History 305: Digital Methods in History was a new take on the subject that surprised my ideas on historical presentation methods. The class, from teachings and assignments, allowed me to discover new ways to present history to a broader audience that may not have a scholarly background. Presenting historical topics and events to a larger audience is crucial for history as a subject, and profession to grow by welcoming in a diverse group of people. Using techniques taught in class, such as creating a digital archive, creating map based timelines, and using video games to present historical topics opens up new avenues for me to present my historical findings to others in these alternative methods, in addition to a normal essay.
I originally enrolled in the class due to my need to fulfill my world history requirement to graduate. Professor Smith allowed myself and other students to enroll to fulfill our world requirement by requiring the final project to be world focused. I did not think much of the course before starting the course, other than, “what am I going to do digitally with history?” My mind was so set in one track by the modes of delivery that is a norm in scholarly historical works, that I did not think there was another way to present history. Shortly after the course started, we were required to view web-based historical projects. After analyzing the projects, historical presentation expanded to new heights. The projects allowed for more people, rather than only historians to understand a historical topic, and or event. Using this knowledge from the web-based projects we were required to create our own archive.
In creating my own archive with my class partners we decided to display and inform an audience on local California surf culture. Our project was only a small project to learn the basics of using and creating a web-based project. Through the effort in making the small archive we, as a group, displayed surf culture and its influences such as music in pop culture. Surfing was so popular, and still is, in California, that many companies and bands centered their image and sound on what surf sounds that were created. The small archive was rewarding because it allowed for me to physically see my work in images, and small concise bits of information. I was unaware of how similar this process was to creating Hunter Macdonald’s, my partner, and I final world project.
The task of creating a historical based webpage was intimidating because of the steps that were required. We first needed to find a topic that would cover the world emphasis properly. Coming to the decision of focusing on Jewish trade from the mediterranean to the west coast of India was daunting due to the distance. In research we found a plethora of information both primary and secondary that allowed a lot of insight into the extensive trade the Jews had in the east to west trade from the 900s to 1600s. We used Mapbox to display the extent of the Jewish trade reach to allow the user to grasp the massive territory the Jewish traders were responsible. Highlighting important locations on the map allowed for we, as a group, to display short readings that was concise to present information that all can comprehend. The difficult task in this project was having to learn to use html, rather than using the given webpage from professor Smith. On the final day we had to convert our work and findings to over to an html site, learning a small amount of coding to appropriately finish and present the project to the other groups.I thought that we would not finish the project in time and pass the class due to the difficulty we had in displaying the information on a webpage. However, in the end we finished our project and webpage that makes me so proud to view.
I hope that this page can serve others to learn a piece of small information about Jewish traders and for others to learn more about this topic. Using digital methods in history creates a larger platform for history to be presented that can reach more people because we are in the “digital age.” More and more people are using technology to inform themselves on topics and events, however, it seems the subject of history is falling behind in keeping up with the digital trend. This class allows for young historians to progress the subject into modern times rather than relying on argumentative essays. Digital methods in history satisfy teaching methods that a paper would through using physical and interactive teaching modes that a paper cannot do. This class changed my view on how I can teach and present historical findings to others, possibly future students of mine, and make history fun.