Final Thoughts (Final Exam)

Final Reflections on Digital History

Throughout this class I have learned just how much the digital age has affected the field of history. As technology advances so does the way historians use those advancements. online media has become a major tool for historians in this technological age. Before the internet, a historian would have to physically go to a library to look at a specific book or travel to a state or national archive to have access to primary documents. Now, they can just go online and access those books or documents without leaving the comfort of their home or office. Historians are also able to share their work quicker and to a larger audience. Originally they would have to send their articles to a journal and wait for the physical copies to be printed and distributed. Those copies would go to an audience limited to those who subscribe to that journal. Today they can upload their articles to a journal that anyone can access. This digital age also allows for historians to share documents they come across as well as store them where they can access them at any time. This is possible through programs like Omeka and Zotero. During this class I have been able to do these things through several projects and assignments like blogging. Digital history is also very important for public historians because it allows them to teach the public about history to a much wider audience.

The first main advantage that the digital world has had on the history field is the ability for historians to share their work to s larger audience. Due to online journals historical works are not limited to those who subscribe to certain periodicals. Online journals however can still fall under the subscription category, but many are free to the public like The Journal of the American Revolution and The Public Historian. Online journals are an evolving technology with new standers being created by historians like allowing new types of media in their journals.[1] This allows anyone to access historical works if they have access to the internet. These online journals host a multitude of different historical works. Using the Journal of the American Revolution as an example, visitors to the site can find a wide variety of sources to look through. These sources range from reviews of the latest books on the American Revolution, lists ranking things like the top generals from the war to the bloodiest battles, to articles on specific events or people. Blogging has also become a major outlet for historians to show what they have been working on. Through blogs a historian can get quick feedback from other historians or the general public if it is a public blog. Sites like Twitter or Word Press are often used by historians to blog about their research or to get feedback on their work.  Historians can also use these new digital tools to store research. Zotero was created to help store documents for quick access.[2] This makes research a lot quicker and easier since historians do not have to sit in an archive or library and do all the work on one document at one time.

The second main advantage of the digital age relates to Public Historians. New digital media has allowed them to create new interactive ways for the public to access history online. These outlets range from online exhibits, interactive games, and virtual or video tours of sites. Online exhibits are a major form of digital public history. The major online exhibit creator would be Omeka which we used in this class for one of our major projects. Omeka is an easy to use program that can be used to store items and also create exhibits. It is also free to use. The free version is limited on space but still allows the user to create pretty intricate exhibits. With my Omeka I was able to create two exhibits, one on the history of Horn in the West and one on the history of Hickory Ridge Living History Museum with multiple sections and over 100 images each. Since I am studying to be a Public Historian creating an online exhibit was very beneficial. These types of exhibits are easier for the public to access them where they have internet access. This is beneficial for museums or historic sites that are not able to open to the public for any reason. this keeps the public engaged and may convince them to visit the site when possible. Another digital media public historians are using are virtual games and tours. These outlets make history even more engaging by making it more interactive. For those who are more visual learners this is super beneficial. Mount Vernon has been using both these media outlets with their virtual tour of George Washington’s home and the interactive Be Washington Game. Other sites have used video’s and live streams to interact with the public during the Covid-19 pandemic showing just how important digital technology can be for public historians.

[1] Cohen, Dan, and Joseph T Scheinfeldt. Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from Digital Humanities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2013.,

[2]“The Basics”, Zotero, Accessed May 3, 2020,

Project: Visualization

Clio App and Hickory Ridge Living History Museum

For forty years the Southern Appalachian Historical Association has maintained the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum. Hickory Ridge is made up of six historical cabins from around Watauga County with each being used to portray a different aspect of life in the North Carolina Backcountry during the American Revolutionary War Period. Each cabin has its own unique history outside of what they portray. The program I used to showcase each cabin was the Clio App which allows users to place a digital marker on a map and then write an entry on what that marker is located at. There were already a few markers for the SAHA locations but none solely on the cabins. I placed six new markers foe each cabin then gave a brief history if each. This app is very beneficial since SAHA currently has no information on the grounds for each cabin unless visitors take a tour. With this app if a visitor is there while the museum is closed or in the current situation is shut down due to a virus, they can log in and see the history of the buildings.  

The Problem of Abundance

Technology and the History Classroom

In this digital age it has become more common for technology to seep into the classroom where wanted or unwanted.  Many of today’s students have some ort of device whether it be a phone, tablet, or laptop. These types of technology should be utilized in a history classroom. For example, there are a ton of primary sources available online that students could analyze to get experience working with those kinds of sources. Virtual Reality has also become a good method of bringing technology to the classroom. Several museums have created virtual version of their displays that allow used to visit the museum from wherever they are at. There are really two versions of the VR museum experience. If a institution has the resources they can have students use virtual reality goggles to literally step into the museum without leaving the school. The other version is a 3D tour of a museum or historic building, these allow students to be guided through the institution by going to the museum website. Digital collections of artifacts also can help when studying a particular period since it would allow a student to look and read about an object from the time without having to travel to see it in person. The major drawback to students’ access to technology has to be the fact that they can be flooded with information. This is extremely relevant today with the outbreak of Covid-19. New channels are constantly reporting about the virus and its impact. This is a bad thing due to the fear it spreads but also in a way is a good thing for future historians. The constant coverage gives historians a multitude of digital primary sources on the virus. Also, the fact that each source reports it differently can help future historians show how news was reported by different agencies.  

