What began as a companion website for an academic book project is nearing completion as a unique digital humanities resource on gender and military history based at UNC-CH. In April 2017, “GWonline: the bibliography, filmography and webography on Gender, War and the Western World since 1600,” goes live.
GWonline (short for Gender and War Online) presents scholarly literature and primary source collections including women’s autobiographies, films, and websites, all on the intersections of women’s and gender history and the history of military, violence and war from 1600 to the present. Alongside full-text searching, the site allows users to explore the collections of curated sources through multiple entry points: author or director, publication or release date, type of source, major wars, countries and regions, or keywords. The website targets three audiences: researchers, teachers (both K-12 and university level), and undergraduate students. Beta testing among undergraduates in a survey history course revealed that students appreciate the quantity of academically reliable sources, the ease of navigating the site, and the customizable nature of the search functions.
GWonline simplifies the process of preparing research and teaching, for those working in history, women’s and gender studies, and Peace, War, and Defense (PWAD). For example, say that a teacher wanted to create a lesson on women’s experiences in the Russian Revolution. A full text search for “women Russian Revolution” turns up a host of useful scholarship to help design a lecture, including In the Shadow of Revolution: Life Stories of Russian Women from 1917 to the Second World War, Working-Class and Peasant Women in the Russian Revolution, and Women Combatants in World War I: A Russian Case Study, to name only a few of the results. If the teacher searches in the Autobiographies collection, he or she will find the voices of Russian women in sources such as Russian Women, 1698-1917: Experience and Expression, an Anthology of Sources, biographies of the Bolshevik feminist Aleksandra Kollontai, and Memories of Revolution: Russian Women Remember. Browsing through the Websites collection reveals rich online primary source collections such as the archives of British Pathé, which contain newsreels and photographs of world events from 1876 onward, and collections of digitized propaganda posters. Finally, the Films collection will help the teacher select films to teach how women’s role in the Russian Revolution has been portrayed in later decades, such as A Slave of Love, a 1976 Soviet film about a Russian film star who becomes romantically involved with a Bolshevik just before the Revolution. Thus, this website provides a comprehensive database of vetted primary and secondary sources on specific topics within military history and gender, in a simpler and more direct format than an internet search or searching in a library catalogue.
GWonline is the brainchild of Karen Hagemann, James G. Kenan Distinguished Professor of History at UNC-CH. Together with Professor Stefan Dudink of the Radboud University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands, she has co-edited the Oxford Handbook on Gender, War and the Western World since 1600, due for publication in 2017. It has been a massive undertaking, and to help simplify the task, they created a website to organize the bibliography for the Handbook. But Hagemann and Dudink soon realized that the companion website could become a valuable resource with an expanded base of primary sources to complement the secondary literature on military history and gender.
Since 2013, many graduate and undergraduate students and alumni have worked on the project, overseeing its expansion, as well as honing their project management and digital humanities skills. Friederike Bruehoefener was the initial Coordinator, followed by Kristen Dolan and then Brittany Lehman, who oversaw the bulk of transforming the bibliography website into a resource database. Aaron Hale-Dorrell and Anndal Narayanan are the final Coordinators, managing the completion of the website and organizing publicity. Graduate assistants Derek Holmgren, Jennifer Kosmin, John Robertson, Caroline Nilsen, Trevor Erlacher, and Kristen Twardowski have contributed their historical expertise and foreign language skills. Undergraduate assistants Courtney Arena, Larisa Bennett, Una Dabiero, Cole Voorhies, and Anna Taylor have spent hundreds of hours uploading and revising content. GWonline is a product of the collaboration at UNC-CH of the Department of History, ITS Research Computing, Library and Information Technology, and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities and would not have been possible without the support of these partners.
The campus community is invited to a day of exchange and debate to celebrate the website’s launch in the spring. The workshop “What is Digital Humanities?” takes place Friday, April 21, 2017, in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room of Wilson Library. Stephen Robertson, Director of the Rosenzweig Center of History and New Media at George Mason University, will give the keynote lecture starting at 2 pm. A roundtable begins at 4 pm featuring Dan Anderson and Malina Chavez from the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative, Michael Barker of UNC Research Computing, History Department chair Fitz Brundage, Amanda Clarke Henley of Digital Research Services at UNC Libraries, and Joseph Viscomi of the Department of English and Comparative Literature, with a response by Stephen Robertson and moderated by Karen Hagemann. Finally, the GWonline website will officially go public at 6:15 pm, joining a host of other innovative digital humanities projects created at UNC-CH. Stay tuned for an announcement of a special graduate seminar on the digital humanities in April, to which graduate students in all fields will be invited.