Author: Trevor Owens

Editors’ Choice: Digital Sources & Digital Archives, The Evidentiary Basis of Digital History (Draft)

Creative Commons image by Neil Crosby via Flickr

Below is a draft of an essay I am contributing to a forthcoming book titled A Companion to Digital History. I have permission to share drafts on my personal website, so I thought it would be good to get this up and out there 1) for folks to be able to read it and 2) to see if I could get any substantive commentary and discussion about it to help me revise it. If you would like, you can comment directly on the draft in this google doc.

At this point, historians have access to an ever-expanding wealth of digitized versions, or digital surrogates, of a selection of primary sources through online collections. So, what happens to history when the basis of its sources and evidence becomes increasingly digital? Similarly, what happens to history when it’s archives become digital? Backing up a bit, given how the very form of archives as institution is anchored in the management of paper documents, what does it even mean to have a “digital archive”? What follows is an attempt to identify and discuss issues in the evidentiary basis of history that arise as the materials and systems that manage those materials become digital. In looking at different kinds of sources and archives I work to suggest practical advice on the kinds of issues and questions one should ask when working to interpret, to find out what one can say, based on digital sources and digital archives.

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Resource: Digitized Hebrew Manuscripts at the Library of Congress

The Hebraic Section of the Library of Congress houses over 225 manuscripts; most of them in Hebrew but with a fair sampling of manuscripts  also written in cognate languages such as Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Persian, and Yiddish.  It is a highly diverse collection, dating from the 11th to early 20th centuries and drawn from Jewish communities throughout the world.

Read more here.

Announcement: Baptism Record Database for Slave Societies (BARDSS)

Hi everyone, I would like to introduce the project I am developing now at Michigan State Univeristy. I am currently working collaboratively with Andrew Barsom, a fellow doctoral student in the Department of History at MSU, on the Baptismal Record Database for Slave Societies (BARDSS) project. This online database, which is part of MSU’s Slave Biographies network, will contain information on hundreds of thousands of slaves and free people of color, their owners, and their families in places such as colonial Cuba, Brazil, Colombia, Florida, and Louisiana.

Read full announcement here.

Resource: Digitizing History, The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission Archive

Digitization and archiving of historical materials is an intensely political process. While technical aspects are still crucial to having a functioning online resource, we must realize that cultural heritage informatics projects are done for specific reasons. I’d like to elaborate on one of my favorite, if still partially flawed digital resources: the SABC Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) website.

Access resource here.

Editors’ Choice: Is Digital Humanities a Collaborative Discipline?

Collaboration is widely considered to be both synonymous with and essential to Digital Humanities (DH). This is because one person can rarely possess all of the (inter)disciplinary and technical knowledge needed to implement many DH projects. In DH research literature, in grey literature and on scholarly blogs the collaborative nature of DH is often evidenced by reference to the joint and multi-authored publications that are seen as characteristic of the field. However, literature from the domain of information science emphasises that collaboration and co-authorship do not necessarily have a parallel relationship. There are many reasons for this, for example, different disciplines (and even teams) have different conventions for deciding who should be named on a paper and in what order (only those who wrote the paper? Should those who programmed the computational model that the research is based on be listed as co-authors or named in the acknowledgements?)  Looking to the DH context, we noted that there does not seem to be a consensus about authorship conventions.

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Announcement: $20 Million in Gifts Furthers Hanlon’s Cluster Initiative | Dartmouth Now

Dartmouth has received gifts totaling $20 million to establish two interdisciplinary faculty groups, called academic clusters, to help elevate the institution as a global leader in the fields of neuroscience and digital humanities and to attract exceptional scholars whose work will benefit individuals and societies around the world.

Opportunity: Digital Methods Initiative, Winter School 2016

The Digital Methods Initiative (DMI), Amsterdam, is holding its annual Winter School on Critical Analytics and the Meanings of Engagement. The format is that of a data sprint, with hands-on work on engagement metrics for political, social and media research, together with a programme of keynote speakers and a Mini-conference, where PhD candidates, motivated scholars and advanced graduate students present short papers on digital methods and new media related topics, and receive feedback from the Amsterdam DMI researchers and international participants. Participants need not give a paper at the Mini-conference to attend the Winter School. For a preview of what the event is like, you can view short video clips from previous editions of the Summer School in 2015 and 2014.

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