The goal of the Digital History Group is to bring together members of the HASTAC community who are interested in utilizing digitized databases, visualization tools, mapping techniques, text mining, network analysis, and other emerging tools for studying the past in new ways.
It is also a space to share exciting work that is already being done. Google’s Ngram Viewer made it possible to do a kind of impressionistic frequency analysis of terms over time, spawning a new field, calling itself “Culturomics,” and pioneering research into “quantitative analysis of culture using millions of digitized books.” Bookworm is a similar tool which utilizes Open Library.
The idea of "Digital History" has been around for a while now and has some stalwart venues, like University of Houston's Digital History site; new sites affiliated with History Departments at Universities across the U.S. and around the world keep popping up. Several historians maintain excellent blogs and websites. Princeton doctoral student and graduate fellow at Harvard’s Cultural Observatory Ben Schmidt, for example, contributes fascinating content on a range of topics related to the digital humantiies, what he calls “using tools from the 1990s to answer questions from the 1960s about 19th century America.” W. Caleb McDaniel, Assistant Professor of History at Rice University, provides another good example.
New tools for visualizing terms, texts and data more generally, like Paper Machines, Data Driven Documents, or Flowing Media are changing the ways history can be written and communicated. Interactive mapping projects like Social Explorer and the University of Richmond’s “Mapping Richmond’s Slave Market” and “Visualizing Emancipation” projects provide new ways to study the past. Collaborative projects like “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database,” created by scholars and with funding from Emory, Harvard, the University of Hull (UK), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and Victoria University of Wellington (New Zealand), are themselves products of the globalizing turn in the historical profession.
The HASTAC Digital History Group will help us to navigate this rapidly evolving terrain and to share ideas for our own research. This group is open to everyone and we welcome your participation.