As a non-history major who hasn’t taken very many methodology classes within the department, this class was a breath of fresh air because it can be applied to many fields of study within the liberal arts rather than a simple, narrow scope. Having been a 301 drop out, I was slightly concerned that the class would be too finely pointed towards traditional history work, such as searching through bookstacks. I enjoyed that the class had a certain youth to it and it reminded me what drew me to study history in the first place.
I think one of the reasons digital archives draw me in so much is that as someone with ADHD, the creativity that digital archives in history allows keeps me interested as a student and as someone making the archive much longer than sifting through books did. I often see this kind of work being a benefit to those like me who learn differently in addition to the next generation, gen z, who are going to be raised to use a computer before they can even talk. It can also help learning be more accessible to those who learn through audio and tactile methods since online archives are mixed media.
One of the biggest things that I liked about this class is learning about mapping technology, since it has the potential to be a blend of audio, visual, and tactile learning for all those involved. I think it’s amazing that something as simple as a coordinate point can also pack information such as information paragraphs, images, videos about the subject, and much more. In all actuality, I see mapping tech as almost a blank canvas, with the only limitation being the historian’s imagination boundaries.
Our project on Alexander the Great was a demonstration of multimedia being used in a mapping project. Although it was simple, our project gave a preliminary of ATG’s assentation to power with pictures and a clear outline of his life. This is useful because you get to actually see what the warpath was rather than reading about it. When things are in a book, I feel like that tends to make things abstract. Instead of it being figurative, the map makes it real in the minds of those who are observing it.
I feel as though the field of history and historical research, at least in terms of academia, is dated and in many ways is stubborn with its development. What I mean by this is, although I love the feeling of going into a library and the smell of old books, is nostalgia really the reason we’re making the pathway for future scholars (in any field) harder? I know personally, one of the reasons I stopped being a history major is because research was so difficult since the topic, I was assigned didn’t have much digitized. We can save a lot of time and effort if we focus more on digital methods. Saving time and energy isn’t and shouldn’t be considered as lazy, but efficient. In terms of archives, history paves the way for a lot of other academic disciplines and should be stepping up as a leader in this field. I believe with classes like this and a generation of a more tech savvy students coming up, I think this could easily get achieved.
As a non-history major, I could easily transfer a lot of these skills from digital methods over to my field and my postgraduate job. Right now, I work on a presidential campaign and I could see something like an omika-type website with all the candidate’s accomplishments being a good way for voters to see her voting record and accomplishments in a way that’s not condescending or boring.
Overall, I’m really glad that I took this class because it gave me a new perspective on history work and it reignited the spark for the discipline that I had lost over the years from taking so many unimaginative courses in methodology. I agree that for the most part, things in those classes still have their place, but they need to update or at least broaden what they see is acceptable for the field if they want to maintain student’s passion for it. I can see myself taking a lot of this into my other fields.
Also, I must say that getting an email saying I have another essay to do in the middle of commencement is definitely a story I’ll be telling for a while…