Teaching Digital Humanities to STEM Majors

Jody Gordon and Chris Gleason’s course Digital Approaches to Boston Culture: Curating the Legacy of James M. Curley in the Media, Communications, and Culture Program, stemmed from Wentworth’s new E.P.I.C. Learning Initiative.  The goal of classes developed under this initiative, Gordon explained, is to encourage “students to work on projects together coming from interdisciplinary angles.”  To this end, the goal of their studio course is to engage their entirely non-humanities students in humanities issues through digital techniques.


From this, the Mayor James Curley Project was born. “When we started off the course,” Gleason recounted, “we really just thought we wanted to do a digital, 3D model of a house and make it interactive.”  But instead it’s evolved into a virtual house museum with Omeka as the foundation.  In groups, students are assigned one of the rooms in the Curley Mansion for which they then curate an exhibit.  While Omeka serves as the “shell,” the projects rely on other DH tools, including Neatline, WorldMap, and Annotation Studio.


The Gertrude Dennis Manuscript gives a complete, room by room, overview of the contents of the James Curley House when the mayor and his second wife, Gertrude Dennis, lived there in the 1950s. It is an invaluable document, as today none of these items remain in the house.  After uploading the thirty-four page document into Annotation Studio, over the course of one class session, Gleason and Gordon introduced their students to the program, had them register for it, and complete their assignment: annotating the Gertrude Dennis manuscript.  Tasked with individually annotating a page of the document, students identified and defined terms that were unfamiliar to them, often using an image, to explain them.


Gordon projected his computer with the text in front of the class, enabling the students to see that even though they were individually annotating in Annotation Studio, they were working as a group, working collaboratively, to explain this text.  Ultimately, Gordon described, “the ability to populate this manuscript with metadata gave us the ability to repopulate these rooms with the objects that actually existed.”