Thursday, June 23, 2005

What is Digital History?

In my quest to constantly find my career path in the historical profession, I emailed my graduate advisor and asked him for some advice. He was so gracious as to point me in the direction of what might well be the wave of the future for historians - digital history.

My local university has hired two digital historians, so I'm thinking this latest craze is not a craze at all.

Digital history basically offers computer resources to help in research and teaching. This means that primary documents (letters, diaries, etc.) are scanned or re-typed to put online in order that more people can have access to them. Instead of taking a trip to the archives in Washington D.C., someone in Nebraska (like me!) can just look at the documents online. Primary texts are not the only things being digitized. History books are also being presented online, as well as online and virtual exhibits. There is even an academic journal entitled Journal for the Association of History and Computing, which represents the American Association of History and Computing, organized in 1996. So this is a fairly new step in the historical profession.

By using computers in the application of historical studies, history becomes more accessible to more people. We've already seen an explosion of historical sites within the past ten years.

Archives, museums, and historic sites are increasingly using digital history to reach a bigger audience.

Of course, there's nothing quite like going to the museum, site, or archives and holding the documents in your hands. It's a rather difficult feeling to describe. When I went to the archives for my thesis project, I actually held a German soldier's Soldbuch, rather like a documentation of everything he did and everywhere he went during the war. When you think of how many people touched that particular book, where that book was - in the deserts of North Africa, the frozen climate of Russia, and then to a small fort in Northwest Nebraska...well, it's just mind-boggling.

Still, I'm excited by this new venture into history and I will undoubtedly explore it more. Journal of the Association of History and Computing.


  1. Melissa, that sounds so cool. I know a lot of the history stuff for genealogy is online now. I wish more of it was available online! I hope this turns out to be something you could enjoy.

  2. I love finding primary sources online. It makes the research feel more real. :)

    Sounds like a great career!

  3. Cool, Melissa! That sounds like a great resource!

  4. Anonymous5:52 PM

    What a great site » »


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