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This document should be of interest to anyone who is interested in exploring
some of the ramifications and details of the H-Net project.
Robert Harris, H-CivWar
The H-Net Planning Document"
version 10.0 July 26, 1993
not confidential--circulate & comment
by Richard Jensen, director
Wendy Plotkin, Associate Director
and James Mott, Associate Director
Dept of History U of Illinois, Chicago, 60680
Bitnet: U08946@uicvm Internet: email@example.com
tel (615) 552-9923 fax: (312) 996-6377
1. H-Net is a project of the History Department at the
University of Illinois, Chicago, that is planning to
assist the history profession to go on-line and make use
of the remarkable advances in computers in recent years.
a) Half of the academic historians in the US have a powerful
computer on their desks. Many graduate students have one,
or have convenient access. The analogy is the Model T
Ford-- people own a wonderful machine, but use it only to
drive to church on Sunday (i.e. for basic word
processing). Our main goal is to get historians to use
their equipment for communications. For a good overview
of resources and methods of the new electronic age, see
Avra Michelson and Jeff Rothenberg, "Scholarly
Communication and Information Technology," The American
Archivist. (1992) 55:236-315, and Janice Reiff,
Structuring the Past: The Use of Computers in
History (Washington: AHA, 1992)
2. The logic of H-Net is that a valuable service can be
performed by working through an established discipline,
and its departments and associations. The core target is
college and university history departments in the US,
Canada--and anywhere else interested, plus the
established associations like the AHA, OAH and SHA, and
archivists, librarians and museum people with a direct
involvement in historical work.
The first part of H-Net will be a hands-on training program
to show historians how to use their PCs more effectively.
The training, beginning in fall 1993, will be provided in
all-day sessions at host universities (probably 4-5 a year).
We have also been invited to set up formal sessions at
conventions of the American Historical Association (AHA),
Organization of American Historians (OAH), and Southern
Historical Association (SHA). We will have a Poster Exhibit
at the Social Science History convention in November 1993.
a) We will show historians how to use Bitnet/Internet to
communicate directly with one other--the "poor
academic's fax." Electronic messages tend to be much
more frequent, shorter, and less formal than written
letters or telephone calls. Full use of the net
system will speed up the tempo of intellectual
interchange among historians. While it will not
replace the interaction that takes place during
conventions, it will augment and intensify it.
b) Gophers (and related programs like Veronica,
Archie, WWW, WAIS and MOSAIC) are appearing every
month--they provide amazingly powerful tools to
access the enormous resources on the Internet
that are of use to historians.
c) Especially vital are library catalogs (including the
major universities) which are now available free to
people who know how to use Internet. The Library of
Congress catalog, for example, became available in
late April, 1993. The CARL service (guide to recent
articles), as well as RLIN and OCLC are restricted.
(So too are ARTFL and OED text services.) Many
historians have access to some of these through their
campus computer center or library, but do not know how
to use them. Others have access to valuable cd-rom
bibliographical databases, like Dissertation
Abstracts. We will show how to download information
into their word processing program, and (better) how
to load them into bibliography textbases, like
ProCite. These sources are the domain of campus
libraries; our job will be to make sure historians
know how to interact with librarians.
d) There are many electronic texts, CD-ROMs and finding
aids becoming available. H-Net will tell historians
about them, and exchange tips on how to use them (and
even how to create them.)
e) H-Net will produce a series of H-Net OnLine Guides to sources
and techniques, and distribute them widely (free).
f) Based on Jensen's experience running 11 summer institutes
in the new social history and quantitative methods at the
Newberry Library, and 12 shorter mini-institutes, we
estimate from 200 to 300 historians a year will
participate (including public historians and graduate
students.) Institutions will be asked to pay a modest
registration fee. NEH will be asked to cover 80% of the
costs, with the remainder coming from the U of Illinois
and the participants.
g) Our training will start at home, in August 1993, at
the UIC department, where we will test out techniques,
handouts, and software guides. We will give the
trainees the right software, and also diskettes full
of help files and further guides to sources.
4. LISTSERV DISCUSSION GROUPS (LISTS)
"Lists" or electronic discussion subscription groups are a
rapidly growing new means of communications. They are feasible
because messages (of any length from one sentence to several
thousand words) can be transmitted at no cost to hundreds of
people very easily. Subscribers receive the messages in their
computer center accounts within minutes, and can immediately
respond to the entire list, thus setting up an open dialogue.
a) Lists are like specialized newsletters--but imagine
the printing, postage and handling costs of a 4-page
newspaper mailed to 200 people every week. The
comparable production costs of a list are zero (thanks
to Internet). Editorial costs are also lower, since
the contributors effectively edit and format their own
b) H-Net, beginning in February 1993, has published a
guide to the 100 or so Bitnet-based history
conferences (several each on ancient history,
medieval, Russian, Chinese, western Europe, US, and
methodology). These groups have international
subscription lists, with about 30 countries connected.
