“[Digital archives] are clearly invaluable and make possible research avenues that would clearly not have been possible only a few years ago, providing an invaluable supplement to the traditional archival trawl and offering us new opportunities to understand transnational connections. However, it is important that a generation of digitally native students (and perhaps more importantly a generation of austerity-era politicians) do not see research as something that is done chiefly on a laptop.”
I suspect that most historians would agree, and that most have thought about the implications of the widespread digitization of some (though, as Thackeray rightly notes, by no means all) archives. It also seems to me that the fact that historians are thinking about the archival problems posed by digital sources – the incorrect impression that all sources are digitized, that some reside behind paywalls, that a profit motive often defines which sources get digitized which don’t etc. – means that many who still practice “traditional” historical methods are also beginning to practice digital history, at least in terms of how they talk about access to sources in their undergraduate classrooms.
To that end, I thought I’d share a piece I recently wrote for NYU’s Graduate History Student Association teaching handbook – a sort of “listicle” (though I can’t convey how much I truly hate that word) of the benefits and pitfalls of bringing digital sources and methods into the classroom.