AHA Day 1: Digital History Workshopalooza

January 2, 2014, 3:07 pm


We’ve come a long way, baby.

After breakfast with #Graftonliner Surekha Davies, and a surprise encounter with Tony Grafton himself, I beetled off to “Getting Started in Digital History.” If you go to the #dhist #AHA2014 hashtags on Twitter, you can pick up a crowd sourced account of the first hour (it was also live blogged here: anybody want to Storify it for extra credit?)

As someone who is not a beginner, but who still has big holes in her DH education, I thought the new guy at the AHA, Director of Scholarly Communications Seth Denbo, working with Kalani Craig and Jennifer Serventi, did a great job kicking off the morning with the basics of what it means to do digital history in 2014. I would be interested to hear if it worked well for newcomers, but I thought it mapped the field well and was relatively jargon free. Together, these three pointed out why digital history is still history, but how the digital world enhances and alters at least some of our historical practices. Since I am a DH autodidact, it was useful to me to have three presentations that sorted what I know into categories, helping me to identify what I need to learn to move forward in the projects that I am helping to design.

Best takeaway for me? Jennifer Serventi, who is at the National Endowment for the Humanities, urging us to access NEH project reports online, both to see what people have done, but also to see what funded projects have not worked out very well and why. Embrace failure and make a study of it! Awesome. On days like this, I realize why our forefathers in the historical profession hoped that history would be fully recognized as a scientific practice.

In addition, Serventi explained, creating digital history projects puts many of us who haven’t been formally trained to run big research teams in the position of doing that and of having to train student managers who are working under our supervision. Bingo! I thought. That is exactly one of my current weaknesses, and I have never framed it that way.

We then went into break-out workshop sessions: you can see what they were and who was running them here (Note: this may require an AHA login: if it doesn’t you still need to register with AHA Communities to get in.)

My workshop was on history blogging, where I covered some really basic stuff: whether you should work alone or with a group; questions of privacy; what software is available, what is popular and why; establishing a focus for your blog (or note); and how blogging fits into professional life. In the discussions, we also veered into the advantages of using blogging software for your personal webpage and for creating online course syllabi.

Here’s the Prezi I spoke from:

Sharon Leon’s slides on project management are here; Rebecca Frost Davis and Kathryn Tomasek on integration DH projects in your teaching here; and Michelle Moravec on doing DH with undergrads here.

Terrific way to begin the conference: tomorrow I will be in Virginia Suite A (Marriott Wardman Park) from 2:30-4:30, talking with these fun people about the recent American Academy of Arts and Sciences report on the humanities and social sciences, The Heart of the Matter. #Graftonliners alert: one member of the panel is our hero and fellow #bookslogger, Tony Grafton. And of course, I will be wandering around for the next several days peering at everyone’s name tag: stop and say hi if you like.

Correction: Sharon Leon’s slides on project management were originally attributed to Monica Mercado. The link was also funky: thanks to Sharon for the corrections.

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