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U-M HistoryLabs Start-Up Guide


So, you want to start a HistoryLab?

U-M HistoryLabs bring together faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates as investigators and lab members, collaborating on research projects that involve both curricular and extracurricular components. 

HistoryLabs, which can be initiated by U-M History faculty or graduate students, can take a variety of forms. They don’t have to focus on public engagement. Here are some examples (link to view the syllabi archive):

  • Creating an online exhibit on urban policing

  • Developing a research database for immigration lawyers

  • Co-authoring an article under the leadership of a principal investigator

  • Creating a repository of translated documents for use in a future project 

Projects often are developed in collaboration with community partners. They may be contained within a single term or be reimplemented—expanding upon your original project—in future terms. Below are five steps to start a HistoryLab—also check out the U-M HistoryLabs Resource Guide.

Step 1: Connect with the faculty public engagement coordinator.

Timing: Typically 6-12 months prior to curricular launch.

The faculty public engagement coordinator (currently Melanie Tanielian) can walk you through the planning timeline, discuss funding opportunities, determine where your lab fits into the department’s curriculum, and connect you with experts around the university (and the department) to help with your lab’s technical, curricular, and research needs. Typically, HistoryLabs are planned more than one year in advance, with at least a full term or summer break dedicated to setting up the lab. If you are planning to work with a community partner, now is the time to make some initial connections.

Step 2: Build a faculty- graduate student team and apply for the HistoryLab fund.

Timing: At least one full term prior to curricular launch.

This fund will provide your team with up to $5,000 to set up and run the lab. Funds may be used to pay the salary of graduate student team members to help plan the course. This might include collecting and organizing resources (e.g., scanning materials, travel to archive sites), technical work (e.g., learning and setting up online exhibit platforms), or other lab planning (e.g., developing collaborative work processes). These funds may also be used as hourly compensation for graduate student help in the HistoryLab classroom. 

The History Administrative Team (HAT) reviews applications twice each year. Link to the application here.

Step 3: Develop your partnerships and support team

Timing: At least one full term prior to curricular launch.

With confirmed funding and a slot in the department curriculum, it’s now time to finalize roles,  expectations, and timelines with the lab's collaborators: faculty, graduate student assistants, department staff, technical experts, archivists, curators, etc. This is also the time to do the same for your partnerships with community organizations (if applicable). With all of your partnerships confirmed, you’ll be able to hit the ground running when you begin planning your HistoryLab in earnest. This is also the time to formerly hire the lab's graduate student assistants by getting in touch with Diane Wyatt.

Step 4: Plan your HistoryLab.

Timing: Term prior to curricular launch.

Now is the time to get to work in earnest on the curricular portion of your HistoryLab. The lab team  should be developing course content, finalizing the syllabus (view past HistoryLab syllabi), setting up technical platforms, determining collaborative workflows, etc. Your project partners should be fully engaged.

Step 5: Launch the curricular component of your lab.

Timing: Term of curricular launch.

It’s go time! The syllabus is final and students are enrolled. With the lab's team fully engaged, it should be smooth sailing! 

Postscript: Finishing Touches

Timing: After curricular launch.

If your HistoryLab project is contained within a single term, now is the time to work with department staff to promote your project (if applicable). 

For longer-duration projects, faculty may wish to keep working with graduate assistants and/or hire undergraduates from their course to continue or expand the lab work. While the department cannot guarantee beyond the original HistoryLab proposal, the public engagement coordinator can recommend other university funding sources. 

Because HistoryLab projects are complicated endeavors, it’s possible that some projects will require additional work to finalize deliverables (e.g., wrapping up an online exhibit) after the curricular portion of the lab is finished. It’s desirable (but sometimes impossible) to plan ahead for this contingency; please consult with the public engagement coordinator to discuss options.