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U-M HistoryLabs


U-M HistoryLabs mobilize the power of history for real-world impacts that contribute to the common good. Reimagining the humanities, U-M HistoryLabs bring together faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates as investigators and lab members in long-term research projects that involve both curricular and extracurricular components. Projects are often developed in collaboration with community partners.  

U-M HistoryLab students become coauthors of digital humanities and multimedia projects aimed at diverse public and academic audiences, gaining valuable career-related experiences in research, digital technology, and collaboration. Read "In the Public Eye," an LSA Magazine feature on the launch of U-M HistoryLabs. 

Faculty and graduate students interested in starting a HistoryLab should begin by reading the Start-Up Guide, checking out the Resource Guide, and learning about the U-M HistoryLabs Development Fund

The multiple components of the Environmental Justice HistoryLab all feature collaborative student research to document the history of environmental activism, justice, and sustainability in Michigan and beyond. To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day, students of History 390 are creating a documentary film about the 1970 Environmental Action for Survival Teach-In at U-M, building on the lab’s pilot “Give Earth a Chance” digital exhibit about environmental campaigns during the 1960s-1970s. In History 491, research teams are investigating sites of toxic pollution and ongoing remediation. And through summer internships, History students are partnering with the Ecology Center of Ann Arbor to conduct interviews and chronicle the history of environmental justice in Southeast Michigan.

Students work with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to develop digital analytical materials based on the museum's archives for its online educational programming. Students develop research, critical analysis, and writing skills working in a collaborative, team-based approach to historical research methods and practices. The class travels to Washington, DC, to utilize the museum’s collections and to present to their stakeholders. Read about the genesis of this project in "Rethinking How We Train Historians," an AHA Perspectives article written by Rita Chin. Other aritcles cover the project launch and the 2019 class trip to Washington, DC.

  • Principal Investigator: Matthew Lassiter
  • Related Courses: History 366: Crime and Drugs in Modern America; History 393: Cold Cases: Police Violence, Crime, and Racial Justice in Michigan

This HistoryLab addresses contemporary debates over mass incarceration and police misconduct by taking teams of undergraduate researchers to Detroit to excavate unsolved and/or unprosecuted episodes of racial violence throughout the twentieth century. Using archival collections and digitized databases, students will produce online investigative exhibits and interactive maps. Ultimately this lab will create a comprehensive database of thousands of police-civilian encounters and homicides in the city of Detroit and expand its coverage to other parts of Michigan.

  • Principal Investigator: Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof
  • Related Courses: History 335: Immigration Law; History 477: Asylum and Refugee Law

In partnership with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, students apply their research skills in collaborative teams, working on actual (anonymized) cases of unaccompanied childhood arrivals. This lab's goal is a dedicated, open access digital repository available to attorneys defending asylum seekers anywhere in the United States. This will involve building the digital architecture and learning to collect, summarize, and code resources.