(Cross-posted from Southern Miss Now, 12/05/2014)
The learning process never really stops, especially for the Department of History at The University of Southern Mississippi. History professor Dr. Susannah J. Ural and history doctoral student E. Allan Branstiter recently attended a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) workshop to advance their knowledge of digital methods for studying military history.
The “Digital Methods for Military History” workshop featured a partnership between the NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks at Northeastern University, the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities, and the Society for Military History.
The two-day workshop introduced war and society scholars to digital tools and methods, focusing on network analysis and mapping, which are particularly suited to the study of connections between and the experiences of soldiers, leaders, and communities at war. The event highlighted the NEH’s new dedication to “explore war and its aftermath, promote discussion of the experience of military service, and support returning veterans and their families.”
Generous support from Dr. Gordon Cannon, Southern Miss’ Vice President for Research, and the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society made it possible for Ural and Branstiter to attend the workshop.
These tools, Ural and Branstiter know, are not a cure-all. Some of their data is still best presented in traditional charts and graphs. But Ural is busy, with Branstiter serving as research assistant, using the workshop lessons to map Confederate veterans’ journeys home from their surrender through the period of Reconstruction (part of Ural’s forthcoming book Hood’s Boys: John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade and the American Civil War (LSU Press)). Similarly, Branstiter is already mapping the connections between local leaders — Southern white Republicans, African-American politicians, Mississippi Democrats, the Ku Klux Klan — in Reconstruction-era Mississippi.
“This was a wonderful opportunity for Allan and me to learn new research tools that we can bring back to Southern Miss to share with our colleagues and students, and use to improve our scholarship,” Ural said. “I haven’t been this excited about new historical methods since my first semester in grad school.”
Ural is also working with Branstiter to create a digitize and map the data that Southern Miss history students are collecting on the Confederate veterans, wives and widows who lived in the Beauvoir Veteran Home in Biloxi, Miss., from 1903-1957 (formally known as the Beauvoir Veteran Project).
Ural is also in discussion with the Society for Military History and the NEH as the Dale Center considers hosting a future workshop at Southern Miss.
For more information about this event or other events in the College of Arts and Letters, visit http://artsandlettersnow.usm.edu.