Teaching History and Archaeology Online: The Response to a Global Pandemic

This week, my university (the University of British Columbia) officially moved all their teaching online. This follows similar trends around the world, where whole populations have been asked to stay inside and avoid public spaces in order to contain the outbreak of the virus, COVID-19. This global pandemic has left a lot of professors scrambling to redesign their courses for a digital platform. With many students unable to reach libraries, labs, or other practical sources, digital resources and platforms have never been as vital as they are now.

So what can we do to try and offer the best possible experience in this difficult situation?

The main website attached to this blog, Archaeology in the Digital Agehas links to digital databases, resources, and links to online articles, books, and helpful websites that can be integrated into courses, and students can access themselves from home. There are also some great articles about the benefits of integrating digital tools, or check out an earlier blog post. (And if you are looking for some tips about teaching in a remote learning environment, Zoom put out some great tips a few years ago, and you should consider joining the Facebook group, “Higher ed and the Coronavirus”). You could also assign students a project based around digital approaches to archaeology/history in your region.

But I thought I should also put together a short(er) list of some of my favourite resources – either ones that I have used personally in my courses, or have been strongly recommended by colleagues. This includes “Project Tools”, digital platforms that students can use to create online projects, and “Research Resources”, some of my favourite databases, online museums, and other sources to help students explore topics in archaeology and history, without leaving their homes.

(Please contact me if you know of other resources that should be added!)

Project Tools

*You should check your institution’s approach to privacy before assigning projects using public, online tools. Some institutions may also be able to host such projects on their own servers. Check with your IT assistance.

Omeka

omeka-classic

Omeka is an open source web publishing platform from the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, which allows you to share digital collections. Using this tool, you can ask your students to design and share online exhibits, complete with backend data, creating your own, virtual, mini-museum. Omeka Classic should be used for beginners, students (and professors) who don’t have significant coding experience. A user manual makes it easy for students to learn how to build the site themselves. Omeka S is a bit more serious, though it might be worth considering if your institution wants to take the opportunity to build a more professional digital exhibit.

During my summer field school at the Museo Egizio, in Italy, I have students create virtual exhibits using Omeka, which allow the students to consider how to curate exhibits, select objects, and to think about what type of information needs to be included in a database.

WordPress

WordPress.svg

WordPress is the online website creation tool that is used to make this blog and website. It’s very easy to use, with a step-by-step guide. You can choose to create a website yourself for your course, and have students create blog posts about different topics, for instance, or let them create their own site. Some universities (like UBC’s UBC Blogs, for instance) have paid for subscriptions to wordpress, allowing students to make blog posts that are hosted on university servers (overcoming privacy issues). Your institution may have something similar.

I have taught students how to use wordpress before, and it has gone over very well. While they have their own tutorials, I also put together a powerpoint for the tutorial class, which you can download for use by clicking here. Feel free to use or update as you like.

Online Research Resources

Museums Online

Perhaps my favourite resources for archaeological research online are the many museums or art institutions that have excellent digital databases, or even virtual tours.

Digital Collections:

Arachne – Object Database of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI)

The British Museum, London

Canadian Museum of History, Ottawa

The Getty Research Institute Search Tools and Databases

The Louvre Museum, Paris

The Metropolitan Museum, New York

Museo Egizio, Turin

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Royal Museums Greenwich, London

Smithsonian Museums

Virtual Museums:

Google Arts & Culture – This site has numerous digital resources, including a number of virtual tours for a variety of museums

The British Museum (Object Timeline)

Harvard Semitic Museum

Video tour of the Hermitage Museum in Russia

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

The Met 360 (Metropolitan Museum)

The National Museum of African American History and Culture (Washington, DC)

Virtual Historic Ship the St Roch – Vancouver Maritime Museum

Digital Sites and Monuments

The following are links to digitized reconstructions or tours of different sites and monuments.

