By Evan Faulkenbury
On a cold January day, my history department colleagues at the State University of New York at Cortland—Randi Storch and Kevin Sheets—and I set out for the 2017 AHA annual meeting in Denver. We were on a specific mission: to learn as much as possible about digital history in three days. After looking over the program, we counted dozens of relevant panels that incorporated new and exciting digital history scholarship. Randi, Kevin, and I decided to immerse ourselves in these panels, learn as much as we can, and come back to our department with ideas for expanding our digital and public history offerings for students and colleagues.
Following the 2016 annual meeting in Atlanta, I argued in Perspectives that historians should try and engage in tweeting strategically in order to network most effectively at the meeting. Strategic tweeting includes, among other things, targeting tweets by using the appropriate hashtags. With so many different hashtags for the same subject fluttering about, however, how can historians with common interests reach one another?
How can digital tools help historians make sense of the Ottoman world, with its 25 languages, 8 alphabets, and a timespan of over 600 years? This is the question posed by the Digital Ottoman Platform (DOP) project, a collaborative effort of scholars working to create, among other resources, a gazetteer of the Ottoman world. The gazetteer will be “an essential tool for studying social and spatial networks in the Ottoman realm.”
Historians are used to delivering their research in the form of thoroughly expounded articles, papers, or books. The 20-minute talk had long been the standard conference format. In recent years, however, enthusiasm for a much more abbreviated form—the lighting round—has grown. In this format, presenters take the stage for 1, 3, perhaps 5 minutes each, to summarize their research or projects. Akin to the elevator pitch, this presentation format challenges scholars to delineate the highlights of their work and explain its importance in a very brief span of time.
For the past 10 years digital archives and crowdsourcing have been popular forms of digital history, as scholars have harnessed the power of both massive servers and a willing public to digitize and transcribe diverse types of historical material ranging from menus to weather reports. Few have excited me as much as Colored Conventions. A work of impressive scholarship, important activism, and valuable pedagogy, the Colored Conventions Project (CCP) hits for the cycle. The primary goal of the CCP is to recover an understudied aspect of the 19th-century reform movement, black conventions.
By Courtney Howell, Victoria Irvine, Luis Villavicencio, Ian Criman
Over the course of the summer, our team of eight undergraduate researchers collected data and engaged in historical research on tuberculosis, or consumption as it was known historically, in the United States. In the first post on our research, “Who Died of Consumption?” we discussed our research process and delved into the connections between race, newspaper reporting, and experiences with the disease as exemplified by tuberculosis victim and famous African American poet Paul Dunbar.
It’s fair to say that historians have assimilated the so-called digital turn in at least some aspects of their work. Many now know how to teach students the critical use of Wikipedia and no longer seek to ban it outright. Some who are fortunate enough to work at institutions with dedicated lab spaces have learned about digital tools available to them in teaching and research. At a minimum, most historians expect some primary sources relevant to their work to be available online.
One of the most impressive archives on the web, Voyages: The Transatlantic Slave Trade Database is the product of a massive undertaking from a network of scholars, technology experts, and government organizations from around the world who have invested thousands of hours into building a database of nearly 36,000 slaving voyages. Users can search the database using a variety of variables including a ship’s name, year of arrival, number of captives transported, outcome of voyage, embarkation and disembarkation locations, and the ship’s flag.