Center for History and New Media Wins Prestigious Awards

by Tara Laskowski

Mason's Center for History and New Media continues to excel in the world of digital history and online tools, recently winning two prestigious awards.

The center was honored for the third consecutive time with the biennial 2008 James Harvey Robinson Prize for an Outstanding Teaching Aid.

This year, CHNM won for Historical Thinking Matters, a web site focused on key topics in U.S. history and designed to teach students how to critically read primary sources and critique and construct historical narratives.

CHNM's History Matters took the prize in 2004, and World History Matters won in 2006.

The Robinson Prize is given by the American Historical Association for the resource that has made the most outstanding contribution to the teaching of history in any field.

"It is quite an honor to receive this continued recognition," says Dan Cohen, director of CHNM. "No other organization has won twice, much less three times in a row, and we are thrilled."

In addition, the center received a $50,000 Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration (MATC) for Omeka, a software project that greatly simplifies and beautifies the online publication of collections and exhibits. The award was presented on Dec. 8 at the Coalition for Networked Information meeting in Washington, D.C.

Tom Scheinfeldt and Vincent Cerf

Tom Scheinfeldt, managing director of CHNM, left, with Vinton Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google, at the Omeka award presentation.
Photo courtesy of CHN

MATC awards recognize nonprofit organizations that are making substantial contributions of their own resources toward the development of open-source software and fostering collaborative communities to sustain open-source development.

Omeka is a free and open-source web publishing platform for scholars, librarians, archivists, museum professionals, educators and cultural enthusiasts. Its "five-minute setup" makes launching an online exhibition as easy as launching a blog.

"Until now, scholars and cultural heritage professionals looking to publish collections-based research and online exhibitions required either extensive technical skills or considerable funding for outside vendors," says Tom Scheinfeldt, project co-lead and managing director of CHNM.

"By making standards-based, serious online publishing easy, Omeka puts the power and reach of the web in the hands of academics and cultural professionals."

Scheinfeldt accepted the award from Vinton Cerf, vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google who chaired the blue-ribbon prize committee.

The committee also included Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web; John Gage, chief researcher and director of the Science Office at Sun Microsystems Inc.; Mitchell Baker, CEO of the Mozilla Corp.; Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media; John Seely Brown, former chief scientist at Xerox Corp.; Ira Fuchs, vice president of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and Donald J. Waters, program officer in the Program in Scholarly Communication at the Mellon Foundation.