King Henry VIII’s Crown, In your living room?

Computers may be the ideal topic of discussion for Digital historians, however there are other digital aspects to history which may catch an eye or two. Physical objects have often been what attracts historians who don’t value the digital aspect of history, now there maybe a way to combine the two sides. 3d printing has challenged the norm of artefacts being key elements in understanding the past. When researching the use of a 3D printer, there is an interesting example of a group of researchers who created a 3D model of King Henry VIII’s crown. What is amazing about this breakthrough in technology is that as it scans the objects and creates a mould exactly the same as the original in every specific detail it opens up the item to be used and admired by many. You would never be able to dream of wearing the Crown, well now thanks to some interesting technology the programme is open on the Web for anyone to download and print on their own 3D printers. One thing that annoys many when going to a museum is not being able to actually touch the objects; we all have inhibition and urge to just grab hold of what were told not to touch. Well thanks to this breakthrough we can, and if developed further soon any object will be able to be created within the homes on ordinary people, Artist Oliver Laric has taken this one step further, creating 3D scans of objects in the Usher Gallery, and made them available online for free under the Creative Commons Licence.[1]

To further suggest interesting uses for this 3D model would be to create cheaper smaller models, available for sale. As replicas are most likely already being sold to the general public, precise Replicasof the crown to the smallest detail would surely guarantee more sales and attract more people. Using an actual 3D model of Henry VIII’s crown is a close-to authentic way of creating a piece of the past that visitors can touch and has the added bonus of bringing some profit to the palace, that can be put back into more educational recreations of objects.

  1. “Henry’s Crown”,Historic Royal Palaces.

http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/stories/palacehighlights/henryscrown (Accessed, 30th April 2015)

British Library Flickr collection

When analysing the British Library Flickr collection it became apparent that most history textbooks and many academic histories use images to illustrate the history that they tell.[1] However, examining these books in our classes, it is interesting to see that we rarely spend time exploring the images in them, we are more likely to focus our attention instead on the written content. We do so because of the way that images are presented in many historical texts and also because of the way that historians are trained to view images as illustrations of written history rather than sources of history themselves. [2] Although these thoughts are becoming a thing of the past and what is furthermore interesting about the Flickr collection is the ways in which historians can find new ways of understanding the past.

When analysing Flickr, my team came up with three suggestions for its use. The most interesting one was the use of Typography, we can learn a lot about the context of the time through the use of typography in the images. The value this would have to historians is that they could programme the data and extract typography from certain eras in time to learn more about how they wrote. This perhaps is a long shot in terms of attracting a wide audience. But once again it comes down to finding the right historian who shares a similar interest in Historic typography. Moreover, the Flickr collection has thousands of images with letters in historic designs that indicates there is something for everyone if enough interest is generated around the topic of typography. Another interesting value Flickr can add is that text draws us into formal language which some may find harder to understand, also historic texts tends to be quite long to read and can deter audiences. Images however are static examples of moments in time; we as historians can observe moments of true history and take what evidence we can see from the images. For example, images from the Victorian era that show poor families households may have tea on the table. Tea was a luxurious item and very expensive in the Victorian era. So by seeing tea sets within poorer households we as historians can argue tea was open to many classes poor and rich during this era.

The analysis of images in comparison to text opens up new interesting ways in which we can analyse data. Even when taking images of graphs and quantified data, historians need these sets of data to support their thesis in any argument they make. The reason historians rely on graphical data, is that observing data in numerical form is sometimes simpler to understand the vast quantity of data that the historian wants to show the reader. Flickr has many of these examples of quantified data images. Which if a historian uses to their advantage can find many interesting statistics to aid their research knowledge and better their work. As stated by James Borchert, there is a ‘growing interest in new sources and methods, especially quantitative ones’.[3]

Anna Pegler-Gordon,‘Seeing Images in History’, Perspectives on History (February 2006). http://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/february-2006/seeing-images-in-history

(Accessed, 30th April 2015)

[2] IBID

[3] James, Borchert, Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, Volume 15, Issue 2 (1982), P. 35

 

Programming for Historians

As digital history becomes ever more popular, the demand for online resources also grows. For the digital historian this is a great opportunity to access a wider range of sources faster and quicker than visiting your local library. The one issue which remains for a digital historian is finding the right program, which searches the documents that are of the same interest as the individual. For example cites such as Google books, which have, millions of books saved within their database how can a historian search this database quickly and efficiently? This is where programming to suit the needs of the historian comes in. As online sources becomes more of a ever growing advantage to historians, so does the need to design their own programs to get the best refined results, thus gaining the ability to know to code can be hugely beneficial to historians and increases their research capabilities. Examples for this are that if a historians can programme a piece of software to search for keywords or particular refines which suit the historians interests, than it can scan over many documents and data across databases refining particular results to suit the historians needs. A good example where we can apply the use of variables to customise the search data, is by applying Boolean logic. For example if we take two variables called ‘start date’ and ‘end date’, then using logic like “when greater or equals to start date AND less than or equal to end date” we will only see information which relates to the time we wanted to see.  This is an advantage to the historian as it allows them to search data within a particular time period.

