As I continue my journey as a historian, the tools and knowledge I gain along the way continue to help my growth as a historian. Through the History 305 course, I was able to learn how historians can leverage technology to present historical information in an array of ways, how historical information can be digitized and preserved, and the benefits of having historical information available on the web and free to the public to access.
Entering History 305, I was honestly unsure what to expect because I didn’t entirely understand what type of digital methods we would be learning and how they would apply to history. Professor Smith provided an introduction to the course and analysis of the class that helped in gaining an understanding of the course. For example, Professor Smith brought in archiving tools such as a scanner, digital camera, magazines, and old photos to demonstrate the process of how to transfer physical sources and digitize them. During that class, the class was shown how the technology worked and how digitizing historical content preserves it for forever. One of the benefits to digitizing historical content is that once it’s digital, a historian no longer has to worry about it being damaged, broken, stolen (physically), or lost.
During the course, I also learned the process and the meaning behind aggregating and curating historical data. Aggregating data involves gathering a group of information in order to come up with an analysis of it. Historical institutions such as museums do this in order to gain information to present to those who come to visit their sites. Once the aggregating process is complete, a curator must be careful in their presentation of that information they’ve collected and made sure that it’s factual data and organized efficiently for their intended audiences. Once the class was taught these principles and techniques, we were allowed to demonstrate our newly found skills in a surfing project where we not only aggregated and curated information but were also made to present it on an online website.
As the course continued, I learned about the benefits of creating and displaying online historical projects. One key benefit to online historical projects is that that information is accessible and available to people a lot more than a book is. As Professor Smith highlighted in the lecture, a website can reach a wider audience due to how many people have access to computers and the internet, while traditional books can only reach a narrower audience. By putting historical information online and making it easily accessible, children, students, and perhaps even teachers can use the information as sources for lesson plans, papers, and for their own projects. Another benefit I learned from creating and displaying historical projects online was that the audience using it for research can use it without having to pay for it. Often times with history, we have to purchase books or pay to visit historical sites, so the knowledge we acquire from these sources, come at a price. As Professor Smith mentioned in class, that being in the world of academics is about helping those in need and being able to share your knowledge with other people.
Towards the end of the semester, I was able to demonstrate the skills, tools, and knowledge I had acquired throughout the class with a group project. For this particular project, I decided our group would create an analysis of why Alexander the Great was successful as conqueror and how his close-knit of advisors, teachers, and allied relationships helped and prepared him to be successful. When coming up with an idea for how to best display this, I felt that a traditional paper was worn out, and that future student and even those that are in the present, would find a digital presentation of the subject not just as an effective tool, but perhaps they would enjoy it more. For this project, we aggregated pictures, locations, and descriptions in order to create a time-map. The time-map was an effective online tool due it allowing for timelines to be visually constructed and it allows viewers to see the precise location where a historical event occurred. Our group was able to place locations on the areas which Alexander the Great lived, fought, conquered, visited, and ultimately died. This project will hopefully serve students and teachers as a source for years to come.
In conclusion, through the History 305 course, I was able to learn how historians can leverage technology to present historical information in an array of ways, how historical information can be digitized and preserved, and the benefits of having historical information available on the web and free to the public to access. I do feel that there was more we could learn and would like for the school to approve an additional course to be taught so that I and other historians can learn and spread the benefits of how to apply digital methods in history.