Digital History at Shawnee State University

The Shawnee Digital History Lab & the Future of the Past

The future of the past is digital and mobile, and the new age of interactive history, augmented reality, and immersive technologies is only just beginning.  Digital history at Shawnee State University originated with the work of Andrew Feight, Ph.D., who first established what would become known as the Shawnee Digital History Lab in 2005. Originally located in the basement of Clark Memorial Library, the lab now makes its home on the second floor of Massie Hall and receives its funding from the Department of Social Sciences and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Massie Hall, named for the founder of Portsmouth, Henry Massie, was built in 1967 as part of the expansion of the old Portsmouth branch of Ohio University.  In 1945, thanks to the Servicemen's Readjustment Act (more popularly remembered as the GI Bill), hundreds of area veterans enrolled at OU-Portsmouth.  In 1974, OU-Portsmouth merged with Scioto Technical College, which had been partly funded via the Appalachian Regional Commission, to form Shawnee State General and Technical College.  "Shawnee" would hence force be its name. The college continued its growth and evolution when it took on the identity of a "community college," when the legislature changed its name to Shawnee State Community College in 1977.  Finally, in 1986, Shawnee State University took on its current name and status as a four-year institution of higher learning, offering degrees at the Associates, Bachelors, and Masters levels.

The Shawnee Digital History Lab facilitates undergraduate research projects and teaching initiatives that seek the transformation of how American and local history is studied, taught, and preserved in the digital age. In partnership with scholars, students, artists, and cultural organizations, the Lab’s premier project is Scioto Historical, a smartphone app and website project that puts the history of Ohio’s Scioto Valley at your finger tips.

Scioto Historical is also an example of the collaborative nature of the digital humanities.  Scioto Historical employs the Curatescape platform, which was originally developed by Mark Tebeau, Mark Souther, and Erin Bell at the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University, which, in turn, is based on Omeka, “a free, flexible, and open source web-publishing platform for the display of library, museum, archives, and scholarly collections and exhibitions.”  According to its developers at George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, Omeka “falls at a crossroads of Web Content Management, Collections Management, and Archival Digital Collections Systems.”  Edited by Andrew Feight, a specialist in Ohio Valley and Appalachian history, Scioto Historical was first launched in June of 2013.  As a public history work-in-progress, Prof. Feight welcomes submissions and the lab is always seeking rare historic images and original reminiscences, as well as content partners and sponsors.

History majors and other interested students assist in research and content development, giving Shawnee State scholars valuable hands-on experience through project-based learning. With classroom adoption at the college and K-thru-12 levels, students of all ages are now discovering that American history happened here in the Tri-State region of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky.

In 2017, the Shawnee Digital History Lab, in partnership with the Clark Memorial Library, launched the Historic Portsmouth Newspaper Project, an ambitious initiative that seeks to preserve and digitize an extensive collection of Portsmouth area newspapers, which were donated to Shawnee State University by Civitas Media and Hope Comer, the publisher of the Portsmouth Daily Times.  Ranging from the 1850s through the early 1970s, the collection, once digitized, will become a much noted source for the study of the history of the city and region.