History Database Project May 22. 2018

Hello Everyone!

My name is Nicole Schroeder – I’m a PhD Candidate here at the University of Virginia. This summer Dr. Max Edelson and I are taking up a new project: to create a database system for historians to that will organize both primary and secondary sources. We’ll be learning and developing a database using Heurist, a data management system targeted at researchers in the humanities. With the expert help of Ian Johnson and Clare Reeler at the University of Sydney, we will design and create a user guide and database structure using this tech. 


Our goal is to create a basic system that’s

  • Easy to use
  • Customizable for those with tech skills
  • Sustainable and simple to maintain


I’ll be spending the summer learning how to best create this online system of database management. I’ll also write a series of blog posts about my training with Heurist. It can be hard to envision the possibilities of technology in our field. For most of my career, “incorporating technology” has meant looking for phone scanning apps, figuring out what the “cloud” is, and learning basic source management. Now that I’m onto the stage of dissertation writing, though, I figure I should properly learn to use all the tools at my disposal.


I need to figure out how to start collecting my sources in a systematized and sensible manner. It’s been easy thus far to think back to the books and primary sources I’ve collected for each project. Now as my dissertation project is expanding (as it should) basic organization isn’t cutting it. I think Heurist might be the answer to my research needs, and I think it might be a great source for you to learn as well. I’ll be writing a blog post tutorial every week, explaining how Heurist can help historians gather, investigate, review, and store large sets of data. I am highly self-aware that my technological skills are lacking. I think most of us outside of the field of computer sciences might feel a little intimidated to learn a resource like this, but don’t worry! Dr. Edelson and I don’t have any computer science training yet we’re still taking on this task. We would love if you could help us out along the way as well – let us know if the tutorials make sense, tell us about any particular needs you have as a historian that we should consider when building the database, and let us know how it works once it’s in beta testing. Our goal over the course of the summer is to build something concrete by the start of the next school term. We look forward to having you along for the journey!


Contact us at: cbaseproject@gmail.com

Check out Heurist at the following link: http://heuristnetwork.org/

Make sure to hit the “Projects” tab to check out the possibilities for this resource! Scholars have built some amazing websites, databases, and have reconceptualized their research projects using the technology that Heurist provides.

If you want to get a jump start and explore the possibilities of this system – check out the “Learn” tab.  To start a new project use this link: http://heuristnetwork.org/set-up-new-database/

If you read through the How To guide and are come away with more questions than before – don’t worry. I had the same exact moment of panic once I read through the guide and realized I had way more questions than answers. Tamp down that anxiety and try to set up your own database. It might be a little intimidating to start a database when you don’t know what you’re hoping to get out of it – but that is absolutely the best way to get used to the technology. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect yet! I’ll be documenting my struggles and accomplishments with the system in future blog posts. Good luck!


Best Wishes,

Nicole Schroeder