The strongest representation is from Canada and
western Europe. The East Europeans are just now
linking up to Bitnet; several Latin American countries
are linked in. We will distribute our guide (free),
publicize these groups and show historians how to
join. We will provide technical help for anyone who
wants to start a new history list.
c) We will sponsor a broad range of lists ourselves.
Currently our 12 lists have 2000 subscribers in 26
countries. The H-Net stable comprises: H-Urban@uicvm
(Urban History, begun February 1993), HOLOCAUS@uicvm
(Holocaust teaching and research, begun in April 1993,
it now has 300 subscribers in 20 countries), H-Women
(women's history, begun May 1993), and (June 1993):
H-South, H-Rural, H-Diplo, H-Law, H-LatAm, H-CivWar,
H-AmStdy, H-Ethnic and H-Albion.
1) To subscribe: send a message like this to LISTSERV@uicvm
sub H-URBAN Firstname Surname School
d) Scheduled for August:
H-Labor, H-Teach, H-Durkhm, H-Rhetor, H-Pol;
for fall: IEAHCnet (colonial)
e) Our lists each have international editorial boards,
and will focus on the needs of academic historians and
graduate students. They will feature discussions of
serious topics, and distribute bibliographies, course
syllabi, outlines and handouts donated by scholars.
Our editors will actively solicit this sort of useful
material. We will show users how to download into
their own word processors. Our lists will have the
capability of storing and forwarding gif graphics
files (maps, graphs, charts, overhead transparencies)
as well as text. We will commission reports on
important conferences, and publish book announcements
and book reviews.
f) We will invite volunteers (historians from across the
the world) to moderate the various lists. Their role
will be to keep a steady flow of material going out,
and to encourage the right people to enter into
g) As interest grows, rather specialized lists can be
opened. One might be a service for users of a major
textbook in Western Civ, allowing instructors and
teaching assistants around the country to exchange
ideas, handouts, tests, and helpful hints.
h) We will offer to act as electronic publisher for
history associations, putting their newsletters
on-line for their own member at no cost to them. The
AHA has endorsed the project for their _Perspectives_
and other groups have expressed strong interest.
Electronic dissemination of newsletters, using the
LISTSERV software on mainframes, is much cheaper and
faster than paper copies. The texts reach historians
on their mainframe computer accounts and can be
downloaded easily to PCs. (Just another reason
historians will want to get a modem and start using
i) H-Net lists are affiliated with the international
"History Network," a coordinating council that
supplies technical advice.
5. NATIONAL BBS
A major H-Net project, starting in 1994 (assuming the NEH
grant), will be an electronic "bulletin board" system open
free to all historians in the US--and across the world.
Any historian with a personal computer (IBM compatible or
Apple Mac) and a modem, can connect to it (also a "dumb"
terminal linked to campus computer). Most will connect
through their campus computer system via Internet. Others
can phone us long-distance, where H-Net will look like a
BBS (bulletin board system).
a) H-Net will have Listserv, Fileserve, Gopher and FTP
services (these are ways to disseminate files
b) We hope to create a combination Listserv and BBS. The
BBS are much more complex to run than "listserv" lists
(which are largely automatic), but provide more
services and are more user friendly. A BBS has menus
from which the user can choose which files to look at
or download, and allows access to cd-roms and pc
software. There are hundreds of BBS systems in
operation; most charge $50-$100/ year for membership,
and none (that we have discovered) deal with history.
c) The H-Net bulletin board will have a number of "menus"
that provide a variety of services.
1) Useful and timely information will be posted, with a
very short turnaround time (one day), compared to the
many weeks needed for printed matter. Conferences and
conventions will be announced; interested parties can
contact the organizers directly; preliminary and final
programs can be posted.
2) Menus will lead to bibliographies, outlines, and
guides donated by historians and archivists.
3) H-Net will set up (free) private meeting "rooms" for
groups of historians, such as program committees,
conference organizers, or editorial boards, so they
can communicate easily and privately with one another.
d) Volunteers are out there. The knack of keeping
discussion groups focused on important issues is
essentially a teaching skill; experts in the
discipline know who to ask to contribute.
e) The H-Net board will be a hybrid system operating
simultaneously on PC hardware and Wildcat software and
also on Internet/Bitnet through the UIC Computer
Center's mainframe. As with the training, we will
being with a department system at UIC.
