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U-M HistoryLabs


U-M HistoryLabs mobilize the power of history for real-world impacts that contribute to the common good. Reimagining the humanities, U-M HistoryLabs bring together faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates as investigators and lab members in long-term research projects that involve both curricular and extracurricular components. Projects are often developed in collaboration with community partners.  

U-M HistoryLab students become coauthors of digital humanities and multimedia projects aimed at diverse public and academic audiences, gaining valuable career-related experiences in research, digital technology, and collaboration. Read "In the Public Eye," an LSA Magazine feature on the launch of U-M HistoryLabs. 

Faculty and graduate students interested in starting a HistoryLab should begin by reading the Start-Up Guide, checking out the Resource Guide, and learning about the U-M HistoryLabs Development Fund

Current HistoryLabs

Crafting Democratic Futures Project

Partner: Crafting Democratic Solutions Project (Center for Social Solutions)

Principle Investigators: Rita Chin, Earl Lewis

Project: Case books covering the global context of reparations

Description

Term: Winter 2023

Participants: Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Course: History 717 (lab)

Description: This HistoryLab will be taught in conjunction with the Mellon-funded Crafting Democratic Futures Project (run through the U-M Center for Social Solutions), which is partnering with Washtenaw County, Flint, and Detroit community leaders to develop reparations plans, as well as with WQED, the Pittsburgh public television station, to make a documentary film about the project. Instead of a standard primary source-based research paper, the final product of this course will be “case books,” written and compiled for the community leaders and documentary filmmakers to understand the broader, global context of reparations and to provide documentary evidence for the reparations plans of the Crafting Democratic Futures Project. Students will work collaboratively with peers in research teams, guided by U-M professors Earl Lewis and Rita Chin, to create case books for three countries that perpetrated state-sanctioned racial violence: the United States, Germany, and South Africa. This work will involve defining “reparations” in relation to other concepts; developing an understanding of how each national reckoning did or did not take place; synthesizing scholarly debates; creating a timeline to trace how reparations changed over time; identifying primary documents associated with each case; and curating this information in an accessible form. Teams will present their “case books” to the community leaders, filmmakers, and Crafting Democratic Futures working group.

Curating African American History at UMMA

Partner: University of Michigan Museum of Art

Principle Investigator: Jason Young

Project: Collaborate with UMMA staff in advance of “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina” exhibition 

Description

Term: Winter 2023

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Faculty

Related Course: History 441 (lab)

Description: This project will provide undergraduate students with hands-on experience with an exciting museum exhibition that will be coming soon to the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA). That exhibition, “Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina,” is a groundbreaking traveling exhibition that reexamines the role that African Americans played in the arts and industries of the antebellum south. The exhibition opened on September 9, 2022, at the Metropolitan Museum (The MET) in New York City and has been described by the New York Times as “revelatory.” Students in the course will engage in team-based learning in faculty-led initiatives to prepare for the arrival of the exhibition at UMMA during Fall 2023. In advance of the show’s opening, students will work closely and collaboratively with UMMA staff to address issues related to ethics, redress, and best practices for museums and other institutions interested in displaying work that was originally produced by enslaved artisans.

Environmental Justice Lab

Partner: Ecology Center

Principle Investigators: Matthew Lassiter, Matthew Woodbury

Projects:

Description

Term: Fall 2017-ongoing

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 390 (lab), History 491 (lab)

Description: The multiple components of the Environmental Justice HistoryLab all feature collaborative student research to document the history of environmental activism, justice, and sustainability in Michigan and beyond. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, students of History 390 created a documentary film about the 1970 Environmental Action for Survival Teach-In at U-M, building on the lab’s pilot “Give Earth a Chance” digital exhibit about environmental campaigns during the 1960s-1970s. In History 491, research teams are investigating sites of toxic pollution and ongoing remediation. And through summer internships, History students are partnering with the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor to conduct interviews and chronicle the history of environmental justice in Southeast Michigan.

History of the Book

Principle Investigator: Helmut Puff

Project: Online or in-person exhibition

Description

Term: Fall 2022

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Course: History 441 (lab)

Description: In this lab, students will discuss a history stretching from the birth of the modern book in the Middle Ages to its rebirth in the era of print and the digital age. Using examples in the university's diverse collections, the lab will  investigate papyri, manuscripts, early prints, political pamphlets, cookbooks, children’s books, graphic novels, books as art objects, and more. In the end, the lab will collaborate on an online or in-person exhibition.

The Philippines and the University of Michigan

Partner: ReConnect/ReCollect: Reparative Connections to Philippine Collections at the University of Michigan

Principle Investigators: Deirdre de la Cruz, Ricky Punzalan

Project: The Philippines and the University of Michigan, 1870-1935 (additional contributions to digital exhibit)

 

Description

Term: Fall 2022-ongoing

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Course: History 441 (lab)

Description: Students work with archival sources at the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historical Library, the University Library’s Special Collections, and the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology to examine the complex and contentious relationship between the Philippines and the United States over the course of a century (1870s–1960s). Building on the foundation of the Michigan in the World digital exhibit, “The Philippines and the University of Michigan,” students will research and write original content that extends the exhibit both topically and chronologically. This lab is also designed to work in partnership with ReConnect/ReCollect: Reparative Connections to Philippine Collections at the University of Michigan, a two-year project funded by the U-M Humanities Collaboratory.

Policing and Social Justice Lab

Principle Investigator: Matthew Lassiter

Projects:

Description

Term: Fall 2018-ongoing

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 366 (large lecture), History 393 (lab)

Description: This HistoryLab addresses contemporary debates over mass incarceration and police misconduct by taking teams of undergraduate researchers to Detroit to excavate unsolved and/or unprosecuted episodes of racial violence throughout the twentieth century. Using archival collections and digitized databases, students will produce online investigative exhibits and interactive maps. Ultimately this lab will create a comprehensive database of thousands of police-civilian encounters and homicides in the city of Detroit and expand its coverage to other parts of Michigan.

