WWU and OutHistory.org to Cooperate on Digital Humanities Project

Jonathan Ned Katz, a noted historian of sexuality and gender, and the Digital Humanities program of Western Washington University have announced an agreement to work together on OutHistory.org, the public history website Katz founded in 2008. This work is supported by a $20,000 grant to Western Washington University Foundation from Fund for the City of New York on behalf of its partner project, Outhistory.org.

The WWU Digital Humanities program will use the existing OutHistory.org website as a teaching tool for students in the new Digital Humanities Minor. The award will help fund applied learning activities in the Digital Humanities program. These include assessing the existing content of OutHistory, making recommendations for improving the website’s structure and design, and doing outreach and publicity for the site.

The program will also assess options for an ongoing partnership between OutHistory and the WWU Digital Humanities program. Students and faculty at WWU will work with Katz to generate a vision for the future development of OutHistory and the creation of new content – especially content on Pacific Northwest LGBTQ + history.

“It’s time to recover local sexual and gender histories, not just the histories of the biggest cities,” Katz said.

The initial faculty committee that worked with Jonathan Ned Katz to build this partnership included Josh Cerretti (associate professor of History and interim director of WWU’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program), Dustin O'Hara (director of the Internet Studies Center, Department of Computer Science), Elizabeth Joffrion (director of Heritage Resources, Western Libraries), and Kimberly Lynn (professor of Humanities and chair, Department of Global Humanities and Religions; program advisor, Digital Humanities Minor).

Emilia Aboudara, a senior majoring in Human Services and minoring in Internet Resource Creation and Management, has been hired as the first of a group of student interns who will work on the project.

Aboudara (she/they), described the project as follows: "OutHistory is doing amazing work removing academic barriers to learning the critical history of LGBTQ+ lives. I'm very excited to be continuing that mission by contributing to a forward-thinking and accessible new home for this collection on the web."

Lynn said she was excited about the opportunities for Western students to collaborate on the project.

"This project offers us a concrete and important way to build the university's new Minor program in Digital Humanities, and to involve students and faculty in shared, public-facing research," she said.

Joffrion, who will continue on the project leadership team, said, “Jonathan Ned Katz, noted historian and activist, has chosen Western Washington University to partner an innovative collaboration that will provide for sustainable open-access, original, well-sourced, and fully cited information about LGBTQ+ US history, and, more generally, the history of sexuality and gender, intimacy and alienation. This partnership with Katz will utilize the skill and expertise of Western’s Digital Humanities Department and its affiliated faculty to ensure that Katz’s longstanding public history website, OutHistory.org, will be available for the benefit of future generations of students, faculty and community-based researchers.”

Cerretti added that this was a huge opportunity for Western.

“The partnership between Outhistory and Western Washington University is an historic one, not only for the University, but for the field of LGBTQ+ History. For many decades, community-based historians like Outhistory founder Jonathan Katz collected and interpreted the LGBTQ+ past while academia was often dismissive or outright hostile towards LGBTQ+ people and thought," Cerretti said. "Now, due to decades of LGBTQ+ struggle on and beyond campus, a public university like Western can be a home for resources that have long served LGBTQ+ communities globally through the Outhistory website. This partnership will give the Western community unprecedented access to participation in a world-class digital history project while extending and preserving the existing work of Outhistory long into the future.”

An advisory board is being assembled, which will include Litav K. Langley, the LGBTQ+ director at WWU.

“It will be an exciting interdisciplinary collaboration for our students to be involved in,” said Langley. “Opportunities for students to connect with queer history are so beneficial for both their academic learning and their connection to generations of diverse LGBTQ+ people and movements that came before them.”

Contributions to support the work on the OutHistory website by the WWU Digital Humanities program can be made to Western Washington University Foundation at https://foundation.wwu.edu (note gift is to support “Digital Humanities Fund, OutHistory project”).

The Digital Humanities program of WWU offers a newly established Minor offered in a partnership by the Department of Global Humanities and Religions and the Department of Computer Science. The program aims to offer humanities students an opportunity to learn new digital skills and methods, while also providing STEM students with an accessible path for engaging with the humanities. The Digital Humanities minor includes a sequence of core courses offered by the Computer Science Department that involve a combination of web programming, creative problem solving, and critical reflection on the historic development of the internet and its evolving societal implications. Students also take three courses in humanities departments that build knowledge of methods of humanistic study and research. All students then complete a capstone project or portfolio that draws together their digital humanities coursework.

For more information about the Digital Humanities minor go to https://catalog.wwu.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=18&poid=8912&returnto=4814 or email GHR@wwu.edu.