What is surprising is that many historians have already got experience using computer programs, perhaps without acknowledging it. For instance, Microsoft office, databases often is a great way of extracting information. Furthermore, Blogging amongst historians is becoming increasingly popular, however in able to maintain a blog site, a basic knowledge of the coding behind the text would be a great advantage and enable the historian to maintain their own site without the need for professional assistance.

However, limitations can occur for historians who desire to learn how to programme. Programming is quite time consuming, learning how to programme properly and efficiently can take a while. It is also key to note that a historian may need professional assistance with learning code, which may cost a price, and also if they learn online they are open to not being able to understand certain elements of the code which would better be explained by a person. Never less, programming supports the historian whose research would be enhanced by quicker and better refined sources online.

Janine Noack, ‘Why historians should learn how to code (at least a bit)’Doing History in Public http://chnm.gmu.edu/digitalhistory/

(Accessed, 29th April 2015)

Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing.

A modern concept derived from the digital age of the Internet. Crowdsourcing is often a source of free or cheap labour, in which data is made available to the wider public online to work on and help complete. In particular historic crowdsourcing projects like Old Weather and Transcribe Bentham have taken particular styles in the way they hope to appeal to the community. Old Weather documents ship logs from a number of vessels from the 19th century, and official record of where the ships had gone. Historians who were interested in climate change realised this data would let them determine the weather in the 19th century. Thus created the website to try to tempt the online community into participating by making it seem more like a game. Whereas Transcribe Bentham took a more straightforward approach, the website simply required the public to transcribe Bentham’s writing into modern English.

Old Weather has a game like effect, in which the more ship logs you complete your score increases, than your rank increase. The aim is that it draws on our competitive spirit to compete for the highest score. Which encourages you to try to become captain, maybe this content is not going to appeal to people in its own right, which is why they created it like a game. On the other Transcribe Bentham being much simpler in its process, ‘It was therefore important to design a user-friendly interface which facilitated communication in order to keep users coming back to the site, and to develop a sense of community cohesion’.[1] Links between the two projects are that they want to achieve a sense of a growing virtual community amongst their contributors. However, Transcribe Bentham did not succeed with the social aspect of the site ‘having integrated social media facilities into the Transcription Desk, there is minimal evidence of interaction between Transcribe Bentham users.’[2]

Transcribe Bentham used Team Building features like Old Weather, ‘Volunteers received points for every edit made; as an incentive we devised a multi-tiered ranking system, a progress ladder stretching from “probationer” to “prodigy” for transcribers to climb.’[3] So for volunteers there are extra incentives for them to not just contribute once, but continue to contribute earning points and gain ranks, which was aimed at keeping volunteers. This method also did not effectively attract the wider public into participating but however, they found that most volunteers were those who had an interest in history and were history academies or had interests in Bentham’s notes themselves. This shows the aims of attracting the wider community was not a success. That said, some improvements, which could better the citizens historians experience, is perhaps for Old Weather, ‘tool designers must not forget the importance of a simple and clear user interface.’[4] I found that it was quite difficult to understand the interface and took some time to get used to, improving this making it more simpler and would benefit the volunteer making it quicker for them to engage with the activity.

[1] http://digitalhumanities.org:8081/dhq/vol/6/2/000125/000125.html (Accessed, 20/03/2015) paragraph, 23

[2] http://digitalhumanities.org:8081/dhq/vol/6/2/000125/000125.html

(Accessed, 20/03/2015) paragraph, 66

[3] http://digitalhumanities.org:8081/dhq/vol/6/2/000125/000125.html

(Accessed, 20/03/2015) paragraph, 24

[4] http://digitalhumanities.org:8081/dhq/vol/6/2/000136/000136.html

(Accessed, 20/03/2015) paragraph, 34

History Learning Site

When critically evaluating the usefulness of a website it is vital to consider specific details which show its creditability as a source. The History Learning Site offers a wide range of historical material dating from the Romans to World War Two, however this can not be considered a valuable source of knowledge due to the wide range of material being malnourished so to speak.  As the pages have a lot of content of general global history it lacks in depth analysis, and further detailed referencing to further enhance the creditability of the research. Also to note the pages also have information on specific history courses, like Advanced A-Level. This can also be problematic as it restricts the sites content to the ability of the course, i.e. if it is Advanced A-Level than it will have information aimed at the grade requirements for that specific course, which may also help the viewer but fail in acting as a credible source to reference from. [1]

