The Web has majorly impacted my ability to do historical research in several major ways. The first is in accessibility. As I mentioned in the previous post, it’s far easier to access both primary and secondary sources on the Web, through online library catalogs and online databases. As an undergrad, I had unlimited access to the online databases that were useful for secondary sources when writing research essays. Even when I had to use analog sources, such as for my final undergraduate research project, finding their locations took far less time because I had access to the online library catalog and knew what I wanted and where it was located. The Web also shaved time off of my research. Using online databases such as Academic Premier and Muse, I found resources in mere minutes. In chapter four, Weller mentioned Zotero as a citation manager, which I used frequently to manage citations, I found that an efficient time saver and organizer.
However, a drawback to using the Web, is in how I analyze the sources I have found. Ever since high school, teachers and librarians alike have stressed that most online sources are in some way unreliable and not worthy of being cited without careful examination. As a result of this, I always examined my digital sources with a higher level of scrutiny than I do the print sources. It adds a bit of time to my research and I always feel like I have to further justify the digital sources I cite.
While the above may seem like a qualitative difference, I don’t agree with the idea that digital archives are in any way different qualitatively than analog sources. A digital source can be carefully sourced and cited on the Internet just as a print source can be. And just like a paper book, it is up to the historian to decide whether it’s trustworthy and reliable.
Having finished reading Cohen and Rosenzweig as well as Weller, I had never considered before the true impact the digital age would have on the study of history. The World Wide Web changed history in ways that I was never aware of until now. Each author describes many of the advantages and disadvantages put forth that alter the way we approach and study history.
Cohen and Rosenzweig list many changes that have happened as a result of the web. Historical sources found on a museum website, archive, or database are much more accessible now. Today, you don’t have to physically be at the Museum of Modern Art in New York or the Smithsonian in D.C. to have access to a part of their collections. Not even that, but the capacity of information available on the web is staggering. A simple Google search or Yahoo Search for a topic or a historical figure brings up thousands of “hits”, far more than the creators of the earliest web pages may have ever realized at the time. Another important feature is diversity, allowing history authors and the like from a variety of backgrounds to create blogs and website, publish articles and books, and much more. It is far easier to analyze and access historical sources using the World Wide Web now than it ever has been. Content is easier to interact with, and the ease of moving from website to website establishes links that fundamentally shift the way we look at and interpret history.
This is my first blog on WordPress, and I hope that it will be user-friendly. I’m Chelsea Echevarria and I created this blog for my current graduate class, History 511: Digital History Theory and Practice. Currently, it is my very first semester of the Public History graduate program at CCSU. I also work for the University of Saint Joseph’s Art Museum as a Gallery Attendant. In addition to front-desk duty, I maintain and update the museum’s social media pages, including Facebook and Instagram. I am looking forward to this course and I hope it will provide an interesting foundation to digital history, as well as helping me develop skills that will be useful not only later on in my studies but in my job as well.
Here is the link to my Evernote notebook: