On Digital History

I might have more on which to reflect on the phenomenon of digital history itself once I write this paper, but for now, I have to offer an enthusiastic word for Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig’s Digital History (Univ of Pennsylvania Press, 2006). Available on the web here. Basically it’s a guideline, how-to book on creating digital archives, historical content, etc. for professional or amateur historians. But the introduction (the only part I’ve read so far) is a thoughtful reflection on the possibilities (and limitations) of digitizing sources – I’m struggling to find a broad enough word, this should do it.

If you’re interested in the importance and implications of the Internet and electronic archiving, whether or not you’re a historian, I recommend at least skimming the first part!

Actually, something quick to add.  As I read more, I’m finding out that there are a number of digital history “disaster” archives being created and/or maintained now – there’s one for 9/11, one for the VTech shooting, and one for what I think is Katrina but may be hurricanes in general (called the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank).  The interesting thing is that they are meant as archives of information – photos, blog entries, personal stories entered as text, videos, news, etc. – but are also meant to be themselves part of the healing process, leaving a record which sounds something along similar lines as the “We shall bear witness” language of Holocaust memory.  (I realize I should qualify that comparison a lot more than I am, but I’ll just note the inadequacy of the analogy and move on.)

Anyway, I’m not sure I can make a paper out of this… but it’s fascinating stuff.  And unfortunately, that blog I found on 4/16 is no longer up (I wish I had saved a copy of the page – but see previous entry) but this is, if not a topic worthy of my historiography paper – or at least not feasible – it’s another fascinating look at the ways in which the electronic/digital/internet universe is a place for very human expressions.


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