Creating a Digital Museum of the Tulsa Race Riots

I had a great meeting on Monday with Professor Karlos Hill from African and African American Studies about a new course he is designing on race in Oklahoma focusing on the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921. Part of his idea for the course is that the students would build a virtual museum about the Race Riots.

Karlos’s concept reminded me of the wonderful website that students built for the recently completed OU Presidential Dream Course, ‘Making Modern America: Discovering the Great Depression.’ Professors Keith Gaddie (Political Science) and David Wrobel (History) worked with Sarah Clayton, a Digital Scholarship Specialist from the OU Libraries, to build a platform in Omeka. During the course, students entered data about 967 different items from photographs to newspaper clippings and old journals. They then used a plugin called Omeka Neatline to publish essays drawing together these archival items into geographically situated histories of Depression-era Oklahoma.

Screencap of New Deal Website

One of the exciting things about Karlos’s project, is that he has several years to iteratively build and teach his Tulsa Race Riot course before it’s culmination in the 100th anniversary of the event. Potentially that means that students from different semesters, or indeed different years, could work diachronically to build out a database related to the Tulsa Race Riots.

Another possibility is that analytical history papers written in the first few versions of the course could be revised or rewritten in later courses. Hasok Chang and Catherine Jackson facilitated a similar project from 2000 to 2005. Their students ultimately wrote the chapters of a book on the discovery and history of the chemical element chlorine called An Element of Controversy: The Life of Chlorine in Science, Medicine, Technology, and War (reviewed here).

I love that Karlos is thinking about how he can use technology in the design of his course to enable his students to do/make history. This project could end up having students make open educational resources including databases and even textbooks for future courses. This is the type of project that continues to get me out of bed in the morning.

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