Given that it now seems clear in 2014 that digital history (or the digital humanities more broadly defined) is much more than a scholarly fad, it is useful to examine various elements that have enabled this explosion in interest. The trend towards increasing activism in Public History over the last several decades (and towards increasing inclusion of non-academics), perhaps best marked by Roy Rosenzweig’s adoption of the internet (and creation of Digital History: A guide to Gathering, Preserving and Presenting the Past on the Web) as one answer to the questions posed by his previous project (The Presence of the Past) has helped lay the groundwork for an open-minded field ready to make use of new technologies. At the same time, the explosion of the communications and computer industries in America since the late 1970s (not long after the founding of The Public Historian) has made it possible for a wide range of scholars to make use of new tools to analyze data, map demographic information, and tell historical tales to a broader audience than ever before. Moreover, the interest of auxiliary fields including literary theory, linguistics, comparative literature, archeology, and art history in using digital tools has rekindled connections between disciplines resulting in the digital humanities resembling American Studies in its inclusiveness. All these factors suggest that it might be best to adopt a definition of digital history as a subfield of the digital humanities while emphasizing activist scholarship using cutting-edge technology.
One particularly good example of digital history scholarship (done at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason) that I personally see as a useful model is the “Hurricane Digital Memory Bank,” recounting the experiences of those impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:
This website is especially useful when used in conjunction with an essay about how it was constructed:
I believe that the project title may be meant to reflect the idea of the bank of a river overflowing, which got me thinking about the implicit differences among referring to a project as an ‘Online Web Archive’, ‘Digital Document Repository,’ or a ‘New Media History.” Since I like the breadth that “memory” as a concept offers I’ve opted to tentatively title my project KWOMP (Korean War Online Memory Project).
My particular interest in the Korean War led me to another website that I think provides a good example of digital history scholarship, this one done in Canada partly through government funding. The Memory Project was created to tell the stories of Canadians in both World War II and the Korean War:
The website is bilingual in (French and English) and has grown to include oral histories of participants in WWI and Canadian Peacekeeping missions in the 20th century. The website also includes image galleries that are tied to each speaker, transcriptions for easy search-ability, and various resources for educators.