Designing historical content for the Internet in the form of a website can be a challenging notion for people who are much more used to dealing with archives. It is important for the historian to keep in min the primary purpose of your website. Your website needs to be planned out in the same way you would plan out an article or book. (Cohen and Rosenzweig) Everything from layout, content, and domain name need to be consciously chosen in order to make the most of your website. (Cohen & Rosenzweig) Depending on what sort of webpage you decide upon will determine the practical questions of costs, databases, and the level of software you will need to create the website.

One of the dangers of digital history would be getting caught up in statistics and data, but one way in which technology can bring the human story to the forefront is through face recognition software, which is highlighted in Tim Sherrat’s article, “It’s All About the Stuff: Collections, Interfaces, Power, and People.” Sherrat highlights the power of search tools, like face recognition software, that is able to search through thousands of photos in an amount of time that is humanly impossible. This sort of search capabilities allows historians to do research on both a grand scale, because of the sheer volume, and on a very human scale because the search highlights individual human stories.

These search tools, even the simple ones, like the keyword search challenge traditional power structures. (Sheratt) Archives, and the way governmental records are stored follow and reinforce existing power structures by organizing their documents in ways that mirror these structures of power. This structure is challenged when the archives digitize their records and open them to searches using tools like face recognition or keyword searches. These searches break down walls because they use a logic or intelligence that is removed from a human being; at least to a certain extent. These tools also help us overcome the “information overload” that seems to be occurring presently, by aiding us in the “storing, sorting, selecting, and summarizing” of vast amounts of data. (Cohen)

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2 thoughts on “Using and Designing Digital Tools To Do History

  1. Planning, planning, and more planning. I liked that you focused on this part of our reading. The way the various authors talked about planning out a Digital History project, or when Cohen and Rosenzweig mentioned the readability of a website’s makeup, it made both simple and complex Digital History projects sound like traditional historical work.

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  2. I enjoyed thinking about how interface changes can really allow you to explore a different side of archival websites. Challenging the existing power structures and bringing new information to light, albeit not unbiased but with a different view that can be compared and contrasted.

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