Hi, I’m Jason Heppler, a historian at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. I am a 20th century U.S. historian specializing in environmental, the North American West, and digital and public history. I am currently working on my book manuscript which focuses on the urban and environmental history of Silicon Valley and the rise of environmental politics in the American West. I also work full time as a Digital Engagement Librarian, and remain affiliated with Stanford’s Spatial History Project. I work with faculty and graduate students on applying computational and informational techniques to research and publishing.

What is Open Notebook History?

I was most inspired to take this on through Caleb McDaniel. Caleb and a small set of historians are experimenting with the idea of Open Notebook History, drawing on a similar and slightly more mature movement in the sciences known as Open Lab Notebooks. Perhaps the best known proponent of this is Carl Boettiger, a post-doctoral researcher in the Center for Stock Assessment Research at UC Santa Cruz. I’m doing this notebook in the same vein as Lincoln Mullen and Shawn Graham: an opportunity to do my research in public, and make that material useful for others.

Although there are many reasons to support an open notebook in history (transparency in our research process, the prevention of error through public scrutiny), Caleb identified what is perhaps the most exciting appeal of open notebooks in history: our “scholarly values of open intellectual exchange, integrity, and honesty… . Sharing is something that tends to make scholars, qua scholars, happy; presumably it’s why we are in the business of writing, speaking, and teaching in the first place.”

So, the open notebook I’m creating here is my permanent and evolving record of my historical research in lieu of a bankers box full of papers, notes, and scraps. The notebook is here for me to do history rather than communicate it. Everything here is meant for me, but perhaps collaborators and others in my field will also benefit from the material contained here. The notebook will contain bits of everything, from random thoughts, references, literature reviews, code I write, and so on.