Call For Datasets For Slate

My name is Rebecca Onion, and I’m a staff writer at Slate. I cover history from a number of angles at the magazine: through interviews with historians, through historical research and reporting of my own, and sometimes in collaboration with historians.

One type of project that I’ve recently taken on—and that I’d like to do more of—is history presented using the interactive power of the web. For example, last year Slate built an animated rendering of the Atlantic slave trade, based on the Transatlantic Slave Trade Database. The interactive was nominated for a National Magazine Award, included in an exhibit at Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History, and shared widely on social media—over 280,000 times on Facebook, at present count. When the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, no stranger to knowledge of slavery’s scale or horror, saw the interactive, it had a visceral effect on him. “This animated history of the slave trade is too real,” he wrote on Twitter. “I had to stop watching. An incredibly effective piece of art.”

I’m eager to do more projects like this—so I’m going in search of historical data. If you, in your work as a historian or humanities scholar, have put together a dataset you’d like to see embodied in a powerful, polished interactive and broadcast to a large audience, I’d love to hear from you.

What shape such an interactive might take will of course depend on the underlying data; it could have the scope of the slave trade project, or offer a more modest illustration of a historical event or argument. Here’s how it would work: Andrew Kahn, a multimedia editor at Slate, would build an interactive to deliver the information with maximum impact for Slate’s readership. To produce the text that accompanies the interactive, we could do one of two things: I could interview you and write the text—or, if you like, you could write the text yourself. Either way, you’ll get a byline on Slate, as the author of the data.

Andrew and I are excited to hear from you. And, of course, if you’re unsure whether your dataset would make for a good Slate interactive, we’re happy to talk with you and think it through. Please email us if you’re interested, or if you have questions.



rebecca dot onion at slate dot com

@rebeccaonion on Twitter