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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., https://ncph.org/publications-resources/publications/the-public-historian/

[2]“The Basics”, Zotero, Accessed May 3, 2020, https://www.zotero.org/support/quick_start_guide


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