiliano). There were examples of specific aspects of project management generously shared by their creators, such as the project charters shared via the Praxis Program at the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia, and the Colored Conventions Project’s “Student Memo of Understanding” and “Instructor Memo of Understanding.” And there were short-form resources such as Rebecca Frost Davis’ “Process Checklist for Integrating Digital Humanities Projects into Courses.”

In spite of all of these resources, though, we had difficulty finding resources that could help faculty like those we worked with plan and manage digital projects from start to finish with methodological guidance geared toward visual digital humanities—those digital humanities methodologies and disciplines that prioritize visualization and/or visual material without excluding text. Those that we did identify included tool- and process-specific assumptions about researchers’ experience and prior knowledge. Tutorials often assumed that readers were starting with a prepared data set, for example, or that the entire project would be completed within one tool without needing to export content to another program for analysis, presentation, or archiving. Meanwhile, the high-level project management resources did not necessarily provide guidance on the kinds of nuts-and-bolts questions we were receiving. We were seeking resources that could help these scholars to estimate the scope of a project; to learn about the benefits and challenges of various methodologies; to understand the kinds of expertise, computing power and/or storage, and funding they might need; to take into account questions of interoperability and access in visualization technologies; and to encourage them to think about the end of the project before they began.

The idea for the Handbook was thus formed to fill the space between theoretical writing and project examples, high-level concepts of project management, and tool-specific tutorials. We would offer method-specific guidance knowing that many projects incorporate multiple methods. We would avoid tool-specific recommendations, but we would seek out examples that could explain how specific tools are used in digital humanities projects. And we would aim to offer this resource in formats that could be accessible to researchers, instructors, and practitioners in a variety of institutional and disciplinary contexts.

Handbook Structure

Our solution was an open, modular web publication that addresses questions of workflow, resources, and basic computational principles for a variety of project categories. We focus on explaining the logistical and planning questions around setting up a project and choosing tools, explaining the tradeoffs and pitfalls that are most common in different kinds of digital projects, such as issues that are especially common with projects relating to quantitative analysis or to creating digital archives. We avoid writing tutorials or making recommendations for specific tools, though we do try to give a sense of the range of choices. Available tools, especially free or low-cost options, change frequently, and the resources that make a specific tool approachable at one institution may not work for an independent scholar or vice versa. That said, tool specificity is a requirement for Case Studies and Assignments, which offer important opportunities for readers to compare how different teams use similar methods on different platforms.

We limited the Handbooks scope to projects studying objects and spaces and to projects that use visual and interactive modes to communicate scholarship. This is our own area of expertise, but when we were first developing the project we also saw more resources directed toward text-centric projects and wanted a resource that centered the material and research questions of art history, visual culture, and media studies.

We both have experience working on a wide variety of projects at different scales, in different roles. In addition to consulting on digital humanities projects and doing our own digital work, Hannah Jacobs brought experience managing institutional digital resources, teaching technologies, and collaborating on digital humanities projects. Beth Fischer had experience in museums and teaching in multiple types of academic institutions, and had also been the editor of a born-digital art history journal. We have had no funding for this work, and time spent has been allocated as part of our regular work responsibilities.

Our audiences include both those new to digital humanities entirely, and those beginning a new digital humanities project or trying a new approach. They may be researchers or instructors, or they may be students at undergraduate or graduate levels. We also aim to make the Handbook a resource for practitioners who are providing consultation, collaborative development, or other forms of research and teaching support.

We released the first phase of the project in late 2019, including peer-reviewed content, and sent out a call for submissions of Case Studies and Assignments. We continue to publish new content, both by us and by external submitters, on a quarterly basis.


Early in our own project development, we discussed a variety of platforms, including the possibility of creating our own custom platform. A key functionality we envisioned was a kind of build-your-own handbook in which readers could select certain sections and compile them into a downloadable handbook for offline and shared use. We also wanted the platform to facilitate open publishing to accommodate the Case Studies and Assignments sections. Around the same time, a group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) began developing an open publishing platform called PubPub, which offers a number of features significant for open academic publishing. PubPub is an open access, open source platform developed by an academic institution for academic use. Designed to support collaborative publishing, PubPub offers important peer review and attribution tools as well as citation tools and Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs). It supports a wide range of exportable file formats, including print-ready options. Through support from MIT’s Knowledge Futures Group, PubPub’s developers aim to provide sustained support for its communities (“Our Mission”).

