Week 15: Thursday May 2

Updates on Discovering 1919 progress

  • Peer review
  • Centennial Commemorations
  • Around the room updates.


Are there downsides to digitizing historical materials?




How can we mitigate these dangers?




Preservation concerns

“We digitize things because we think we will preserve them, but what we don’t understand is that unless we take other steps, those digital versions may not be any better, and may even be worse, than the artifacts that we digitized. If there are photos you really care about, print them out.” — Google Vice President Vint Cerf in 2015.

  • Bit rot / Code rot – slow deterioration of software performance over time or its diminishing responsiveness that will eventually lead to software becoming faulty, unusable.
  • Data rot /data corruption – physical degradation of storage media.
  • Link rot – the process by which hyperlinks on individual websites or the Internet in general point to web pages, servers or other resources that have become permanently unavailable.
  • Old forms of storage technology — means that we might not have the physical capacity to access files, even if they are undamaged.
  • Proprietary software – many digital files are software-dependent, and when software becomes inaccessible, files become inaccessible.

Even Bigger Data

“So to all those future historians who stumble across this blog post long after I am dead: Sorry for all the stuff. I know you people are going to have unimaginable tools for sorting, thinning, combining and analyze the mountain of ‘real, firsthand accounts’ that my generation has been thoughtlessly creating. . .”

“Sorry about that, historians of the 22nd century. I am sorry that I made so many blog posts featuring someone else’s YouTube video. Sorry that so many of my Facebook updates are vacuous. Sorry that my tweets bring down the tenor of the entire medium. Sorry about all of my files undescriptively labeled DSCimage987234534.jpg and GrantProposal2,docx. Sorry for the mess.”–Larry Cebula, 2013

The sheer volume of information being created may drown us in data.

  • Will more digitally-created media mean more access to the lives of ordinary people?
  • Will the ease with which we delete materials mean less access to the lives of ordinary people?
  • Will we have any context for the vast amounts of data that are currently stored in the cloud?
  • Will we be able to search and use this material? Will we need digital archivists and librarians to help us sift through it?
  • It is easier to fake a digital file than a paper one? How can we insure that digital files are authentic?
  • Who will (or even can) pay for this?
  • Library of Congress and Twitter

Concerns about Accessibility

“There’s an illusion being created that all the world’s knowledge is on the Web, but we haven’t begun to glimpse what is out there in local archives and libraries. Material that is not digitized risks being neglected as it would not have been in the past, virtually lost to the great majority of potential users.” –Edward Ayers, 2007

Digital History Malpractice

“There are tremendous possibilities for collaboration with the lay public, amateur historians, and other professionals. This digital revolution is making accessible ever-larger pools of primary source materials and opening avenues for exciting and sometimes challenging interpretations of those sources. Our role as historians—whether we hold academic degrees in history or learned to practice public history on the job—ought to be encouraging greater, more thoughtful participation in historiography regardless of medium.”–Leslie Marsden-Brooks–2013

  • If every man is a historian. . .why am I majoring in history?
  • Encouraging an interest in history
  • Role of expert on internet is challenged by amateurs
  • Black confederate soldiers

Monday’s Class

  • Last opportunity to meet as a group, work on the site.
  • Donuts!