Yale’s Digital Collections search engine is a key resource for innovative research and teaching. The site, which provides a single access point for digitized documents across all university collections, is especially significant for historians. Users can perform a simple keyword search across all collections, or narrow their search by collection or document type. Audio recordings, diaries, drawings, maps, photographs, and scrapbooks are among the primary source materials available on the site. The digital image or file is usually hosted on a separate site associated with its parent library or collection. Clicking the file will take you to its parent page and further descriptive information. Users also have the option to create custom tags and annotations for individual items, which will aid future research.
The digital collections available from university libraries are far from comprehensive, of course. It is unclear what criteria are used to determine which primary source materials are digitized and which are ignored, and some collections appear arbitrary or incomplete. So this website is not yet a substitute for more traditional (analog) collections and search strategies. As a supplement to more traditional methods of research and teaching, however, this search engine shows a great deal of promise.
The Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University is directed by Dan Cohen, a Yale alum. The CHNM website is another great starting point for thinking about digital history projects. Staff members at the Center have developed a number of interesting and useful tools, including the Zotero plug-in, which is quickly supplanting EndNote and RefWorks as the standard tool for managing and sharing scholarly citations. They also sponsor a biweekly podcast entitled Digital Campus, which discusses the impact of digital media and technology on research and teaching.
From the CHNM website:
CHNM uses digital media and technology to preserve and present history online, transform scholarship across the humanities, and advance historical education and understanding. Each year CHNM’s many project websites receive over 16 million visitors, and over a million people rely on its digital tools to teach, learn, and conduct research.
One of the goals of this blog is to provide information and reviews of the latest digital technology for historical research and teaching. So it makes sense to begin with the Digital Research Tools Wiki (DiRT).
From the DiRT website:
This wiki collects information about tools and resources that can help scholars (particularly in the humanities and social sciences) conduct research more efficiently or creatively. Whether you need software to help you manage citations, author a multimedia work, or analyze texts, Digital Research Tools will help you find what you’re looking for. We provide a directory of tools organized by research activity, as well as reviews of select tools in which we not only describe the tool’s features, but also explore how it might be employed most effectively by researchers.
DiRT provides links for a wide variety of useful programs and projects, including tools to analyze statistics, create dynamic maps, mine data, organize research material, and visualize data. Although hardly comprehensive, it remains a good place to start for any digital history project.