Re-Posted from the Conversation: Historians’ archival research looks quite different in the digital age

Today, and into the future, consulting archival documents increasingly means reading them on a screen.
(Shutterstock)

Ian Milligan, University of Waterloo

Our society’s historical record is undergoing a dramatic transformation.

Think of all the information that you create today that will be part of the record for tomorrow. More than half of the world’s population is online and may be doing at least some of the following: communicating by email, sharing thoughts on Twitter or social media or publishing on the web. Continue reading “Re-Posted from the Conversation: Historians’ archival research looks quite different in the digital age”

Continuing Education to Advance Web Archiving CFP

I’m pleased to be part of the CEDWARC team – an IMLS LB21-funded program to develop continuing education curriculum for library and archive professionals interested in advanced web archiving and analysis techniques.

On October 28th, 2019, the workshop will be offered at the Gelman Library at George Washington University in beautiful Washington DC. Archives Unleashed will be well represented and attendees will have the chance to take raw web archives and begin to run analysis on them.

If you’re a US resident, travel grants are available here. If not, registration is also available via the CEDWARC web page. Only forty slots are available, so move quickly!

Review of History in the Age of Abundance in the LRC

One way to have your day made is to read a good, thoughtful review of your book. In the Literary Review of Canada, one of my favourite periodicals, Lisa Betel reviews History in the Age of Abundance? How the Web is Transforming Historical Research in her essay “For the Record: Preserving Today for Tomorrow.”

Betel describes the book here:

Never has recorded history been so vast and the sources – from governments, organizations, and individuals – so varied. These records can both illuminate and obscure. No one is sure how big the web is, but it is too big to be saved in its entirety or to be closely read, one document at a time. So Milligan offers historians something of a handbook, showing how they might change their techniques and, perhaps, ask new questions of the record.

Lisa Betel, “For the Record”

I’m glad that she highlighted the “handbook” element of it. Despite my hesitation around providing too much “hands-on” guidance to historians – it tends to date too quickly – one of the peer reviewers pushed me on this and the book is far stronger for it.

Check it out, and if you’re looking to pick up your own copy of History in the Age of Abundance?, you can buy it from the publisher (or, of course, your book seller of choice).

New Book: History in the Age of Abundance? How the Web is Transforming Historical Research.

The book is here!

My new book, History in the Age of Abundance? How the Web is Transforming Historical Research has arrived and is shipping! You can purchase the affordable paperback ($29 Canadian dollars) at booksellers including Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Indigo, or beyond.

What’s the book about? Here’s the blurb from the publisher.

Believe it or not, the 1990s are history. As historians turn to study this period and beyond, they will encounter a historical record that is radically different from what has ever existed before. Old websites, social media, blogs, photographs, and videos are all part of the massive quantities of digital information that technologists, librarians, archivists, and organizations such as the Internet Archive have been collecting for the past three decades. 

In History in the Age of Abundance? Ian Milligan argues that web-based historical sources and their archives present extraordinary opportunities as well as daunting technical and ethical challenges for historians. Through case studies, he outlines the approaches, methods, tools, and search functions that can help a historian turn web documents into historical sources. He also considers the implications of the size and scale of digital sources, which amount to more information than historians have ever had at their fingertips, and many of which are by and about people who have traditionally been absent from the historical record. Scrutinizing the concept of the web and the mechanics of its archives, Milligan explains how these new media challenge, reshape, and enrich both the historical profession and the historical record.

A wake-up call for historians of the twenty-first century, History in the Age of Abundance? is an essential introduction to the way web archives work, what possibilities they open up, what risks they entail, and what the shift to digital information means for historians, their professional training and organization, and society as a whole.

Some esteemed colleagues have also provided advance reviews of History in the Age of Abundance? for which I’m eternally grateful.

Continue reading “New Book: History in the Age of Abundance? How the Web is Transforming Historical Research.”

Workshop: Quantitative Analysis and the Digital Turn in Historical Studies

Happy to announce that Chad Gaffield (University of Ottawa) and myself are organizing a workshop to be held between February 27th and March 1st 2019 at the Fields Institute for Research in the Mathematical Sciences.

Keep reading to see what the workshop is all about, or click on the poster to see more.

Continue reading “Workshop: Quantitative Analysis and the Digital Turn in Historical Studies”

New Forthcoming Book: “History in the Age of Abundance?”

My fourth book (second sole-authored), History in the Age of Abundance? How the Web is Transforming Historical Resarch, is appearing in April 2019 with McGill-Queen’s University Press. It’s currently available for pre-order from McGill-Queen’s, Amazon, or resellers in other countries. You will also hopefully be able to find it in a library near you (if not, you can always ask ’em to buy it).

Long Description:

Believe it or not, the 1990s are history. As historians turn to study this period and beyond, they will encounter a historical record that is radically different from what has ever existed before. Old websites, social media, blogs, photographs, and videos are all part of the massive quantities of digital information that technologists, librarians, archivists, and organizations such as the Internet Archive have been collecting for the past three decades. 

Continue reading “New Forthcoming Book: “History in the Age of Abundance?””

History is Always About Context (or why a history degree equips you to understand the context of a tweet)

BOMARC
A BOMARC missile (public domain image)

It would be “fantastic news,” wrote the New Leftist leader in 1962, if the nuclear-tipped Bomarc missiles – potentially housed in Canada– could be re-directed by the Soviet Union after launch to destroy their own bases. I read these documents in the McMaster University archives while writing an MA course paper in 2006 (which would later grow into my first book).

This nuclear-missile letter helped me to understand the context of the New Left, as well as the cultural divide that was manifesting itself between New Leftists and mainstream Canadian progressive politics.

What if that missile quip had been a tweet? A college student tweeting something like that today could quickly become the focus of an outrage campaign. But how could a historian make sense of something like that in the future?

KGGBJ8
Generated using PrankMeNot.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this during the latest “dig-up-old-tweets-to-take-them-out-of-context” scandal, where The Verge’s (soon to be part of the New York Times editorial board) Sarah Jeong saw tweets from 2013 and 2014 used as part of an alt-right campaign to discredit her. I’m probably not the only person to have thought about the hidden treasures sitting in my own Twitter timeline, and wondered about how they might be misinterpreted by others – say, a historian in the future, using social media as a historical source. Continue reading “History is Always About Context (or why a history degree equips you to understand the context of a tweet)”

New Article: “If These Crawls Could Talk: Studying and Documenting Web Archives Provenance”

I’m part of a team that’s just published a new article, “If These Crawls Could Talk: Studying and Documenting Web Archives Provenance” in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. If your institution subscribes, you can find the article here. Alternatively, we have a preprint here.

Our abstract does a hopefully good job of explaining what the article is about. Read on if you’re curious: Continue reading “New Article: “If These Crawls Could Talk: Studying and Documenting Web Archives Provenance””

New Grant: “Continuing Education to Advance Web Archiving”

logoWe heard some exciting news yesterday! I’m part of an interdisciplinary team, led by Virginia Tech Libraries and Virginia Tech Department of Computer Science, and in collaboration with Los Alamos, Old Dominion University, Internet Archive, and George Washington University Libraries, that will be exploring “Continuing Education to Advance Web Archiving.” This was funded as part of the Institute of Museum and Library ServicesLaura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program.

The overall grant is valued at $248,451.00 USD, and here at the University of Waterloo we’ll be using $20,000 USD to support our efforts on the grant. In particular, this will help support a PhD Candidate and also some knowledge mobilization activities.

I can’t wait to see our grant vision be realized and to help assemble “a collection of educational resources, cyberinfrastructure for deploying tools to support the curriculum (including source code), and other related resources.”