Phillip Payne, Dennis Frank, Jason Damon, and Michael Specht (St. Bonaventure University)
During the Spring 2014 semester students enrolled in History 419: Digital History and Archival Practices built a map of St. Bonaventure Cemetery using geographic information systems technology (GIS). Students used archival materials and created a map that will be useful to the community.
History 419 is a project-based class that introduces students to ways in which the digital revolution is changing the practice of history. For the projects, students work with university archival materials under the supervision of Dennis Frank, university archivist, providing an opportunity to do hands-on work developing archival skills. The class is open to all students but is primarily taken by history majors.
Working in the St. Bonaventure Cemetery proved an ideal way to introduce GIS to the class and to the history major. Students entered the class with no background in GIS, which, outside of an infrequently taught computer science class, is not taught on SBU’s campus. The first step was for the instructors to learn GIS, giving a great deal of thought about how to integrate it into the classroom. The instructors made students aware that GIS was new to the class and brought them into the process of exploring a new technology. This included class discussions on selecting platforms, design, and content. The project is an ongoing one so students enrolled during the spring reflected on how to improve the process and project.