6. HISTORICAL TEXTS on CD-ROM
a) H-Net is exploring the possibility of publishing major
19th century primary sources on inexpensive cd-rom,
together with very high powered indexing software. (A
cd-rom reader for a PC costs $250.) We will start with
the New York Tribune (1841-1920). On a cd-rom, 20 years
of news can be searched by Boolean combinations of names
and words in seconds, and complete texts downloaded into
the user's personal computer. The disks themselves will
contain several hundred million words of text, plus
software, and cost perhaps $100 (about 2 cents an
issue--which was the original cost of the newspaper 100
years ago.) We are looking for suggestions for other
projects. They must have wide scholarly appeal for
research and teaching.
b) Under the direction of UIC History Professor John
Kulczycki, H-Net will include contemporary Polish
newspapers and magazines in the CD-ROM project.
Chicago in general, and our university in particular,
are important centers for the study of Poland and
Undergraduate teaching is an area that is poorly served by the
printed journals. National and local on-line boards can provide
a variety of services.
a) Beginning in fall 1993, H-Net will set up discussion
groups for professors and teaching assistants who
teach the large survey courses. Topics of discussion
will include textbooks, supplementary books,
publishers' supplementary materials (test banks,
transparencies, study guides, teacher's guides), helps
and hints on discussion sections, and anything else
teachers wish to discuss. Volunteers will moderate
b) In fall 1993 we will set up H-UIC, a model board for
internal use here at UIC, where faculty and students
in our department can communicate. Most of our
students are commuters--and many of our faculty work
at home--suggesting that email may be a good solution
to the problem of communicating with each other.
c) In April 1993 we helped the Jewish Studies program set
up their JSTUDY list for communication of news, ideas
and comments. (JSTUDY@uicvm is restricted to the UIC
d) We will show departments how to set up their own local
boards for their large courses. One could be for
students to interact with their instructors--for
example, by asking questions or adding follow-up
comments, or seeking help. Another could be restricted
to the professor and the TAs, allowing them to discuss
the course privately on a day to day basis.
e) Undergraduate and graduate seminar-style courses can
set up their own local boards. Students can post
their papers and other students, and the professor,
can make suggestions and critiques. Substantive
discussions can follow up a class meeting. The
professor can use access to Internet sources to
provide exact bibliographic suggestions to students
8. H-NET as MODEL
The whole project will be operated as a model that can be
emulated in other disciplines. We will keep logs and
"how-we-did-it" guides, and will be delighted to help anyone
with their technical questions.
9. ORGANIZATION of H-NET
a) H-Net will be run from the History department of the
University of Illinois, Chicago. An international board
will set policy, a local board will direct operations and
coordinate with campus entities like the History
department, the Library, and the Computer Center. H-Net
will be entirely non-political. The menus and
conferences will be moderated (by us and especially by
volunteers around the country) to provide a smooth flow
of information to the users and to avoid overloading
their e-mailboxes with irrelevant material.
1) H-Net has a local board comprising:
Richard Jensen, History, chair
Renato Barahona, History
Burton Bledstein, History
Vernon Burton, UIUC History & Supercomputer Center
Sharon Hogan, Library & Computer Center
Louise Kerr, History
John Kulczycki, History
James Mott, SPSS Inc (a department PhD)
Daniel Scott Smith, History
Martin Tangora, Math-Stat-Computer Science
2) The H-Net International Advisory Board comprises:
Franco Andreucci, U. of Pisa (European history)
Edward Ayers, U of Virginia (Southern history)
Paul Bourke, Australian National U (Political history),
president Australian Historical Association
Susan Cady, Lehigh U. (Library Science)
David Chesnutt, U of South Carolina (Colonial history)
Daniel Greenstein, Glasgow U (Urban history)
Susan Hockey, Rutgers U & Princeton U. (Electronic Texts)
Robert Kraft, U of Pennsylvania (Religious Studies)
Carolyn Lougee, Stanford U (French history)
Donald Mabry, Mississippi State U (Latin American history)
Lynn Nelson, U of Kansas (Medieval history)
Janice Reiff, UCLA (Urban history)
Carolyn Schriber, Rhodes College (Medieval history)
Paul Turnbull, James Cook U, [Australia], Australian
intellectual history; editor CLIONET
George Vogt, South Carolina Archives (Archives)
George Welling, Groningen U (Netherlands) (Computer Science)
Thomas Zielke, U of Oldenberg (Germany) (European history)
Ronald Zweig, Tel Aviv U (Jewish history)
b) One ideological commitment of ours: we are keen on
broadening the access opportunities of all historians,
especially those at smaller schools and historical
societies. We will include both the IBM-compatible and
the Apple tribes. Historians who do not have their own
PCs can obtain access through departmental or campus
machines. According to the newest Peterson Guide, every
college in the country has PCs and some sort of
mainframe. It is not clear how few colleges lack access
to Bitnet or Internet. We will "give away" (in the form
of shareware) the necessary software (like the Procomm
c) History is a large and complex field, with vital links
beyond academic history departments. For example, history
has close relations with archives, state historical
societies, museums and rare book libraries (among others)
and with scholars around the globe. Some outside groups,
like genealogy and local history societies, do important
work in gathering and computerizing primary data.
d) Internet and Bitnet have millions of PCs hooked to
nodes (mostly university computer centers) and over a
million users a day; it is growing exponentially. The
planned "NREN" system will be even more elaborate and
will allow many more users to connect (including high
schools). It will be the interstate highway system of
the 21st century.
e) Nationwide, colleges are facing a budget crunch.
