Going through these examples of well done, articulate digital history projects gave hope, yet more concerns for the longevity and practicality of digital history in general. I was especially intrigued by the project created at the University of Virginia. It looks like the Valley of the Shadow Project started already in the 90s, which really surprised me. I would be curious to see how successful this evolving project really was when it started and if it continues to receive the publicity the project definitely deserves. Overall, the design was perhaps lacking or just outdated, but this project effectively organized and utilized large texts related to a specific area during the Civil War in a clear and concise way. The project itself catered to a more academic audience, where endless digitally archived primary materials complied for both scholarly and academic purposes. But this raises my main concern for digital history- are people actually using digital materials. Are digital projects effectively promoted? Do people actually care and take the time to look at these digital materials?
William Thomas explores these questions, specifically questions about the effectiveness of publishing scholarly materials online. His answer is clear: “It is clear to us now, in a way that it was not when we set out, that an entirely new form of scholarly communication is emergent in the digital medium and that its structures are not worked out, not nearly as defined as those we are comfortable with.” After analyzing the process and effectiveness of the digital project “The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities,” Thomas ultimately provides hope that a greater digital presence is possible within public and academic history. While I remain a little skeptical, he argues that the public and historians just need to adapt better and possess more commitment to creating this greater digital presence. He states: “Digital scholarship may, indeed, require much more commitment on our part than we presently imagine. We historians might have to cast aside our illusions of permanence and our penchant for the “cardigan.” If we experiment, however, we might discover that the openness of the digital medium is what allows us both to create vibrant new scholarship and to speak to a rising generation of students.”
Last week’s topic, the final class discussion was super interesting and I am really disappointed I was not able to attend class!