Digital History Learning Reflection: Week 3


This past week, we have discussed a number of interesting articles addressing how we do historical research in the digital age. Some of these articles discussed the gaps in what is available online that I thought were very interesting. One aspect to consider is that it isn’t possible to digitize everything in archives and libraries. The article “Why don’t archivists digitize everything?” many challenges are discussed, including a lack of time, resources, maintenance, and the fact that some materials just can’t be digitized in a way that does them justice. Though the internet is an incredible resource, it will likely never replace archives and libraries completely. Historians will have to understand how to work in both environments then to be successful in their work. 

Additionally, there can be gaps that are created even if the source material has been digitized. In “Beyond Romantic Advertisements: Ancestry.com, Genealogy, and White Supremacy,” changes in the Ancestry search engine hid slave ownership and enslaved people from searches. Whether this was intentional or not, these changes to their programming made it incredibly difficult to trace African-American ancestry, which is already difficult, and it also won’t expose many others to their family’s past of owning slaves. It’s important to acknowledge these gaps to improve what access we have to history in the future, especially those without experience in research that may not know what they are even looking for. 

This week made me consider my dependence on academic databases, as I often won’t look for physical sources unless I am out of options. I think it would be beneficial to expand where I look for information. Additionally, I think I need to continue to improve my online researching skills. Though I can eventually find what I am looking for, I often struggle at first to find what I need when doing research.

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