I’ve learned a lot this semester during the Digital History class, but I have to say there are three lessons that really stuck out as highly impactful. The first was reading silencing the Past by Dr. Michel-Rolph Trouillot. This book was incredible and has completely changed my perspective about understanding the power of recording or not recording during the production of history and how that impacts our memories and understandings of the past. This will be of great help in my major, as it is history, now that I comprehend more about the dynamic of power and silencing in the creation of history I can be deliberate in my understanding the past.
The second most impactful portion of this class was understanding data management. I hadn’t fully appreciated how much raw information and bits of data there would be in recorded history until we sat down as a class and looked at the death certificates together. That was my first time working “hands on” with a historical record and it was enlightening to see my other classmates thought process on how to manage it. In most instances it was similar to my thought process, but other times their ideas surprised me and I felt like it was a good learning experience to see the diversity of methods. Reading Dr. Hadley Wickham’s article “Tidy Data” Journal of Statistical Software 59, no. 10 (August 2014) was also ultra-helpful because he gave great advice on how to manage overwhelming amounts of data in a common sense way. This will especially assist in my major in history, which was especially evident in the assignment sorting through and classifying the American philosophical Society’s “Curator’s Record of Donations to the Cabinet, 1769-1818 Volume 1:3 February 1769-20 1818” information.
Then lastly, the timeline project was extraordinary helpful in understanding how using the online or digital space can show data in a way that’s easier to consume. I have never created a timeline online before, so understanding the process from start to finish and all that went into it (such as getting pictures to show up, or the timeline to show the years appropriately distanced was helpful. Seeing the information displayed visually on the sliding scale showed me how useful that type of tool can be.
Beyond these three highlights, all of the lessons were superb, and while I may not have been able to physically be at every class I was able to rewatch them after the fact. I will certainly be taking the lessons I learned in Digital History and carrying them forward during my career at George Mason University.