Digital History at the Annual Meeting

Historians have been taking their scholarship to the web for sometime now, creating an amazing array of online projects, archives, and courses that embrace all types of new technology. Many of these new digital projects were the focus of sessions at the 122nd Annual Meeting. Below we highlight projects from three of these sessions, to give you just a taste of the excellent history-related scholarship currently being done online. Also see the end of this post for a note about the new “Roy Rosenzweig Prize in History and New Media.”

Session 31
Tech Tools for Historians
At this poster session-like gathering on Friday morning of the Annual Meeting, five laptops stood open to showcase some very different projects being conducted online. Four out of the five presenters hailed from George Mason University, evidence of the excellent work being done at the Center for History and New Media

Making the History of 1989

Session 73
Learning Digitally: New Resources for History Teachers and Researchers
Using a more traditional format than the session above, session 73 allowed presenters to walk the audience through their online exhibits, collections, and projects.

  • Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives
    Steven A. Barnes (George Mason University) presented an advance look at the online exhibit: Gulag: Many Days, Many Lives. Once the site is completely operational, users will be randomly assigned a prisoner’s identity from the Gulag upon entry, and will learn more about their assigned prisoner’s life as they explore the site, while also learning a broader overview about the Gulag.
  • Meeting of Frontiers
    Sandra Bostain (Library of Congress) walked through the LOC’s digital library project Meeting of Frontiers, which is online in both English and Russian. The site contains over 17,000 library items and over 800,000 digital items, and presents many primary documents from Russia that have never been published and are very rare.
  • Making the History of 1989
    T. Mills Kelly (George Mason University) further discussed the Making the History of 1989 site that was presented earlier at the meeting (and mentioned above) in session 31. He outlined the different sections of the site, including teaching modules, case studies, and scholar interviews (some of which are in development and are coming soon).

Meeting of Frontiers

Session 196
From Dusty to Digital: New Historical Archives of the Twenty-First Century
This early Sunday morning session featured three digital collections, all of which make impressive quantities of primary sources available online.

  • Digital Durham
    Trudi J. Abel (Duke University) presented this site’s “unique collection of historical materials and teacher resources for post-Civil War Durham, North Carolina.” Besides sources like personal papers, business records, and photographs, the site also features a number of student-created audio recordings.
  • Documenting the American South
    Natalia N. Smith (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) read off the staggering numbers of resources available on the site, including 6,500 titles, 13,000 images, and 297 slave narratives. In fact the site houses the “single largest collection of slave narratives in the world.”
  • Aluka
    Aluka is “a digital library of scholarly resources from and about Africa.” Javanica Curry (Assistant Director for Library Relations, Aluka) explained some of Aluka’s most unique features, like user-created tagging.
  • Rotunda
    Mark H. Saunders (University of Virginia Press) showcased Rotunda, which “was created for the publication of original digital scholarship along with newly digitized critical and documentary editions in the humanities and social sciences.”

Digital Durham

Digital history also came in other forms at the Annual Meeting, like in the announcement of the new “Roy Rosenzweig Prize in History and New Media,” created jointly between the AHA and the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University. This prize “will be awarded annually for an innovative and freely available new media project that reflects thoughtful, critical, and rigorous engagement with technology and the practice of history.”

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  1. Larry Cebula

    Thanks for this wonderful post, Elisabeth. It is full of linky goodness!

    One minor quibble. I wandered into Session 31 a few minutes late but it was my impression that it was not supposed to be a “poster-like session” but that the presenters fell back on that strategy when some equipment failed to show up. Is that correct?

    Reply
  2. Elisabeth Grant, AHA Web Content Editor

    Hi Larry, thanks for the comment.

    Session 31 was in fact always intended to be like a poster session, with audience members able to walk from laptop to laptop and talk to the presenters. Admittedly, this wasn’t clear in the Program, and there was some miscommunication with presenters, but I think overall it was a very successful session and will hopefully be tried again at future annual meetings.

    Reply
  3. bill schell

    I’ve been charged with collecting information on how departments have been dealing with digital/on-line scholarship for purposes of tenure-promotion evaluation.
    How should it be weighted as compared to traditional published articles/books?
    All comments/suggestions are welcomed.

    please reply to me directly and thanks in advance for your advice

    Bill Schell
    bill.schell@murraystate.edu

    Reply