Our basic structure was built out from seven visual Project Types that we saw as having unique workflows, processes for development, and common pitfalls because of the kinds of content they deal with and the kinds of research questions they involve. These types are

  • Archival Projects

  • Dimensional Projects

  • Narrative Projects

  • Spatial Projects (forthcoming)

  • Networked Projects (forthcoming)

  • Quantitative Projects (forthcoming)

  • Temporal Projects

We can identify the kinds of issues that typically come up in projects that use these approaches, which may be related to the kinds of source content they use, the ways content needs to be manipulated, or the way projects are shared or maintained. For example, the Dimensional Project Type presents the tradeoffs between complexity and accessibility in the platforms that can be used to view 3d models without making a recommendation about which is “best,” while the Narrative Project guide covers issues like how to storyboard a nonlinear narrative. However, in each Project Type we address the same kinds of concerns, gathered together as Project Stages. These include Planning, Budgets & Funding, Tools & Resources, Teams & Expertise, Timelines & Workflows, Prototyping & Wireframing, Documentation, and Updates, Maintenance, & Sustainability. Each of these sections is peer reviewed by a member of the digital humanities community, and we include students and technical staff, as well as faculty new to digital humanities, in our peer reviewer pool.

Our goal is to make this content as modular as possible, recognizing that it is common for a digital project to include multiple approaches. For example, it is quite common for an archival project to collect digital content and then include a narrative or temporal interpretation; this consistent Project Stage structure makes it easy to bring together content from different Project Types for a single project.

Assignments and Case Studies

Early on, we decided that sharing applied examples from other voices would be critical to the project and developed two models: Case Studies and Assignments. We wanted to connect the guidance of the Handbook’s general overarching framework for projects with the variations on those processes in real life from a variety of perspectives in experience level, project role, institutional environment and resources, project or course goal, and project size.

Case Studies usually present research projects in practice, and we ask contributors to address issues like who worked on the project; the project timeline, budget, and resources; and considerations the contributor would approach differently if doing the project over. Assignments present projects designed to be completed by students in a classroom setting and emphasize the concerns relevant to digital projects with specific pedagogical goals. For the students involved, these Assignments often look a lot like the projects we cover in the Case Studies, but the descriptions in the Handbook highlight details that are specific to digital pedagogy such as learning objectives, modes of assessment, and any prior knowledge that students might need to successfully complete an assignment. Both Assignments and Case Studies allow readers to see how planning issues described in the Project Types and Stages sections work in a variety of real-world environments.2 Projects offer a variety of levels of difficulty and of amounts of time, and many showcase approaches that are accessible to people with no prior experience.

We seek out contributions from the same people who make up our audience and particularly welcome contributions from graduate students, independent scholars, museum practitioners, librarians, instructional technologists, and the many others in staff roles involved in digital projects. All contributors are asked to follow set templates that keep the focus on process and practical considerations and, for the Assignments, that ask contributors to be explicit about the learning objectives and classroom support needs. In this way, Case Studies and Assignments are like a research report turned sideways: the methodology section becomes the primary focus, and the results of the project are mentioned only briefly. This also helps make connections between a specific project and the Project Stages outlined for each Project Type, making it easier for readers to envision adapting a particular process to other content or to the resources available to them. On each Project Type page, we link to relevant Case Studies and Assignments to help reinforce the interaction between the two parts of the Handbook.

We considered having one section for both pedagogical and research-oriented digital projects in practice, but decided on separating out the Assignments, which is the aspect of the Handbook we are sharing in detail in the rest of this article. The Handbook is designed for scholars and students embarking on their first or their latest digital project as well as for library and technical staff guiding digital projects. We recognized that a significant portion of this audience may be based at institutions that prioritize teaching and that, in these cases, digital projects are especially likely to begin in courses. Furthermore, incorporating digital assignments can be a low stakes way for instructors to learn and test digital methods in preparation for their own research, although classroom approaches bring many of their own complications with course schedules, technology support and training, and grading. Just as we created a Case Studies section that offers reverse-engineered examples of digital research, we believe it equally important to host examples of digital projects that take shape in classrooms and to recognize the specific opportunities and pressures of that approach.

Assignments shared in the Handbook range from single class meetings to semester-long projects and include objectives like developing spatial thinking, performing historical analysis, and strengthening writing skills for public audiences. Each Assignment names not only the author(s) but also their role(s) in creating and facilitating assignments. This information highlights in many instances the ways in which institutional pedagogical expertise is drawn from many roles besides that of the instructor of record.

