February 6, 2023


Each group of 3-4 students will create an online research-based project and a short documentary-style video about the history of an artifact of American technology. [Topics cannot duplicate those of other groups, cannot duplicate those of previous HIST 325 projects at http://historyoftech.umwblogs.org/ (unless you can make the case that they will improve on those projects in some substantive way), and cannot overlap with those covered in class lectures.]  Each group’s digital project, created in UMWBlogs, and video, posted with their digital project, will be linked to the class project site and will explain the background and invention or adoption of the piece of technology, as well as examining its impact on American society and culture. Advance deadlines have been set for topic approval, proposal with bibliography, project outlines/storyboards, the research-based digital project, and the documentary, as well as a chance to revise one of the projects; be sure to meet these deadlines. Students will receive a group grade and an individual grade for the research-based site and for the documentary.


1) Research-based blog site

Each group will create a research-based site about the history of an artifact of American technology that she or he finds interesting.  To do this you’ll need to create a new blog which will eventually use the same theme as the rest of the class (Dr. McClurken, working with DTLT, will provide this theme later in the semester).   Your blog will be used to present your proposal, create a skeleton outline, and the final project, as well as host the video you create, and will be linked to the class project blog at http://historyoftech.umwblogs.org/ .

Areas each project should cover:

1) Background – should include information on antecedents or influences.
2) Invention – Explain why this artifact was invented and what perceived “need” it fulfilled.
3) Adoption of the artifact of technology – should include any alternatives to the technology and an explanation of why one technology succeeded over others.
4) Impact of the technology on American economy, military, society and culture. [Not all of these may be applicable to your technology, but at least some will be.]
5) Footnotes/Endnotes and Bibliography – Cite the sources for all quotes, ideas, information, images, or video.

Although there might be slight differences for each topic, these are the basic content areas that each web site should cover.

A note on web site appearance
Online sites allow historians to present information in different ways, so take advantage of them. Part of your grade on this project is based on using that medium in creative ways.

1) A good web site is clear and well organized, making it easy to navigate and get information.

  • Pages on the web site should be appealing, consistent and laid out in a logical manner for the topic.
  • The content should be appropriate for your audience, clear, and well-written (with no errors in grammar or spelling).

2) A good web site also takes advantage of the possibilities of the Internet without letting them interfere with the communication of information.

  • This should not just be the text of a research paper dumped onto a web page.
  • Use  links in logical and helpful ways.
  • Use pictures and graphics, where appropriate and available.

For the blog-based site, clever and creative presentation is welcome, but it’s not an acceptable substitute for content.

If you have any questions please ask me.


2) Documentary-style video (5-10 minutes)

Whereas the blog-based research site should be rigorous and scholarly in approach (using thorough citation), the documentary video can be more creative and fun.  Think about how you might take what your group has learned about the technology you’re studying and convey that in a visual and auditory format.

In 5-10 minutes, the documentary should address some aspect of your technology–its history, its impact, its story–in a way that appeals to a different (broader?) audience than your website.  The video can take a serious, (Ken Burns-ian?) documentary approach, or can be more mockumentary than documentary, or something more creative.  You can use interviews, images, public domain clips (see archive.org), and your own narrations.

[If you’re having trouble conceptualizing these videos, you might check out these these efforts from students in my 2011 History of the Information Age course: Documentary on the history of the internet and its effect on Higher Education, using the University of Mary Washington as a contextual lensShift from card catalogs to digital catalogs in libraries, with a focus on its effect on librariansUMW’s First Email Message]

The video should include references to all sources at the end, should be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo, and embedded on your project site.

If you have any questions please ask me.



All assignments due at (or before) the beginning of class

(1) Artifact choice due by Tuesday, January 29
–Email your group’s planned topic for approval.  [Remember, you cannot choose a topic that we cover in class,one which someone else has already claimed, or one done by previous HIST 325 students that is already at http://historyoftech.umwblogs.org/ (unless you can make the case for a substantial addition or improvement to a site from a previous year).]

(2) Create a new blog just for this class, using the name of your artifact in the title created for your site.  The URL should include the name of your invention.  [e.g., http://railroad.umwblogs.org ]  The theme used must be the one that everyone is the class is using.  More on this during our discussion of the project on January 31.  Post test blog post with a picture (with image citation) by class time on Tuesday, February 5.

(3) Proposal (with annotated bibliography) due via your blog: Thursday, February 14  – See detailed proposal assignment here.

(4) Skeleton outline of your research site and storyboards/outlines for your documentary short posted to your blog due: Thursday, March 14

  • For the research site: skeleton outline (what pages will be used, what material on what page), list of media (images, videos, etc.), and a key (iconic) image of the technology being studied (with citation for that image). [The iconic image will be used on the course website as the entry to your group’s project.
  • For the documentary short: storyboards/detailed outline of what will go in the documentary and progress toward that end.

(5) Completed blog site due: Thursday, March 28
–Student can peer review up to two of their classmates’ project blog sites, sent via email to me, by class time on Thursday, April 4, for extra class participation credit.  [Use this form (peer-review-for-project-sites), which parallels one that I’ll use to evaluate your projects.]

(6) Documentary due by start of class, Tuesday, April 9.  [Uploaded to YouTube/Vimeo and embedded in the project blog.]

(7) Revised site/documentary due: Thursday, April 23

  • Groups will have a chance to revise the site or the documentary, based on peer and/or my feedback.

(8) Presentation of your site & video to the class: April 23 & 25