Another issue with this site relates back to the Author himself, Chris Trueman taught history at secondary school level, however he did graduate with a BA degree in History, the website states that Chris ‘wrote much of the content for the site from his in-depth knowledge of History’ this sort of material also highlights a key flaw in the creditability of the website, as much of the pages have no referencing at all which suggests as quoted Trueman wrote much of the information from he’s general knowledge on the subjects. This can therefore not be credited as a good website source for others to safely learn and reference from as Trueman has not supported the documents with valid evidence to show us where the source is coming from, so how do we know the information is correct?

A last issue with the site is that after Truemans death in 2013, the websites development was then continued as stated on the site by Truemans ‘niece and nephew and a team of history graduates’ as this is all the information given to the viewer how do we know they are qualified to be inputing historical data onto the site for others to learn from? This complicates the development of the site as we do not know who the niece and nephew are and therefore cannot accept the site as a credible source as they are not credible historians with proven knowledge in the field they are writing about. Which was even an issue with Trueman, as he was teaching at secondary level and used no sign of referencing in his work, the site cannot be considered a valuable source. However, the fact that Trueman was a secondary school teacher is not the reason the site fails in its creditability, it is more down to the fact that the site is too broad in its content to offer any in depth analysis on historical matter and that the quantity of material offered lacks any sign of referencing, which is why it has resulted as a poor site for historical research. Furthermore, the lack of any credentials claiming the information as their own which fails us to link the information back to any person who can be trusted can ralate back to the Pirate Hoax Scandal, as theres no credential owner for the information.[2]

[1]Joe Barker, ‘Evaluating Web Pages: Techniques to Apply & Questions to Ask’, UC Berkeley – Teaching Library Internet Workshops, (1995) http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluate.html

(Accessed, 28th April 2015)

[2]Jennifer Howard, “Teaching by Lying: Professor Unveils ‘Last Pirate’ Hoax”, Eugene M. and Christine E. Lynn Library, (2008). http://lastamericanpirate.net

(Accessed, 28th April 2015)

Twitter – Dawn of the Digital Historians? Goodbye Academic Journals?

It is an interesting concept to consider social media as a new wave of sharing historical matter. We commonly link social media with the vague conception that it is chatting to friends, and posting unimportant statuses about how boring/great people’s lives are. However, why not consider the great Digital media as a new way of sharing ideas, which could benefit historians alike.

Twitter offers people of any background and profession, to share any material or point that they wish, it is open to all kinds of discussion and debate. In the modern day historian’s perspective, it is a great way of achieving feedback on ideas and concepts from a wider scale of opinions. Perhaps twitter is about merging the old with the new? Older historians maybe be reluctant to want to be part of twitter as they are used to the classic way of writing historiography, taking several months even years to write a piece, then waiting for it to be peer reviewed and edited before being considered a credible source. Twitter allows the latter historian to reach out to the wider perspective, sharing new ideas and even generate new ones at a pace far greater than any other form on communication.

“Writing a blog lets you reach out to an enormous audience beyond academia”.[1] In relation to Blogs, Twitter generates strong opinion, to a much wider community of followers. Historians are able to get information out there much quicker than before, which makes it a revolutionary age for the historian. It also favours a much more informal approach to sharing information with peers, this ideally due to dense writing deterring an audience whereas informal writing attracts a wider range of people to find an interest in. In another instance, what should be extremely attractive about twitter for an historian is the ability to pick the fields that interests them the most and grow within them communities, “think about the kind of community you want to be a part of. And think about the kind of results you want potential searchers to see when they look for your name. Remember that the more you use Twitter, the higher it will rank in the search results for your name”.[2]

In all belief, the days when waiting long months for peer reviewed work and ideas of concepts on your research topics are over. Twitter opens up a fast paced creative thinking machine, in which a historian has an assembly of sharers and future community in which ideas and research can be moved around at a speed much faster than the current process of peer review and publishing allows.

[1] Dan Cohen, “Professors, Start Your Blogs”, Dan Cohen (21 August 2006). http://www.dancohen.org/2006/08/21/professors-start-your-blogs/

(Accessed, 29th April 2015)

[2] Miriam Posner and Brian Croxall, “Creating Your Web Presence: A Primer for Academics”, Chronicle of Higher Education (14 Feb 2011). http://chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/creating-your-web-presence-a-primer-for-academics/30458

(Accessed, 29th April 2015)