Blarney Castle, Ireland

Describing Egypt – virtual tombs of royal tombs in Egypt

Digital Giza – Explore and learn about the Giza pyramids in Egypt

Digital Hadrian’s Villa Project

Digital Karnak – Explore and learn about Karnak Temple in Egypt (archived)

Paris: Past & Present

Rome Reborn

Tomb of Menna (Egypt) by the American Research Center in Egypt

Wemyss Caves 4D (UK)

3D Artifacts Online

While there are lots of 3D artifacts files that can be downloaded for free online, a whole bunch can be found uploaded to the site Sketchfab.

Downloadable PDFs and E-Books

There are a number of publishers that have open access, downloadable PDFs of books and resources. I would first try your library’s online catalogue, as they may provide you with direct links to e-books from these open access publishers, as well as other publishers with whom they hold subscriptions. Also, if you log in to your institution’s VPN (Virtual Private Network), you’ll find a lot more resources available to you. (Some of the following links do require an institutional subscription) – Note – I will only post links to sources that are legal and free to download.

Repositories:

Directory of Open Access Books

Jstor – while most people use jstor for scholarly articles, you can now find books online here as well. While there are some freely available, your institution will likely have a subscription – make sure you are connected to the VPN to take gain access. Update: Jstor has made their service available to everybody without a subscription during this crisis.

Archaeology Heritage Network

Archaeopress Open Access

Austrian Academy of Science

Cambridge Core (Archaeology) – Cambridge Core has many different topics – this link just takes you directly to the selections for archaeology. Some of these are open access, others will require an institution subscription.

During the outbreak, Cambridge has made many of its textbooks open access as well – Find them here. (Though note, they’ve been having some issues with the amount of traffic, so you may visit at a time when access is temporarily suspended…)

Czech Institute of Egyptology

De Gruyter Open 

Institut Français du Proche-Orient (French Institute of the Near East)

Librum Publishers and Editors

Metropolitan Museum – A number of online publications and resources can be found through the Met’s website

Oriental Institute Publications

Sidestone Press

Springer Link – some of these books are accessible online with an institutional subscription.

Taylor & Francis Group (Archaeology) – this is the link to the archaeology books, but there are many others. Many of the books will require institutional subscriptions.

Temporary:

Michigan University Press – Michigan University Press has offered open access for their ebooks through to the end of April 2020 in response to the pandemic.

Project MUSE – a number of project MUSE publishing partners are open access during the crisis as well.

Other curated lists:

AWOL – The Ancient World Online (a blog that is an excellent online source all on its own) also posted a list of open access journals.

Egyptology – Books at Articles in PDF online

  • This resource was created by Dr. Nigel Strudwick and graduate students at the University of Memphis. See the discussion of this resource and more here.

Podcasts

For a break from visualizations, you and your students may also want to try out some free, downloadable podcasts related to history and archaeology, there are some great ones available out there.

A History of the World in 100 Objects – This podcast is from the director of the British Museum, and explores objects in its collection.

The Archaeology Podcast Network – This is a hub for a collection of podcasts all associated with archaeology.

HistoryExtra Podcast – A history podcast connected to the BBC. They make it easy to find a podcast for your specific region or focus through advanced search options.

Other Digital Activities or Resources

There are also some digital games and activities that students can explore.

The Database of Religious History– This database is used to gather, organize, and share quantitative and qualitative data regarding the history of the world’s religions and other elements of society. If you’re an expert, take some time to fill in their polls, and add to the data. If your a teacher, check out their proposed projects. If your a researcher or a student, browse some of their entries.

The Smithsonian’s, “History Explorer” – the resources and activities on this site tend to be aimed at a younger audience, but a few could still be used or adapted for university students.

EternityTravel.com– a site that helps students of Egyptian religion understand what goes into preparations for a tomb.

Dig-It! Games – Again, these are mostly for younger audiences, but there’s still fun archaeology themed games for us older children as well. 🙂

Textual Sources

For online tools to help with the study of textual sources, see the dedicated page on my website, Archaeology, Texts, and Technology

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