Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Digital History at University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The University of Nebraska at Lincoln is angling to make a place for itself at the digital history table. Their website Digital History has some excellent resources. As UNL describes it:

Digital history is an emerging and rapidly changing academic field. The purpose of this site is to educate scholars and the public about the state of the discipline by providing access to:
  • Presentations about the field by noted scholars
  • Interviews with scholars about topics related to digital history
  • Information about many aspects of digital history, including reviews of major online projects and reviews of tools which may be of use to digital historians
  • A clearinghouse of current events and news items of interest
  • A selected bibliography of Digital History resources
  • And more!
Some of these sections have yet to be filled in. The review of tools for instance contains exactly two reviews, and none for Omeka or Zotero. But the essays are excellent, and I really love the video interviews with leading digital historians such as John Lutz, William Turkel, and Ed Ayers.

What jumps out at me here, more than the site itself, is who is built it. The University of Nebraska Lincoln graduate program in history has an excellent reputation as a training ground for scholars of the American West--but it was not much noted beyond that sub discipline. They seem to be using digital history non-traditional way of moving up the rankings. And good for them. When one thinks of the other emerging leaders in digital history one sees the same thing--George Mason University, which houses the incredible Center for History and New Media, was not on most people's radar screens before they started their digital programs.

The leaders in the traditional ways of training historians, the big graduate programs of the Ivies and R-1s, are not going to be the leaders in the new wave. This is a similar model to what happened in my other field, public history, where it was second tier institutions who saw the need and opportunities most clearly and were able to create the leading programs.


Kelly in Kansas said...

They're doing some great work in Lincoln and usually present at the SSHA. It's great you're helping their work become more widely known. I'm thinking at least one professor there worked with Ed Ayers on the Valley of the Shadow project . . .

Larry Cebula said...

Your mention of Ed Ayers reminds me that it is not too early to begin writing the history of digital history. The Valley of the Shadow project was one of the very earliest big digital history projects, a wake-up call and a landmark for all the rest of us.