History Matters Earns Robinson Prize

Posted: January 13, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

Called “the teaching aid that has made the most outstanding contribution to the teaching of history in any field,” History Matters, a free online resource center for U.S. history developed by the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason, recently won the James Harvey Robinson Prize of the American Historical Association (AHA). The site is used by high school and college teachers around the world.

The History Matters site offers a range of resources, including 1,000 primary documents in text, image, and audio; an annotated list of the best U.S. history web sites; guides to using various kinds of online primary sources, such as oral history and maps; and moderated discussions about teaching. With a click of a mouse, students can hear a rural woman recalling farm life in the 20th century, read Ben Franklin’s letters written when he first came to Philadelphia, or watch videos relating to the Underground Railroad. The site, fully launched in 1998, has received numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Robinson Prize was accepted by CHNM director Roy Rosenzweig last week at an AHA meeting in Seattle. The center, in conjunction with the American Social History Project at the City University of New York Graduate Center, has won the Robinson Prize twice. In 1994, the prize was given to the two institutions for the two-volume CD-ROM, Who Built America? From the Centennial Celebration of 1876 to the Great War of 1914.

The Center for History and New Media, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has won numerous awards and grants for its prestigious role in preserving history digitally and promoting an inclusive and democratic understanding of the past. In existence almost as long as the World Wide Web, the center is currently staffed by more than 20 historians, researchers, web designers, and programmers.

The center’s award-winning projects include the September 11 Digital Archive, a digital repository of histories and documents of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The archive became the first major digital collection acquired by the Library of Congress. Other award-winning projects are Echo: Exploring and Collecting History Online, which collects, organizes, and preserves digital materials in the history of science, technology, and industry; and Interpreting the Declaration of Independence, which uses foreign translations to promote a richer understanding of the document.

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