Beyond the text: teaching with digital archives, collections, and multimodal materials in class



Date / Time: August 7, 1 pm – 3 pm.
Pedagogical objectives: Drawing connections between concepts and topics in a historical context, critical and analytical engagement, data and media literacy, ability to create multimodal narratives, digital storytelling skills
Tools and topics covered:
WordPress / CUNY Commons, Palladio, Rawgraphs, Omeka Classic, Omeka S, Scalar, metadata standards, Dublin Core.
Outline: Introduction (5-10 mins), Part 1 (35-40 mins): Working with data, Part 2 (35-40 mins): Embedding media, Part 3: Telling stories with digital collections (Omeka, Scalar) (35-40 mins)
Technical requirements: Up-to-date browser (Chrome, Firefox preferred), access to Zoom



The proliferation and accessibility of web-based media and creative technologies has diversified the digital storytelling tools available to creators and educators from simple blogs to elaborate interactive websites and applications. At the same time, due to the global public health crisis, libraries, museums and other cultural institutions are increasingly offering their materials as streaming content or they are making part of their collections publicly available. What then, are some of the best ways to use, explore and integrate this media-rich content that is available in different digital formats (e.g. museum collections, oral history archives, video, documentaries, performances and time-based media) into a humanities class? In this workshop we will use examples of open access datasets, open educational resources and digital/interactive resources to discuss best practices in integrating them in class content, projects, and assignments. Starting with simple ways of embedding media content in websites and blogging platforms such as WordPress we will move on to discuss the basics of structuring, describing and visualizing cultural data and digital collections including metadata standards. In the last part of the workshop we will examine two digital platforms that support building media-rich collections, exhibitions and publications and that have been specifically developed for humanities projects: Omeka (Omeka Classic/Omeka S) and Scalar). As a way of getting familiar with the basics of both platforms we will build, in real time, a simple collection/exhibition based on certain examples and datasets. The workshop will familiarize participants with the basics of organizing, structuring media-rich items and collections and will enable them to conceptualize and create teaching modules based on online collections and diverse media.

Code of conduct and participation

As workshop instructors / moderators and participants we should make sure we create and maintain a respectful, collegial and collaborative virtual space for our discussions and interactions. No prior technical knowledge is required for participating in the workshops and no specific level of experience or skills is expected or assumed. The level and pace of participation is up to you. You can start tasks during the workshop but complete them later at your own pace. Documents, slides and other materials shared as part of the workshop sessions have been designed and developed having accessibility in mind. Please let me know if you experience any accessibility issues or in case any resources or materials do not meet standards of accessibility or inclusiveness. Please make sure every participant is heard as they wish to be without unnecessary interruptions. Please mute your audio when not speaking.

What you’ll need

Technical requirements

  • up-to-date browser (Chrome or Firefox preferred)

  • Desktop or mobile Zoom app

Access to online tools and services

  • CUNY Commons group and site (invitation to be sent to participants)

  • Omeka Sandbox, Raw Graphs, Palladio (links provided below)


Questions to consider:

  • How often do you work with visual/non-textual combined media in your classes?

  • What kind of media do you mostly use (e.g. Youtube videos, social media content, maps)?

  • What do you find to be the biggest barrier, difficulty or challenge in integrating different media types in class content?

Embedding media: WordPress / CUNY Commons

Example 1: Student project: The 1992 LA Riots: “Can We All Get Along?” Class: “Dissent: Sites of Protest in the Digital Age.: Freshman Year Seminar (SEMN-101-01), Fall Quarter, Kalamazoo College.

Example 2: combining simple and more advanced tools: the Visual Hasluck project

The Knight Lab Suite

The Knight Lab at Northwestern University has developed a suite of web-based tools for journalism and storytelling. Storymap.js and Timeline.js are widely used in humanities projects.

Here’s a list of projects using Storymap JS: Here’ an example of a timeline made with Timeline JS

Task: create and embed a timeline in WordPress

  • Step 1. Open the Timeline JS spreadsheet template:

Exploring data

We will together explore a couple of datasets and visualize them, based on certain data fields, to reveal relations between items, places, periods, or people.

Example 1: the Met / Flickr

Example 2: Cooper Hewitt and countries of origin

Example 3: Cooper Hewitt and countries of origin, part B

Structuring data: Dublin Core and metadata standards

Tidying up and structuring our data in a way that is “machine readable” and can be converted to different formats and linked to other datasets and collections is critical in building a sustainable dh project for research or teaching. Properly formatting and structuring data tends to be a time-consuming (often underestimated) task of dh projects. The Dublin Core Metadata Terms developed by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative provide a vocabulary of key properties used in resource description: Some of the most widely used tools and platforms for digital collections management use the Dublin Core Metadata Terms as the core, “minimum” set of descriptive fields for items and resources.

Group project: creating items and collections in Omeka S.

We will together add and import items into an Omeka S test installation.