Authors have the option to share materials related to the course assignment such as instructional handouts created for students, tutorials, rubrics, links to or examples of completed assignments, and more. This content, along with the Assignment as published in the Handbook, is subject to a Creative Commons License, or copyright, at the author(s)’s discretion. By encouraging authors to license their materials in a manner that suits their context, we aim to support authors’ intellectual property rights while offering these Assignments as resources for anyone doing digital pedagogical work.

The assignment description, overall learning objectives, technology-dependent learning outcomes, and assessment provide context for the assignment. In other words, what were the assignment’s goals, and how were they met? We are especially interested in the ways in which Assignments depend on particular technologies. Some Assignments may have been done in an analog format, but we want to know, and we want to share with readers, how visual technologies are being used effectively in teaching.

We ask authors to enumerate the resources that make these course assignments possible: student skill level or prior knowledge; time, support, training, and tools needed; and challenges and opportunities. Given the vastly different contexts in which humanities instruction occurs, we feel it critical that readers have all the information they need to decide whether an assignment can be adapted to fit their subject area, pedagogy, student population, and institution. Would readers need to learn a new technology? What kind of support would they need from their institution to access, learn, and implement that technology? How might they need to alter an existing course to accommodate an assignment’s technology? What kinds of support might students need to successfully engage with that technology?

Since we began receiving assignment submissions, we have noted that most Assignments fall into the Narrative Project Type, sometimes in addition to one or two of the other categories. While we draw no conclusions yet about what this might say about our author pool, or whether this indicates any larger trends in digital humanities pedagogy, we can hypothesize that Narrative Project Types, which often focus on storytelling, incorporate both existing analog and new digital skills: humanities students are likely to draw on existing skill sets such as reading and writing while also learning a digital method, and instructors may find them easier to incorporate into existing syllabi and grading rubrics where they often replace similar analog narrative projects. In these digital Narrative projects, students can leverage digital platforms to experiment with nonlinearity, layout, interactivity, and other affordances. Other Project Types, such as Spatial and Dimensional, may also incorporate these skill sets, but they are likely to involve more specialized—though not necessarily more challenging or advanced—skills. They also offer opportunities for students to grapple with issues that these methods can reveal and address: those of movement, scale, ambiguity, and complexity.

We have found Assignments that demonstrate similar approaches in varying ways to be especially informative: different tools that can support similar visualization methods; the same platform engaged at varying scales—from single homework assignment to semester-long projects; and/or similar methods applied in different disciplinary settings.

In some cases, such as in those we examine below, Assignments that focus on particular platforms or methods can follow somewhat similar formulas in terms of assignment construction if not implementation: a closer look at two spatial Assignments provides some insight into similarities among instructors’ goals and the different methods used to meet those goals. The Assignments discussed here aim to engage students with subjects through geographic visualizations. The instructors designed their respective assignments for students with limited experience as digital creators, yet the resources used to scaffold the assignments varied.

Mapping Modern Architecture

“Mapping Modern Architecture” is an assignment taught by J. J. Bauer as part of an art history course on modern architecture at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For the assignment, students start by mapping architecture covered in the course textbook, Modern Architecture Since 1900, and then add architecture not covered in the book. Their particular focus is on highlighting works by architects of colour, women architects, and Modernist works overlooked by the textbook, “fill[ing] in gaps and blanks in the text due to historical and scholarly biases” (Bauer, “Mapping Modern Architecture”).

Working in Google My Maps, the students learn to plot geographic points to symbolize specific architectural works, and they add descriptive information about the structure and its architect. The map contains five layers at the time of writing: Modern Architecture since 1900, containing architecture mentioned in the text; Women Modernist Architects; Modern Architecture in 3D and VR; Modernist Architects of Color; and Endangered Modernism (Figures 1–4).

The first layer, Modern Architecture since 1900, shown below, reveals the textbook’s geographic focus on architects in the global North. Students entered these points as part of an initial tutorial on Google My Maps. They then identified works that were excluded from the textbook, researched them, and added their research to the map. At a global scale, the students’ interventions in the architectural canon in many instances overlap spatially with the textbook’s focus. However, their interventions are more apparent at regional and local levels.

Figure 1: Screenshot of the Google My Map used in the "Mapping Modern Architecture” assignment showing architecture mentioned in William J. R. Curtis’ Modern Architecture since 1900 (blue points) across the world visualized using a Mercator projection. Screenshot taken October 14, 2021, by Hannah L. Jacobs.

Figure 2: Screenshot of the Google My Map used in the “Mapping Modern Architecture” assignment showing architecture mentioned in William J. R. Curtis’ Modern Architecture since 1900 (blue points) along with architecture by Women Modernist Architects (red points) and Modernist Architects of Color (green points); Endangered Modernism (purple points); and Modern Architecture in 3D and VR (yellow points) added by students. The map is zoomed to a global scale shown in a Mercator projection. Screenshot taken October 14, 2021, by Hannah L. Jacobs.

Figure 3: Screenshot of the Google My Map used in the “Mapping Modern Architecture” assignment showing architecture mentioned in William J. R. Curtis’ Modern Architecture since 1900 (blue points) along with architecture by Women Modernist Architects (red points) and Modernist Architects of Color (green points), and architecture categorized as “Endangered Modernism” (purple points) added by students. The map is zoomed to focus on a portion of the South American continent. Screenshot taken October 14, 2021, by Hannah L. Jacobs.

Figure 4: Screenshot of the Google My Map used in the “Mapping Modern Architecture” assignment showing architecture built by Women Modernist Architects (red points) and Modernist Architects of Color (green points) added by students. The map is zoomed to focus on São Paulo, Brazil. Screenshot taken October 14, 2021, by Hannah L. Jacobs.

This second part of the assignment incorporated original art historical research with the support of library instruction. The map then became a tool for presenting and comparing their research with their peers’ and with the textbook’s. Bauer reflects that, as a result of the project, students “had a better grasp of the cultural, geopolitical, and economic context for the development of and changes to modernist architecture that rote memorization of ‘unique’ works and the focus on ‘genius’ architects tends to obscure.” The map, by no means comprehensive, through its ability to scale and to show many works simultaneously, offered students an alternative narrative of modern architectural history to which they themselves contributed. It gave students a way to observe patterns that might not have been visible in a text-centered project.

Mapping the Impact of Air Raids on Japanese Cities

While Bauer’s assignment asked students to think globally in their research and mapping, “Mapping the Impact of Air Raids on Japanese Cities” asked students to apply spatial thinking to a specific political region, Japan, as they analyzed and visualized air raids that Allied forces conducted on Japanese cities during World War II. Each student researched a specific city and the air raid that impacted it. The class’ research was brought together in a collective storymap made up of five maps with accompanying text and imagery that enabled students to build a larger analysis of these events through their peers’ research.

This assignment was supported by Chris Saladin, a doctoral candidate in History and an assignment consultant at the University of Minnesota, who is also the author of the assignment in the Handbook. Saladin supported the assignment for Dr. Hiromi Mizuno’s course, “Modern Japan, Meiji to Present.” The course storymap was created with ArcGIS StoryMaps, a proprietary platform that offers a space to combine narrative and geographic forms of communication. One of Saladin’s contributions was to bring students’ research together in the storymap for the class’ analysis and discussion. This was an important component because, while a storymap can now be collaboratively edited, the feature making this possible is relatively new and somewhat hidden in ArcGIS Online’s groups settings (“Create Groups”). Consequently, Saladin created the final storymap for the class, and the instructional team relied on another ESRI tool, ArcGIS Survey123, to gather student research before Saladin added it to the storymap. Essentially, students filled in a form for each point they wished to add to the map. They did not need to learn how to use ArcGIS Online tools.

An important factor in the decision for Saladin to create the storymap was the time spent on the assignment: students were expected to spend one to three hours on the assignment over the course of two weeks with only a fifteen-minute introduction in class and a thirty-minute discussion about the completed storymap. This is in contrast to “Mapping Modern Architecture,” in which students were expected to work on the assignment throughout the semester and received two days of library and technical instruction. The assignment for “Mapping Modern Architecture” also included multiple due dates, presentations, and a class discussion. Notably, Google My Maps supports collaborative editing via Google Drive, so students had more opportunities, and the expectation, to create digital content directly.

These varying time commitments may signify different instructional priorities, particularly whether learning a digital tool was integral to learning outcomes. These priorities can be determined not only by instructors’ interests but also by institutional expectations and constraints: on the one hand, whether instructional support is available to bring in-class projects to completion for a class, and whether administrators support time dedicated in class to engaging over a longer period of time with a digital tool. When graduate assistants are involved, instructors may also want them to gain some technical experience, as may have been the case with Saladin’s contributions. Digital humanities assignments can and should provide learning opportunities not only for undergraduate students but also for graduate students, when they are involved. Learning outcomes for each could be scoped accordingly: perhaps the graduate assistant is expected to gain more advanced mapping skills, for example, to support their future teaching, while undergraduate engagement with technology is more directly focused on supporting their historical research.

When viewing the assignments’ outcomes, “Mapping Air Raids” appears at first to be similar to “Mapping Modern Architecture” in the sense that both are plotting locations within a geographic system. If “Mapping Modern Architecture” asked students to map construction—creation of places—“Mapping Air Raids” asked students to map destruction—obliteration of places. This difference is visually noted in the “Mapping Air Raids” creators’ choice to use a bomb as a point icon on the Introduction map (Figure 5) rather than a default circle or map icon such as that used in “Mapping Modern Architecture” (Figure 4).

Figure 5: Screenshot of the ArcGIS StoryMap created for the class project “Mapping Air Raids: The Impact of World War II on Japan’s Cities.” The left side of the image shows an introduction to the project and a contemporary map of Japan. The introduction reads, “Towards the end of World War II, Japan’s cities were afflicted by repeated air raids carried out by Allied forces. These raids caused tremendous destruction across the country and cost the lives of many civilians.” The right side of the storymap shows an interactive map of Japan, the North Pacific Ocean, North and South Korea, and parts of western mainland China. Japanese cities impacted by an air raid are marked with blue icons in the shape of missiles. Screenshot taken October 14, 2021, by Hannah L. Jacobs.

The two Assignments differ significantly in both content and structure, but their use of modern mapping technologies enforce similarities in interaction that may impact students’ learning outcomes. Both maps require viewers to consider scale as points overlap one another in the view that encompasses all points. That is, viewers must zoom in to disentangle the air raid sites across neighboring cities just as they do to see different architectural sites within a single city (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Screenshot of the ArcGIS StoryMap created for the class project “Mapping Air Raids: The Impact of World War II on Japan’s Cities.” The left side of the image shows an introduction to the project and a contemporary map of Japan, as described in Figure 5. The interactive map to the right focuses on Osaka and surrounding cities in Japan. Screenshot taken October 14, 2021, by Hannah L. Jacobs.

Once zoomed in on a particular area or city, students contributing to “Mapping Air Raids” could read about each air raid in the Introduction map and then compare quantitative data about each air raid across three other map tabs (Population (Before), Casualties, and Casualties Relative to Population). This narrative and quantitative context is another feature that separates the Assignments: “Mapping Modern Architecture” gives students a way to see patterns of inclusion and exclusion on a map, while “Mapping Air Raids” uses spatial thinking as a different way to engage with narrative (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Screenshot of the ArcGIS StoryMap created for the class project “Mapping Air Raids: The Impact of World War II on Japan’s Cities.” The image focuses on a map of Osaka and surrounding cities in Japan. The icon marking Nishinomiya has been selected to reveal a popup window. Text in the window reads, “From Nishinomiya city’s population record, there was [sic] 137,152 people live [sic] in Nishinomiya city before air raids in 1943. However, Many people were evacuated to the countryside in order to avoid the air raids. Also, the air raids have killed many people that also reducing [sic] the population.” Screenshot taken October 14, 2021, by Hannah L. Jacobs.

The Cities Impacted map tab adds to the qualitative information shared in the Introduction tab by providing background of each city and images before, during, or after air raids (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Screenshot of the ArcGIS StoryMap created for the class project “Mapping Air Raids: The Impact of World War II on Japan’s Cities.” The map on the right shows the area surrounding Osaka with the red map icon for Nishinomiya selected. On the left, a black and white image of the stadium in Nishinomiya is shown with text that reads, “From Nishinomiya city’s population record, there was [sic] 137,152 people live [sic] in Nishinomiya city before air raids in 1943. However, Many people were evacuated to the countryside in order to avoid the air raids.” Screenshot taken October 14, 2021, by Hannah L. Jacobs.

This general assignment structure, in which students contribute to a single storymap, is one of the several options supported by the University of Minnesota’s U-Spatial, a team that supports spatial research and teaching through graduate assistantships. In order to support instruction using ArcGIS StoryMaps, U-Spatial has developed a set of templates to help instructors design and scaffold storymap assignments (“Instructional Resources”).

