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NEH Announces the Winners of the Chronicling America Data Challenge

Six prizes to be awarded, prize winners to represent six different states and six different humanities topics and approaches, one K-12 student prize among the winners

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 27, 2016)—The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announces the six prize recipients of the Chronicling America Data Challenge. This nationwide competition garnered high-quality entries that used digital humanities to explore and exhibit untold stories found in the Chronicling America database.

The contest challenged members of the public to produce creative web-based projects using data pulled from Chronicling America, the digital repository of historic U.S. newspapers. The Chronicling America database, created through a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, provides free digital access to over eleven million pages of historically significant newspapers published in the United States.

“Chronicling America gives us direct access to the words and actions of those who made our history,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams.  “Using this unique resource, the winners of the data challenge have found new and fascinating ways to present the rich material contained in the Chronicling America database.”

Entries for the data challenge came through challenge.gov, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s site for contests encouraging innovation in government. A panel of three judges, recruited from the digital-humanities, technological, and K-12 educational-resources fields, evaluated the entries. The winners will receive the following cash prizes: first place, $5,000, second place, $3,000, and third place $2,000, and K-12 student prize $1,000. In addition to cash prizes, the winners will receive an invitation to present their work at the National Digital Newspaper Program annual meeting in September, 2016, in Washington, D.C.

And the winners are . . .

FIRST PRIZE

Project Name: America’s Public Bible: Biblical Quotations in U.S. Newspapers

Project Director: Lincoln Mullen, Assistant Professor, Department of History and Art History, George Mason University (Fairfax, VA)

Project Description: America’s Public Bible: Biblical Quotations in U.S. Newspapers tracks Biblical quotations in American newspapers to see how the Bible was used for cultural, religious, social, or political purposes. Users can either enter their own Biblical references or choose from a selection of significant references on a range of topics. The project draws on both recent digital humanities work tracking the reuse of texts and a deep scholarly interest in the Bible as a cultural text in American life.  The site shows how the Bible was a contested yet common text, including both printed sermons and Sunday school lessons and use of the Bible on every side of issues such as slavery, women’s suffrage, and wealth and capitalism. 

SECOND PRIZE (TIE)

Project Name: American Lynching: Uncovering a Cultural Narrative

Project Director: Andrew Bales, PhD Student in Creative Writing, University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, OH)

Project Description: American Lynching: Uncovering a Cultural Narrative explores America’s long and dark history with lynching, in which newspapers acted as both a catalyst for public killings and a platform for advocating for reform. Integrating data sets on lynching created by Tuskegee University, the site sheds light on the gruesome culture of lynching, paying close attention to the victims of violent mobs. The site allows users to use an interactive chronological map of victim reports and see their state-by-state distribution, linking to Chronicling America articles.

Project Name: Historical Agricultural News

Project Director: Amy Giroux, Computer Research Specialist, Center for Humanities and Digital Research, University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)

Project Description: Historical Agricultural News, a search tool site for exploring information on the farming organizations, technologies, and practices of America’s past. The site describes farming as the window into communities, social and technological change, and concepts like progress, development, and modernity. Agricultural connections are of significance to those interested in various topics including immigration and assimilation, language use and communication, education and affiliations, and demographic transitions.

THIRD PRIZE (TIE)

Project Name: Chronicling Hoosier

Project Director: Kristi Palmer, Associate Dean of Digital Scholarship, Indiana University-Purdue University (Indianapolis, IN)

Project Description: Chronicling Hoosier tracks the origins of the word “Hoosier.” The website has maps that visually demonstrate the geographic distribution of the term “hoosier” in the Chronicling America data set. This distribution is measured by the number of times the term appears on a newspaper page. Each point on the map shows a place of publication where a newspaper or newspapers contain the term.  Another feature on the website is the Word Clouds by Decade visualizations, which are created by looking at the word “hoosier” in context. The text immediately surrounding each appearance of the word is extracted, and from this the most frequently occurring terms are plotted.

Project Name: USNewsMap.com

Project Director: Claudio Saunt, Professor, Department of History, Co-Director, Center for Virtual History and Associate Director, Institute of Native American Studies, University of Georgia (Athens, GA)

Project Description: USNewsMap.com discovers patterns, explores regions, investigates how stories and terms spread around the country, and watches information go viral before the era of the internet.  This site argues that newspapers better capture the public discourse because of their quick publication schedule.  For example, users can track “miscegenation,” a term coined in 1863 by a Democratic Party operative to exploit fears about Lincoln, and “scalawag,” a recently arrived term that quickly gained currency after 1869.  Other examples for use are tracking regional differences in language, tracing the path of epidemics, and studying changing political discourse over time and space. 

K-12 Student Prize

Project Name: Digital APUSH: Revealing History with Chronicling America

Project Director: A.P. U.S. History Students at Sunapee High School (Sunapee, NH)

Project Description: Digital APUSH: Revealing History with Chronicling America uses word frequency analysis—a kind of distant reading made possible by the API—to discover patterns in news coverage. Some examples of investigations include geographic coverage of Plessy v. Ferguson, temporal trends in use of the words “secede” and “secession,” articles about Uncle Tom’s Cabin by year, state-by-state coverage of the KKK, and geographic trends in coverage of labor unions.  

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About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at: www.neh.gov.

Media Contacts: Theola DeBose at (202) 606-8446 or media@neh.gov