Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Digital History Roundup

John Markoff, "It Started Digital Wheels Turning," New York Times, November 7, 2011

Researchers in Britain are about to embark on a 10-year, multimillion-dollar project to build a computer — but their goal is neither dazzling analytical power nor
lightning speed. Indeed, if they succeed, their machine will have only a tiny fraction of the computing power of today’s microprocessors. It will rely not on software and silicon but on metal gears and a primitive version of the quaint old I.B.M. punch card. What it may do, though, is answer a question that has tantalized historians for decades: Did an eccentric mathematician named Charles Babbage conceive of the first programmable computer in the 1830s, a hundred years before the idea was put forth in its modern form by Alan Turing?>>>

Ian Johnson, "How to uncover your family's military roots: Digitized records help Canadians leaf out family tree military history," CBC News, November 10, 2011

Researching a family's military history used to be a real challenge, but as more and more paper archives go digital and are transferred to the internet, it's becoming possible for anyone to leaf out a family tree in surprising detail by using a few tricks and knowing where to look. "The biggest thing that's changed is the ability to find digitized documents through simple things like Google and search tools specific to military family histories," says Alex Herd, lead researcher for the Historica-Dominion Institute Memory Project in Toronto that aims to increase the public's knowledge of Canadian history.>>>

Bryan Rosenblithe, "Analyzing history for today: Emerging technologies offer new challenges in the practice of historiography," Columbia Spectator, November 10, 2011

. . . . While it is now widely accepted in the historical profession that current events inform the questions we ask of the past, we are only beginning to come to terms with the profound transformation that digital information is making in every aspect of our lives. A quick comparison of the phrases “digital revolution” with “crisis of capitalism” points to the profundity of both moments and the relatively underdeveloped intellectual apparatus with which we are confronting the issues of our time relative to those of Finley’s day. It is this sense of a radical shift in our way of life coupled with the lack of a vocabulary with which to discuss it that makes the ridiculous statement from Douglas Engelbart, the inventor of the mouse, “The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing,” appear meaningful.>>>

Dawn Setzer, "Dr. Livingstone's lost 1871 'massacre' diary recovered; discovery rewrites history," UCLA Newsroom, November 1, 2011

In Africa 140 years ago, David Livingstone, the Victorian explorer, met Henry M. Stanley of the New York Herald and gave him a harrowing account of a massacre he witnessed, in which slave traders slaughtered 400 innocent people. Stanley's press reports prompted the British government to close the East African slave trade, secured Livingstone's place in history and launched Stanley's own career as an imperialist in Africa. Today, an international team of scholars and scientists led by Dr. Adrian Wisnicki of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, publishes the results of an 18-month project to recover Livingstone's original account of the massacre. The story, found in a diary that was illegible until it was restored with advanced digital imaging, offers a unique insight into Livingstone's mind during the greatest crisis of his last expedition, on which he would die in 1873.>>>

Leigh Hornbeck, "Papers show daily colonial life: Old records discovered in Charlton home provide a closer look at a past era," Albany Times Union, October 30, 2011

BALLSTON SPA -- A recent donation to the Saratoga County Historian's Office gives a more intimate look than ever before at life in Colonial Charlton. The LaRue family donated 600 papers found inside a box nailed underneath floorboards of the attic floor in their house. They belonged to Joseph LaRue, an ancestor who moved to Saratoga County just before the American Revolution and served as a justice of the peace for 10 years. The collection includes a docket and written testimony from witnesses and defendants, along with records that show small details of 18th-century life often passed over by traditional historians. . . . Ned Porter, a junior from Skidmore College who worked as Roberts' intern over the summer, sorted the papers into categories and created a finding aid -- a document describing the collection -- with every legible name, which can be used by genealogists and others. The next step is to create a digital record so the fragile papers aren't handled more than necessary. Some of the documents are parchment, but most are thick rag paper. All the writing was done with quill pen.>>>

No comments: