Blog Post

History in the Digital Age, or My Introduction to HASTAC

My department, the history department at Northeastern, is new to the digital humanities. I'm its very first HASTAC scholar. As such, I look forward to introducing to my colleagues and professors new ideas about digital scholarship and presentation in the historical profession. As I start my first year in the PhD program at Northeastern, I'm excited about the possibilities of network analysis, data mining, and other DH tools for my research about the early American navy. 

Northeastern has a great public history program, and of course Boston is full of public history opportunities for exhibit-building, archival work, and even re-enactment. But I'd like to think about using DH in public history. I'm taking a course this semester about the theory and methods of doing public history.  As we've discussed memory, preservation, and other public history topics, I'm constantly thinking about how ideas of preservation and memory change when confronted with a digital era. I think digital humanities can be used not as a wholesale replacement for brick-and-mortar public history, but as a resource that extends and enhances the reach of the brick-and-mortar experience. 

To that end, my DH project for this semester (and probably longer) is creating a web exhibit based on Fletcher Pratt's 1950 book Preble's Boys. Where Pratt provides biographical sketches of sixteen men who were instrumental in the early years of the United States Navy, I'd like to provide a fuller picture of them (literally and figuratively). As I use Pratt's model to evaluate the network amongst these men, I'll also be re-evaluating the scholarship Pratt provides about their lives and careers. With these academic resources in hand, I'm planning to use Omeka to create an interactive exhibit that brings Pratt's work to life and allow others to explore how these men were related to each other and to the wars they fought in.

But enough about me. I'm excited to be here at HASTAC and I look forward to collaborations aplenty. (And if you're interested in public history too, I'd especially love to chat!)


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