Race, Local History, and Sundown Towns in the United States

Principle Investigator: Stephen A. Berrey

Project: Contributing to the Sundown Towns digital exhibit documenting history of sundown towns

Description

Term: Fall 2021-ongoing

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 491 (lab)           

Description: In this HistoryLab, students will research and write about the racial histories of small towns in the United States, focusing especially on suspected “sundown towns.” Students will conduct research into these towns and work collaboratively to contribute their findings to a website devoted to documenting this history. Public-facing goals include educating the public about sundown towns and working with local communities on how to respond to these troubling histories through acknowledgment and through concrete steps toward racial justice

Past History Labs

Collaborative Research in the Holocaust

Partner: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Principle Investigators: Rita Chin, Jeffrey Veidlinger

Project: Content for Experiencing History: Holocaust Sources in Context digital collection

Description

Term: Winter 2019-ongoing

Participants: Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 717 (lab)

Description: Students work with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to develop digital analytical materials based on the museum's archives for its online educational programming. Students develop research, critical analysis, and writing skills working in a collaborative, team-based approach to historical research methods and practices. The class travels to Washington, DC, to utilize the museum’s collections and to present to their stakeholders. Read about the genesis of this project in "Rethinking How We Train Historians," an AHA Perspectives article written by Rita Chin. Other articles cover the project launch and the 2019 class trip to Washington, DC.

Collaborative Research with the DIA

Partner: Detroit Institute of Arts

Principle Investigators: John Carson, Anthony Mora

Project: K-12 digital teaching tool

Description

Term: Spring 2020-ongoing

Participants: Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 717 (lab)

Description: Students in this HistoryLab will develop content for the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) Diego Rivera "Detroit Industry Murals" digital teaching project. They will learn to work collaboratively with peers in small research teams, guided by the instructors in conjunction with input from DIA staff. Working in teams, students will collaborate on all tasks. from drafting an initial proposal, identifying primary sources, and writing document descriptions to presenting the collection to the museum stakeholders.

Great Lakes Environmental Justice Lab

Partner: School for Environment and Sustainability

Principle Investigator: Perrin Selcer

Project: Michigan Sustainability Cases: The Rouge River: Redlining, Riverbanks, and Restoration in Metro Detroit (case study)

Description

Term: Winter-Fall 2020

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 491 (lab)

Description: In 1987, the United States and Canada designated 42 “Areas of Concern”: dangerously polluted places in Great Lakes watersheds. In the following decades, they have spent billions of dollars on environmental remediation. In this HistoryLab, Students will perform original research to produce to show how these places became so damaged, who benefitted and who suffered as a result, and what citizens and policymakers can learn from this history to make a better future. The goal will be to publish the case studies online through the Michigan Sustainability Cases platform, where they can be used in high school and college classrooms and inform stakeholders engaged in ongoing Areas of Concern remediation projects.

Inside the AHA: Race and the Institutional Histories of the American Historical Association

Partner: American Historical Association

Principle Investigators: Angela D. Dillard, Katherine French

Project: Client-based institutional research

Description

Term: Fall 2020-ongoing

Participants: Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 717 (lab)

Description: This HistoryLab centers the practice of client-based institutional research focusing on the history of racism and racial exclusion in shaping the American Historical Association (AHA). In an effort to allow members of the AHA Council to reflect on and reckon with the various ways in which race and racism shaped the association’s history in terms of intellectual and scholarly production, leadership, and institutional practices, this lab course will, together with our institutional partner, begin to document key moments in the association’s past that shaped and perpetuated this exclusion. This critical genealogy will incorporate key texts and ideas from the early decades of the association (and the discipline) through the presidency of John Hope Franklin (1979).

Living and Dying in Late Medieval London

Partner: London Metropolitan Archives

Principle Investigator: Katherine French

Project: Digital exhibit mapping Late Medieval London

Description

Term: Fall 2021-ongoing

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 491 (lab)

Description: Students in this HistoryLab will work with the London Metropolitan Archives to explore daily life in medieval London through last wills and testaments. Members of the lab will work in teams, learning how to read and transcribe these sources and collaborate in creating an online museum-style digital exhibit that combines qualitative, and quantitative analysis with interactive maps and reproductions of key documents.

Looking for Asian Americans at U-M and in Michigan

Partner: Bentley Historical Library

Principle Investigator: Hitomi Tonomura

Project: Deconstructing the Model Minority at the University of Michigan (exhibit)

Description

Term: Winter 2019

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 393 (lab)

Description: This HistoryLab explores the two centuries of history and legacy of Asians, Asian-Americans, and the Pacific-Islanders in the state of Michigan, especially at the University of Michigan. Students examine the rich archival material kept at the Bentley Historical Library, and, if appropriate, expand their inquiry to organizations and people who reside in Michigan today. Together, we will visualize the project result in the form of a public presentation.

Politics of Academic Freedom

Partner: Bentley Historical Library

Principle Investigator: Howard Brick

Project: Jointly authored research paper

Description

Term: Spring-Fall 2020

Participants: Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students, Faculty

Related Courses: History 491 (lab)

Description: The meaning and applicability of academic freedom and freedom of speech standards—however much we prefer to trust in them as cherished ideals—typically come into dispute amid definite social and political contexts and strains. In this HistoryLab, students will examine definitions of academic freedom and freedom of speech over time, engaging in collaborative research regarding one of five noted episodes in U-M’s twentieth-century history, moments when official disciplinary action penalized (or was suspected of penalizing) U-M students or faculty for their involvement in leftwing political protest.