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The study of coasts in the twenty-first century is a complex scholarly and social endeavour that mingles the complexities of the digital humanities, the logistics of projects at a range of scales, and the public engagement and shared public storytelling activities of a wide variety of actors within coastal communities. This roundtable explores the challenges, methods, promise and diversity of digital approaches to representing coasts and coastal communities.

Some of the questions that this webinar will pose are: how can public history projects make best use of the power of digital collections, and at what point does the information become too much?; what datasets are most relevant to coastal digital history, and what are important limitations or biases to those datasets?; what is the contribution of digital mapping platforms to citizen science and participatory involvement in cultural heritage governance?; and how do we support and sustain digital coastal studies initiatives? Each participant will present for 8-10 minutes on a chosen topic, and then the remainder of the 90-minute session will be a Q&A including audience participation.


Melanie Bassett is a Research Fellow for Port Towns and Urban Cultures (PTUC) at the University of Portsmouth. PTUC have undertaken a number of digital public history projects including the Sailortown walking app and database, two Battle of Jutland Casualty digital maps (Portsmouth and Gosport, and UK-wide) and a Royal Navy personnel Battle of Jutland casualty online database and exhibition. All can be explored on the PTUC website.

Sean Fraga is a Mellon postdoctoral fellow with the Humanities in a Digital World program and the History department at the University of Southern California. He is a historian of the North American West and Pacific Ocean, using digital mapping, data visualization, and text mining to research U.S. territorial expansion. His research has been published in Western Historical Quarterly and Current Research in Digital History, and his digital history project, "They Came on Waves of Ink: Pacific Northwest Maritime Trade at the Dawn of American Settlement, 1851–61," received the 2020 Dudziak Digital Legal History Prize from the American Society for Legal History. His book project, Ocean Fever: Steam Power, Transpacific Trade, and American Colonization of Puget Sound, is under contract with Yale University Press.

Sarah Knight is the Portal Officer for PERICLES, an EU-funded H2020 research and innovation project. PERICLES has developed an interactive, online cultural heritage mapping platform, the Map Your Heritage portal. It provides a platform for the crowdsourcing, public participation, and engagement in cultural heritage data collection, creating new information relating to the location, description, and the human values associated with maritime and coastal cultural heritage across eight case regions in Europe. Sarah is responsible for designing and delivering the technical aspects of the portal, as well as facilitating its use across the case regions.  

Johnathan Thayer is Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, Queens College, City University of New York, where he teaches courses in archival studies and public history and conducts research on topics related to archival studies pedagogy. He is the author of a monograph-in-progress on United States sailortowns and co-editor with Dr. Karen Downing and Dr. Joanne Begiato of Maritime Masculinities in a Modernising World, 1815-1940, both under contract with Palgrave Macmillan as part of the Global Studies in Social and Cultural Maritime History series. 

James Louis Smith is Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of English and Digital Humanities at University College Cork, working on the 2019-23 Ports, Past and Present project. His work is at the intersection of the blue, environmental, spatial and digital humanities. His first monograph is Water in Medieval Intellectual Culture: Case-Studies from Twelfth-Century Monasticism (Brepols, 2018). James is the editor of The Passenger: Medieval Texts and Transits (punctum books, 2017), and co-editor of the Open Library of the Humanities collection New Approaches to Medieval Water Studies (2019). His current book project has the working title of Deep Maps of Lough Derg.

All welcome, this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.