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In Memory of Roy Rosenzweig (1950-2007)



Steve Brier
Joshua Brown
Jack Censer
Daniel Cohen
Marion Deshmukh
Gary Gerstle
Mack Holt
Mills Kelly
Meredith Lair
Elena Razlogova
Amanda Shuman
Peter Stearns


Chris Hale and Pillarisetti Sudhir
Lee White


Washington Post
George Mason University

Career Highlights

Reflections on his Career
About Roy Rosenzweig
Basic Facts


Washington Post Obituary

Roy A. Rosenzweig, 57, a social and cultural historian at George Mason University who became a prominent advocate for "digital history," a field combining historical scholarship with digital media's broad reach and interactive possibilities, died Oct. 11 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County. He had lung cancer.

Dr. Rosenzweig, who taught history at GMU for the past 26 years, founded the university's Center for History and New Media in 1994. As its director, he oversaw the creation of online history projects aimed mostly at high school and college students, including Web sites about U.S. history, the French Revolution and the history of science and technology.

Perhaps its most visible project was the September 11 Digital Archive, a collection of 150,000 items -- including e-mails, digital voice mails, BlackBerry communications and video clips -- made by average citizens at the time of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The center gave the materials to the Library of Congress in September 2003.

The center, part of GMU's Department of History and Art History, has more than 40 full- and part-time staff members.

Dr. Rosenzweig was an author, filmmaker and documenter of oral histories. His books, including a social history of New York's Central Park and the labor movement's struggle in the 19th century for a shorter workday, underscored his interest in presenting what he called "perspectives of ordinary men and women" over the wealthy and powerful.

In the early 1990s, he helped create an award-winning U.S. history survey presented on CD-ROM. He then started the Center for History and New Media, which stemmed from his wish "to democratize the study of the past -- both by incorporating forgotten voices and by presenting the fullest possible story of the past to diverse audiences."

Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, who conducted early digital history projects as a University of Virginia history professor, said Dr. Rosenzweig "was the real pioneer in this."...

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Official Statement from George Mason University

Roy Rosenzweig, a historian and pioneer of digital technology and new media, died from cancer on Oct. 11. Rosenzweig was the Mark and Barbara Fried Chair and director of the Center for History and New Media (CHNM), which he founded in 1994. CHNM has been at the forefront of efforts to use new media and digital technology to promote an inclusive and democratic understanding of the past while reaching new and diverse audiences.

Rosenzweig JPG Just a few weeks ago, Rosenzweig was named as one of the Mason professors to lead CHNM in creating an online National History Education Clearinghouse. The online project will help K-12 history teachers become more effective educators and show their students why history is relevant to their daily lives.

Rosenzweig was involved in a number of different digital history projects, including web sites on U.S. history, historical thinking, the French Revolution, the history of science and technology, world history and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Earlier this year, Rosenzweig received the Distinguished Service Award from the Organization of American Historians in recognition of his contributions to significantly enriching the understanding and appreciation of American history.

Rosenzweig was a graduate of Columbia College and studied at St. John's College of Cambridge, England before receiving his PhD from Harvard University. Before coming to George Mason in 1981, he was an assistant professor of history and humanities at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, and a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Center for the Humanities at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

In 2005, Rosenzweig's web-based project,"History Matters," earned him and the CHNM the James Harvey Prize of the American Historical Association. In 2003, he was awarded the second Richard W. Lyman Award for his work with CHNM, particularly the"History Matters" project and the September 11 Digital Archive.

Roy Rosenzweig JPG The $25,000 prize recognized scholarly achievement of unusual merit and impact and innovative use of information technology in humanistic scholarship and teaching. These projects are attempts to make new and rare historical documents free and accessible to anyone and explore how technology can be used to enhance the study of history.

In 1999, Rosenzweig was awarded the Outstanding Faculty Award, the commonwealth's highest honor for faculty at public and private colleges and universities in Virginia.

He was the coauthor of numerous books, including"The Park and the People: A History of Central Park," which won the 1993 Historic Preservation Book Award and the 1993 Urban History Association Prize for Best Book on North American Urban History. He also co-wrote"The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life," which has won prizes from the Center for Historic Preservation and the American Association for State and Local History.

Rosenzweig was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and lectured as a Fulbright professor. He also served as vice president for research of the American Historical Association.

In Appreciation

Amanda Shuman, PhD candiate in Chinese History, former student

If it weren't for Roy, I wouldn't be where I am today. Roy's advice, generosity, inspiration, and encouragement had a large impact on my life. I would probably not be pursing a PhD in history right now if I had never met Roy.

One night in late October 2002, I went to visit Roy in his office on the GMU campus. I had made an appointment with him per another history professor's e-mail. I wanted to ask him about the History and New Media M.A. program. I always liked history and was an IT major and it seemed like the field was a perfect fit, though I wasn't sure it was practical. In fact, I was debating between instructional technology or history teaching. In the midst of our discussion about the program and CHNM, Roy asked about where I was currently working. I told him how much I disliked my IT consulting job. I was thinking of taking some classes part-time and possibly going back to school full-time in the future, though I wasn't sure how I would do this. Roy immediately encouraged me to apply for a job at CHNM. I was completely floored! I began working at CHNM soon thereafter.

In fall 2003, I took Roy's Clio Wired class. Our final website project could be on any topic we wished. Despite having trouble finding websites as sample models for my proposed topic, Roy encouraged me to pursue it anyway