Graduate Certificate in Digital Public Humanities

MaryKate McMaster, 2018

MaryKate McMaster

What work are you doing now?

Currently, I am teaching a variety of courses in the humanities and social sciences at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA.  

I also continue to work on my digital projects from the Graduate Certificate in Digital Public Humanities:  Moses Dresser Phillips and His World, A Woman of the Century: A Crowdsourcing Project  of the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries, and A Woman of the Century: Nineteenth and Twenty-First Century Contributors Project.


Why did you choose to pursue the certificate in Digital Public Humanities?

Since I wanted to learn how to put my historical projects online, I had been participating in THATCamps (The Humanities and Technology Camps) for several years.  I was learning about many fascinating tools, but I did not have much hands-on experience.  I knew about the exciting DH work at George Mason, so I was thrilled when I learned about the DPH certificate program and applied right away.  It was the perfect opportunity to learn about and experiment with digital tools, to read and discuss current scholarship in the field, to get a refresher course in public history, with the digital component included, and to gain experience through internships. 

The program was life-changing, and I’ll always be grateful to Dr. Platt and the admissions committee.  My professors and internship directors were very knowledgeable and passionate, and I learned so much from them.  I also enjoyed my interactions with the members of my cohort.  It was such a collaborative atmosphere.  While this is an online certificate, I definitely felt like I was part of a very vibrant community.   


What knowledge or skills from the program have been particularly valuable to you?

Everything that I learned has been very valuable!  Below, I summarize what I found particularly valuable in each course and internship.

Introduction to Digital Humanities

Dr. Robertson had the daunting task of teaching the first course.  One of the first things he taught us was to set up our accounts on Reclaim Hosting, a site that I had not heard of.  Reclaim has been fabulous, and the team continues to add new digital tools for its users.  Tim and the team at Reclaim have been so helpful, and I have told several people about Reclaim.   In Dr. Robertson’s course, we learned about the field of digital humanities, read about and viewed many types of projects, including his Digital Harlem project, and had the opportunity to participate in ongoing digital projects.  Dr. Robertson’s detailed explanations about the digital tools we were learning were so clear, and he was very available and helpful with questions.  He taught us WordPress, so that we could create our blogs, then Voyant, Carto, Palladio, and Omeka.  I created my Moses Dresser Phillips and His World project, which was based on my dissertation, using Omeka, Voyant, and Palladio.  It was exciting to be able to share Phillips’s story in this way.  Dr. Robertson was extremely generous with his time and was very supportive as I worked through my first DH project.  What Dr. Robertson taught me in Introduction to Digital Humanities plays a part in almost every day of my life, as I work on my digital projects and teach college students.  I use Voyant in my Composition and Creative Writing courses to discuss word choices in writing, and I utilize Palladio in my Sociology courses to teach social networking.  When I teach history, I share my Moses Dresser Phillips site and many of the sites that I learned about from Dr. Robertson.  I also included many of these sites in a Digital Humanities LibGuide that I created when I was working as a Reference Librarian.

Digital Public History

I learned so much from Dr. Leon.  Like Dr. Robertson, she gave us important pieces to read and introduced us to a variety of digital projects.  In addition to teaching us about Histories of the National Mall, which she created with Dr. Brennan, who shared her time and talents with us as our internship supervisor, and others, Dr. Leon shared the piece about its creation and answered our questions about the project.  I really appreciated reading about and hearing her insights into the project’s creation.   As I created my A Woman of the Century project, a dream come true after having wanted to make this project public for years, it was extremely valuable to be able to brainstorm with and get feedback from the Omeka expert.  People of a variety of ages and experience levels have learned about DH and history by participating in this crowdsourcing project and seeing the site, and I am very grateful to Dr. Leon for her wise questions about my methodology and her valuable advice.  After taking Digital Public History, I’ll always be sure to know my audiences, to keep them in mind though each stage of every project, to create detailed plans and social media strategies for my sites, and to check for new themes, plugins, and tools.  Dr. Leon is a brilliant innovator whose example has given me the courage to experiment with other digital tools and to conceptualize additional projects.  She also taught us about Curatescape, which I look forward to creating projects with in the future, and the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer, a tool I have told others about and plan to use in my teaching and for my own family history.  If I had not been challenged to, I never would have created a screencast.  Now I teach my students about Screencast-O-Matic, and one Speech Communication Skills student used it to present her project when she was not able to make it to class.  Dr. Leon also kept in contact with the cohort, and gave us the opportunity to reach out to each other  using a Slack channel. 

Teaching and Learning History in the Digital Age

Dr. Kelly’s course changed how I think and teach.  His writing on historical thinking brought up ideas that I had never considered, and he also shared the work of several other scholars in the field.   Dr. Kelly’s assignments were both thought-provoking and fun to work on, and I strive to follow his lead.  He inspired me to create the A Woman of the Century Nineteenth and Twenty-First Century Contributors Project, and its accompanying screencast, which I have used to teach students and other contributors about historical thinking, Omeka, metadata, and historical research.  Four students have utilized this project to learn how to create their items and exhibits for the A Woman of the Century site.  In addition, a colleague used this project and the screencast that I made for it as a way to contribute to the crowdsourcing project and to learn how to conceptualize and create his own Omeka site.  Thanks to what I learned from Dr. Kelly and all of my professors, I knew how to guide him as he made decisions about his site. 

Internship – Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media

During my internship with Jennifer Rosenfeld and Nate Sleeter in the Education Division of RRCHNM, I built on what Dr. Kelly had taught me and created a module about Stereoscopes for the Hidden in Plain Sight online course.  Jennifer and Nate introduced me to Drupal and taught me the true meaning of collaboration as we edited many drafts of my module.  I’m so grateful that Nate wrote extremely detailed instructions so that I could upload my module to Drupal.  Jennifer and Nate are so talented and wonderful to work with. Thanks to them, I’m a much better writer, editor, teacher, and digital humanist. 

Internship - National Postal Museum

While not as digital as my internship at RRCHNM, this internship certainly related to public humanities.  Calvin Mitchell, Assistant Curator of Philately, and I had several phone conversations about research topics and strategies.  I learned about some topics that I had never known anything about and learned more about others that I’d studied previously.  I’m still in touch with Calvin and look forward to the on-ground and digital exhibitions and catalogs he is creating, and the articles he is writing, about the topics that I researched for him.  


While they are not brief, I hope that my answers to these questions illustrate the tremendous impact that the Digital Public Humanities Graduate Certificate Program has had on my life.  Thank you to everyone involved with creating this outstanding program.