Digital and Public History

Digital History in Public History

Digital history is a major part of the Public History field. As technology advances many museums and historic sites are taking advantage of the change. Many public history sites are moving to digital forms of interpretation to reach a wider audience who may not want to physically travel to a site as well as giving new ways for the public to interact with history. George Washington’s Mount Vernon has done this through their new virtual system called Be Washington. This allows users to act as if they were George Washington by choosing a solution from a situation related to Washington’s life. They can also seek council from other historical figures. One they choose the solution they deem the best one the system tells them if they were correct or not and then gives what Washington actually did. This is a more interactive way for the public to learn about Washington’s life without having to travel to Mount Vernon (though there is a large Be Washington set up in Mount Vernon’s Education Center). Also, many museums are putting up digital collections of their artifacts and documents to help historians research without having to be at the museum. A good example of a museum doing this is the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston Salem North, Carolina. MESDA has made much of its collections accessible through an online database. This grants researchers the ability to access to more information on the artifacts than can be given on a small museum display. With the current outbreak of COVID-19 many sites are turning to digital formats to keep people interested in what they do. Places like the USS Constitution and Sycamore Shoals State Historic Site are using Facebook Live to do virtual tours of their site. Other sites like Kings Mountain National Military Park and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail are doing live question and answer sessions to interact with the public while the site is closed. These are just a few examples of how digital and public history are intertwined and will continue to intertwine as technology advances more and more.

Sharing Scholarship

History Academics in the Digital World

In today’s digital world it is to be expected that history academics would become intertwined with it. This can really be seen in PhD programs where many history students are now creating digital dissertations. Many of these dissertations combine the traditional with digital formatting. This means that the students do traditional research and then add digital touches like pictures, maps, or charts. There are some draw backs to this new method mainly when it comes to the student’s advisers. The main roadblock they would run into is the amount of technological knowledge their adviser has. The push to move to digital dissertations spurred from George Mason University, where they wrote the basic guidelines for these types of projects. These guidelines break down what is needed for a totally digital dissertation as well as hybrid ones. With this type of method available it could really help get research out to the world. Instead of having to wait and publish a dissertation in a book or journal a PhD student could upload it online where it can be seen by many historians and they can also get almost instant feedback in their work. The advancements in digital technology have also helped advance academic journals. Many journals have switched to an online format where anyone can access them instead of having to wait for a printed version to hit shelves. A good example of an online academic journal would be the Journal of the American Revolution. In this journal you can access articles on specific events, people, and even reviews of the latest books. This is all done with the click of a mouse instead of having to subscribe to the journal which could cost money and wait for it to be mailed or having to travel to the nearest bookstore to purchase it. These advancements in digital technology are very beneficial to the study of history. With these new outlets information is available to a wider audience instead of only being accessible to a handful of historians and students. With the push for digital dissertation in all fields it can be seen that the further we go the more likely digital technology is to become the number one tool for academics  

Publishing on the Web

Blogging and Digital History

Blogging has become a very popular form of sharing work in the digital world especially in the history field. Historians can now make a blog post and immediately get feedback from fellow historians which in turn can help them with their larger writing projects like books or journal articles. Those blog posts are more of a conversation than a full historical paper which makes it easier for historians to converse about a specific topic without having to be with one another or having to talk through the telephone. Not only do blogs make it easier for historians to connect but they also make it easier for the public to engage with historians. If someone has access to the internet, they can see a blog and comment on it. In the Public History field this is beneficial for historians or museums to connect with those people who may never see the museum in question and will most likely never meet said historian.

There are many ways to make a blog post more accessible for the public and easier to understand. One of the first items to consider is picking a topic that is popular. In the history field this may be a topic that relates to current news or events around the world. Next the blogger needs to create a unique title for the blog post. This will help draw a reader’s attention. The blogger also needs to find ways to hook the reader into reading the entire post instead of just scrolling away after reading a few lines. After this the blogger should allow for anyone to comment and open conversations about the topic that way it helps the reader understand the topic or helps the blogger refine their work.

With bogging comes risks. One major risk is the fact that anyone can see it and comment so the blogger may end up with comments from an audience they did not want to interact with. For example, a topic may draw in comments that are political or comments that are negative toward the topic to which the blogger has not control over. Another risk is depending on the topic one is blogging about it may be controversial which may create negative attention for the blog post and blogger. With blogs in the history field it is not impossible for fellow scholars to find each other. Depending on the context of the blog post or the reactions to it being found may hurt the bloggers chances in the long run of getting their work published or getting a job a certain institution. With the rapid advancements in technology blogging will only become a more popular way to reach a larger audience in the digital history field.