American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

February 2016

Apply Now! NEH Summer Institute, The Visual Culture of the American Civil War and Its Aftermath

The American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the City University of New York Graduate Center will host a two-week NEH Summer Institute for college and university teachers in July 2016 on the visual culture of the American Civil War and its aftermath. Applications to participate will be accepted via mail, e-mail, and our online application system until March 1, 2016.

The Institute will focus on the era's array of visual media--including the fine arts, ephemera, and photography--to examine how information and opinion about the war were recorded and disseminated, and the ways visual media expressed and shaped Americans' understanding on both sides of the conflict. Guided by a team of four faculty that represents the range of work in the field, Institute participants will hear daily lectures and presentations by noted historians, art historians, and archivists; take part in hands-on sessions in significant museums and collections; and attend new media lab workshops. These Institute activities will introduce participants to the rich body of scholarship that addresses or incorporates Civil War era visual culture, encourage them to explore avenues for further research in the field, and assist them in developing their own research and/or teaching projects. Reading assignments preceding and during the Institute will prepare participants for full engagement in the Institute's discussions and activities. And time will be provided to prepare individual projects, undertake research at local archives, and meet with the four principal institute faculty members as well as guest speakers.

The institute will meet from July 11 to July 22, 2016 at the CUNY Graduate Center (34th Street and Fifth Avenue) and other archival and museum sites around the city, including the New-York Historical Society, the New York Public Library, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Faculty and visiting speakers include: Lynne Zacek Bassett, Joshua Brown, Sarah Burns, Keith Davis, Gregory Downs, Thavolia Glymph, Lauren Hewes, David Jaffee, Ari Kelman, Maurie McInnis, Megan Kate Nelson, Kirk Savage, Susan Shulten, Scott Manning Stevens, and Richard Samuel West.

While scholars and teachers specializing in U.S. history, American studies, and art history will find the Institute especially attractive, we encourage applicants from any field who are interested in the Civil War era and its visual culture, regardless of your disciplinary interests. Independent scholars, scholars engaged in museum work or full-time graduate studies are also urged to apply. You need not have extensive prior knowledge of the Civil War or visual culture or have previously incorporated their study in any of your courses or research. However, your application essay should identify concrete ways in which two weeks of concentration on the topics will enhance your teaching and/or research. In addition, please describe a research or teaching project you will develop during the institute. The ideal institute participant will bring to the group a fresh understanding of the relevance of the topic to their teaching and research.

Full details and application information are available on the ASHP/CML Institute website.  For further information, please contact Institute Director Donna Thompson Ray at or 212-817-1963. 

Completed applications must be submitted via our online application system or e-mail or postal mail no later than March 1, 2016 (postal mail must be postmarked by March 1).

Sloan Foundation Funds CUNY Digital History Archive

ASHP has received funding from the Arthur P. Sloan Foundation to further develop the CUNY Digital History Archive, a participatory project to create, collect, and conserve the histories of the City University of New York. This open archive and portal gives the CUNY community and the broader public online access to a range of materials related to the history of the City University of New York. The CDHA will make available materials contributed by individuals whose lives, in diverse ways, have shaped and been shaped by CUNY.  Faculty, staff, and students have fought to sustain the university’s democratic mission and one of the goals of the CUNY Digital History Archive is to document and preserve the stories of those efforts. This project also involves collaboration with CUNY college libraries and archives that house significant collections and records related to the history of the university. With the support of this grant, we look forward to increased partnering with these libraries and archives as well as to conducting oral history interviews and incorporating contributions from former and current members of the CUNY community. Please contact us if you would like to contribute materials to this project.

"City of Immigrants" Wins Parents' Choice Award

City of Immigrants—the fourth in the Mission US series of free online history games produced by public television station WNET/Thirteen in collaboration with ASHP/CML, the game company Electric Funstuff, and the Educational Development Center—just received the Parents' Choice Gold Award in the Spring 2016 website competition. Issued by the Parents' Choice Foundation, the oldest nonprofit guide in the U.S. for outstanding children's media, Gold Award winners are judged as "the highest quality, most appealing products in their genre," the criteria including the "highest production standards, [and conveying] universal human values."