According to recent EDUCOM survey, half plan to cut
back the training and services they offer their
faculty. History departments will be especially hard
hit, because few have computer experts who keep up
with fast-breaking innovations.
f) H-Net has been endorsed by the AHA (Professional
Division, Research Division and Council), the Southern
Historical Association, and the Organization of American
Historians. ACLS has expressed support--it considers
H-Net an ambitious project that would put history well
ahead of other disciplines in the humanities and social
g) Funding as always is a challenge. We have received about
$6,000 so far from the UIC History department and
college, $1,500 from the UIC Center for Research on Women
and Gender, and $2,000 from ACLS, with several grant
proposals now pending. We have been operating on a
volunteer basis thus far.
h) We have a five year time horizon. The technology is
changing so fast that it would be unwise to predict much
longer than that. Our UIC team does not expect to spend
more than five years on the project. If H-Net fails to
catch on, we will confess we misjudged historians and
move on to something else. If, as we expect, it does
prove successful, it will be self liquidating. We will
have trained enough departmental "gurus" around the
country that they can show their colleagues and students
how to go forward. The history conventions will have
regular sessions on the newest technology. The various
bulletin boards and menus will be taken over by
volunteers, who will use their own university facilities
to operate the services.
i) SUNY Binghamton, U of Houston, Stanford and Austin Peay
State U (Tennessee) have talked to us about giving
training workshops to their history faculty and graduate
students in 1993-94. Department chairs make the point
that they would be in a stronger position if they could
show their deans that historians are using their fancy
new hardware in creative fashion. While teaching at West
Point (where every instructor and cadet has a PC), I gave
out assignments and outlines, held "office hours" and
collected "papers," all by electronic mail. My guess is
that historians are becoming increasingly curious about
where their Model T might take them on the new
interstates, and how fast. H-Net will create some new
places to travel to, and will create the road maps for
historians to join in this new venture.
--Richard Jensen, for H-Net
H-NET STAFF and EDITORS
1. Bob Jones, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof of Sociology, History and Religious Studies U Illinois
Moderator of H-DURKHM
2. Bob Pasker, H-Net staff, editor of h-news
3. Cheryl Malone, co-moderator of h-women; history
bibliographer at U of Texas Library
4. Chris Waldrep, H-Law; associate professor of history at
Eastern Illinois U email@example.com
5. Gary Hatch, editor of H-RHETOR HATCHG@jkhbhrc.byu.edu
Brigham Young U. English Department
6. Jackie Kent, editor of H-LatAm; professor of history,
7. Jeff Finlay; graduate student in American Studies at NYU;
editor H-Amstdy. firstname.lastname@example.org
8. Jim Mott, associate director of H-net and editor of HOLOCAUS
9. Jim Oberly, editor of H-Rural; professor of history at U
Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Eau Claire, WI 54701.
10. Kelly Richter, u59611@uicvm, grad student at UIC
11. Louise Kerr, associate professor of history at UIC
u35397@uicvm editor of H-Ethnic
12. Mark Kornbluh, editor of H-Teach, (probably also of H-POL)
asst prof of history, Washington U /St Louis,
13. Mike McCarthy, part-time faculty at Marshall U (in West
Virginia); editor H-Diplo
MMCCARTH@MUVMS6 or MMCCARTH@MUVMS6.WVNET.EDU
14. Paul Steele, H-Net staff U15609@uicvm
15. Phil Mueller, associate editor of H-LatAm
asst prof of history at Xavier U, New Orleans
16. Richard Jensen, director of H-Net & prof of History at UIC;
17. Robert Harris, graduate student at Binghamton U (formerly
SUNY Binghamton) bb05196@bingvmb editor H-CivWar
18. Seth Wigderson, SETHW@MAINE asst prof U of Maine-Augusta,
editor of H-Labor
19. Sharon Michalove, editor of H-ALBION. asst to chairman of
History Dept (Illinois-Urbana), email@example.com
20. Steve Mintz, comoderator of H-WOMEN professor of history U
21. Terry Finnegan, editor of H-South, assistant professor of
history at William Paterson College. firstname.lastname@example.org
22. Wendy Plotkin, Associate director of H-Net, editor of
H-Urban; graduate student in history at UIC. u15608@uicvm
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