Digital History: The non-Boring past

As a public historian, I find access important for the narrative. Examples that Burton gives in American Digital History, such as History Matters, are small examples in the access, but along with that  I am thinking of sites like the Oral History Association’s information on vital issues in Oral history  (another controversial field in history, so perhaps not a great example), along with “how tos.”Access like this is important for students who may not have programs like GSU or Columbia’s Oral History program. In fact, in undergrad I used this access to interview Janice Blumberg for a paper.

History has been seen most often in the world of academia, a place that does not feel welcoming to many people and at times, as mentioned in the articles is written off as boring and closed off to most. It is known for intense, long and often complicated prose. For me though, history lies in how historians use what is written or seen as boring, be it; photos, the census, art, plays, and even the academic prose. The creation of the internet and use of digital history merges all the sources into new and fun ways to talk and analyze the past. New tools such as blogs and podcast allow for new and different stories to be told. New stories such as underworlds of cultures that fit into a small niche of lives. Blogs allow history to be spread around to more than the typical history world. Digital history is an important form of history because of these facts. Not only does it open up history to the general public, it allows for people to interact with history making, such as the work that the USHMM opens up to people to search for children in concentration camps. Essay on New Media mentions the use of a combination of multimedia and scholarly research in the Ethington publication on Los Angles, this is an important use of digital media. In this new version of history, historians are able to combine past historical research and new digital research to make new and perhaps more meaningful contributions to the history world. Given that digital history is becoming so important, historians must be rewarded for digital work the same as traditional work. Also, that digital history as a form of scholarly work allows historians to use information in new and innovated ways beyond the common narrative form. Narrative form as White says is part of history and will always be part of history because of the fact that it provides information in episodic form, it is easy to understand and forms a well-known and common communication form that is seen everywhere. Digital history is innovative, just like Oral History was. Although as mentioned in the articles, digital history must have a way to be analyzed by peers similar to print work. Peer review seems like an easy condition, but until that is achieved and likely after that digital history will always be seen as problematic.

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