Launched in 2015, City of Immigrants immerses players in the daily life and struggles of Lena Brodsky, a 14 year old Russian Jewish immigrant, on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan during the first decade of the twentieth century, and culminates in the massive 1909 shirtwaist strike. With 1.3 million registered users in middle-school classrooms across the country (including 50,000 teachers), the Mission US programs have been recognized as engaging resources, rich in social history, that promote rigorous learning about the U.S. past, and, along with the Parents' Choice Award, have won the Most Significant Impact Award from Games for Change, the Japan Prize honoring the best of educational media, and the Editor's Choice Award from Children's Technology Review.

New Features Added to WBA Badges

ASHP recently launched new features on the Who Built America: Badges for History Education website, our online professional development program. These improvements represent our continued commitment to providing classroom ready, discipline specific professional learning to history teachers.

We’ve developed four tutorials designed to aid teachers in modeling disciplinary literacy and historical thinking skills in their classrooms. The skill tutorial topics include: thinking historically, building context, using evidence, and reading and writing for arguments.  We feel strongly that such skills are essential to effective instruction, and have incorporated the tutorials into the badge earning process.

To make badges more accessible to those unfamiliar with online professional development, we’ve also introduced a new set of entry-level lesson builder badges. Lesson builder badges allow teachers to design their own U.S. or world history lessons and focus their instructional design on a specific disciplinary literacy skill. See our WBA Badges page for more information about this new structure.

Educators throughout the country are already using the redesigned site, including the New York City Department of Education, which approved our new badge courses for their After School Professional Development Program last fall.

Revitalizing “Investigating U.S. History”

As part of our effort to keep our online teaching resources accessible and user-friendly, we have revised and upgraded our Investigating U.S. History website. The site now has a responsive design, to make it tablet and mobile friendly, a new audio format for greater compatibility, and updated links programmed in HTML 5. Originally created in 2007 by CUNY history faculty, and supported by an NEH grant, the twelve inquiry-based activities feature primary source materials such as presidential audiotape excerpts, 1930s photographs and folk music, revolutionary war artifacts, and nineteenth-century religious tracts that challenge students to “do history.”

ASHP Redesigns HERB: Social History for Every Classroom

ASHP is pleased to announce a major overhaul of HERB: Social History for Every Classroom, our free web resource of primary sources, curated collections, and teaching activities on U.S. history. HERB is now entering its fifth year online, and has been used by thousands of educators around the country.

We’ve improved the visual layout of the site, optimized it for use on tablets and other mobile devices, and redesigned the search functionality with more accurate and filterable search results. And teaching activities are now sorted by pedagogical strategy and include a description of how best to implement each in the classroom.

In addition to changes to the site’s design and functionality, we’ve also added new content to HERB, including a collection on Mexican immigration in the early twentieth century and a collection on Cuban immigration and Puerto Rican migration to the United States.

We hope these changes will improve the overall user experience and make this rich resource accessible to even more history teachers in the future.

New York City Social Studies Curriculum Writing Project

​ASHP is pleased to be participating in an ambitious social studies curriculum writing project currently underway at the New York City Department of Education. NYCDOE's centrally-based Social Studies team, led by Executive Director Eric Contreras, has selected a group of social studies teachers representing grades K-12 who are writing model curriculum lessons and units to align with each year in the city's Scope and Sequence for Social Studies. Once complete, these units will be made available to social studies teachers citywide. Since January 2015, Ellen Noonan, ASHP's director of online professional development, has been meeting regularly with the high school grade level teams of curriculum writers to provide guidance and resources for their work. ASHP is also working closely with NYCDOE staff to develop secondary essays to accompany each unit as well as a library of primary source documents that can be used in the grades 9 and 10 global history units.