The Programming Historian

Sunday, January 4, 2015
2nd Floor Promenade (New York Hilton)
Fred Gibbs, University of New Mexico
The Programming Historian ( is an online, open access, peer reviewed suite of ~30 tutorials that help humanists (though slanted towards historians) learn a wide range of digital tools, techniques, and workflows to facilitate their research. Despite the name, the site does not focus exclusively on programming, but rather aims to provide guidance on a variety of digital methods and approaches.

The Programming Historian (PH) fills a unique niche for the Digital Humanities community. Although there are many guides to "getting started in the Digital Humanites," and plenty of "teach yourself programming" websites, PH is the only resource dedicated to bridging the substantial gap between broad "getting started" portal sites and generic programming tutorials that usually seem utterly useless to humanists who don't have a programming background. Rather, PH illustrates fundamental programming principles and techniques--such as scraping data from web pages and altering its format to work with various visualization tools--based on real-world examples of historical research. In addition to programming techniques, it offers much more as well, including nearly a dozen tutorials on various popular DH tools, such as MALLET, Omeka, and QGIS.

The proposed poster will serve two primary purposes. First, it will provide an opportunity for personal engagement with a large and diverse audience of historians. By directly interacting with potential readers/users and learning about their particular needs, we can help ensure that we continue to solicit lessons that address new tools or techniques of interest to the widest possible range of historians. Although users may easily leave comments on the PH website itself, our audience (and feedback) remains limited to people who have already found or heard about us. We'd like to increase our visibility to historians, especially those who might only recently be considering ways to increase their digital research sophistication. With a computer at hand to exhibit the website, poster visitors can get a broad overview from the physical poster and explore particular lessons in more detail.

Second, but no less importantly, we hope to use the poster to draw attention to the myriad benefits of contributing to PH to potential authors, reviewers, and editors. From our own experiences as well as from our authors, we know that the difficult job of writing technically challenging but accessible tutorials is one of the best ways to teach yourself particular skills and actively engage in the community by passing on some of the tact knowledge gained along the way. We also hope to emphasize how such participation brings distinct professionalization benefits. We prominently feature the names of authors and reviewers on all of our lesson pages, as well as the contributors page, and new lessons tend to be frequently tweeted and retweeted. Because we average around 3000 unique vistors per month, The Programming Historian remains a vibrant and visible site for community collaboration and education. A poster at AHA would greatly benefit our own mission and increase historians' awareness of an important resource for pursuing digital research.

See more of: Poster Session #1
See more of: AHA Sessions