Throughout the Handbook, we encourage readers to consider their context as they plan a digital project or assignment: not only to consider collaborators, communities, and audiences, but also to account for resources, especially expertise, time, equipment, and funding. These two Assignments, both conducted at public research institutions, demonstrate the different approaches instructors and instructional teams can take when developing assignments. Some, like Bauer, may opt for a hands-on approach, incorporating technical skill-building with critical thinking through the teaching of tools like Google My Maps. Others, like Saladin working with Mizuno, may opt for an approach that focuses more on critical thinking through digital media engagement: an assignment in which nominal use of a technology supports historical analysis and requires little or no technical training. What both Assignments do, however, is to encourage not only individual research but also peer learning as students must first contribute to their assignment’s visualization and then engage with each other’s work through the visualization.

Future of the Handbook

The Handbook is still a work in progress. We opted to make it public early and to begin publishing Assignments and Case Studies even while we’re completing the Types/Stages sections so as to make these resources available as soon as possible and to learn from our work and from feedback as we build. We are continuing to draft Project Types and are planning to implement changes soon based on user testing and a review. In the meantime, we are also publishing Assignments and Case Studies in all Handbook categories periodically and are discussing possible new and experimental sections with a variety of collaborators.

We often work with instructors who become interested in digital projects in the classroom because they hear about a specific example from a colleague and want to implement it themselves. We hope that the Handbook enables more of this sort of project adaptation, especially among people who may not already have a network of colleagues with whom to share the details of implementation.

We hope that in time, instructors and researchers will contribute variations on the projects that already exist to give further examples of how such projects can be adapted to the needs and available resources of different work environments. In our own work, we have found that real world examples of digital projects, in addition to tool-agnostic methodological guidance, are especially useful for instructors and researchers who are just beginning a project and who need to see the gradual process of building digital projects. Many of the projects we share demonstrate how they have been created iteratively over time. The Handbook itself as a digital project is likewise designed to be iterative as we continue to gather Case Studies and Assignments that demonstrate the range of approaches digital humanists take when beginning a visual digital project.

Works Cited

Appleford, Simon, and Jennifer Guiliano. DevDH: Development for the Digital Humanities. 2013,

ArcGIS StoryMaps. Esri,

ArcGIS Survey123. Esri,

Bauer, J. J. “Mapping Modern Architecture.” Visualizing Objects, Places, and Spaces: A Digital Project Handbook, edited by Beth Fischer and Hannah Jacobs, 11 June 2020,

Cohen, Daniel J., and Roy Rosenzweig. Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web. Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005,

“Create Groups.” ArcGIS Online, Esri,

Crompton, Constance, Richard J. Lane, and Ray Siemens, editors. Doing Digital Humanities: Practice, Training, Research, Routledge, 2016.

Curtis, William J. R. Modern Architecture Since 1900. Prentice-Hall, 1987.

Davis, Rebecca Frost. “Process Checklist for Integrating Digital Humanities Projects into Courses.” Rebecca Frost Davis: Liberal Education in a Networked World, 13 Sep. 2012,

Davis, Rebecca Frost, Matthew K. Gold, Katherine Harris, and Jentery Sayers, editors. Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments, Modern Language Association and Humanities Commons, 2020,

Digital Humanities Research Institute. “Project Laboratory.” 2020,

Digital Humanities Summer Institute. “DHSI 2021: Open/Social/Digital Humanities Pedagogy, Training, and Mentorship.”

Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI): A Place for Open Digital Scholarship,

Fischer, Beth, and Hannah Jacobs. Visualizing Objects, Places, and Spaces: A Digital Project Handbook.

Gold, Matthew K., and Lauren F. Klein, editors. Debates in Digital Humanities. U of Minnesota P, 2011–2019, 3 vols,

Google My Maps.

“Instructional Resources.” University of Minnesota, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

“Instructor Memo of Understanding.” Colored Conventions Project,

“Our Lessons.” Library Carpentry,

“Our Mission.” PubPub,

The Praxis Program at the Scholars’ Lab. “Toward a Project Charter.” University of Virginia Library, 2014,

Programming Historian,

PubPub. Knowledge Futures Group,

Saladin, Chris. “Mapping the Impact of Air Raids on Japanese Cities.” Visualizing Objects, Places, and Spaces: A Digital Project Handbook, edited by Beth Fischer and Hannah Jacobs, 2020,

Sayers, Jentery, editor. Making Things and Drawing Boundaries: Experiments in the Digital Humanities. University of Minnesota Press, 2017,

Schreibman, Susan, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, editors. A Companion to Digital Humanities, Blackwell, 2004,

“Student Memo of Understanding.” Colored Conventions Project.

“Summer Institute on Objects, Places and the Digital Humanities.” National Humanities Center,

“U-Spatial.” University of Minnesota.

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