Primary Sources and the Historical Profession in the Age of Text Search, Part 2: Documentary Editions, Databases, and the Future of Digital History: Advancing Field-Driven Historical Infrastructure in the Digital Age

AHA Session 162
Saturday, January 6, 2018: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Diplomat Ballroom (Omni Shoreham, West Lobby)
R. Darrell Meadows, National Historical Publications and Records Commission
The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr.: Illuminating and Preserving King’s Legacy
Tenisha Armstrong, Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project, Stanford University
Starting from Scratch: Learning to Think Digitally
Joan Neuberger, University of Texas at Austin
The Audience

Session Abstract

For over a century, historians have conceptualized and undertaken significant, long-term projects that have simultaneously advanced historical scholarship and the nation’s historical infrastructure. Although the actual work of conceptualizing, executing and managing large-scale documentary editions and database projects has sometimes gone unnoticed, historians have for decades played an instrumental role in this most fundamental act of scholarship and professional service. It is no accident that some of the nation’s leading documentary editors, for example, are also among the most accomplished and sought-after experts in their respective fields. Documentary Editions, Databases, and the Future of Digital History, the third session in this AHA-sponsored series, calls attention to the value of large-scale projects that have advanced the profession in fundamental ways, and suggests the multiple benefits that can accrue to the historians and departments that choose to adopt and sustain them. It asks: How have historical documentary editions and database projects shaped historical study and training, and how might they in future? Moderated by R. Darrell Meadows (National Historical Publications and Records Commission), this roundtable discussion brings together both historians and documentary editors engaged in long-term projects (or in one case, contemplating the adoption of a major digital project) to underscore the shared scholarly values inherent in this work, to consider the multiple positive impacts of such projects, and to spark interest among historians in conceptualizing and developing significant new projects that will help meet the scholarly needs of the historical profession in the Digital Age and for future generations of scholars. Discussants will offer brief opening remarks, to be followed by extended Q&A involving discussants, moderator, and audience alike.

This session is part of a series of sessions, "Primary Sources and the Historical Profession in the Age of Text Search," organized by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and the AHA staff. 
The Digital Age, the Age of Text Search, the Digital Turn--whatever we choose to call it, there is no question that the emergence of digital history is reshaping how historians work, how they are trained, and how they teach. This multi-session series poses fundamental questions about the current state of and future directions for the training of historians and history teachers in the Digital Age, about the kinds of collaborations required for the substantive practice of digital history, and about the role of historians in advocating for and the multiple benefits of participating directly in projects that expand the digital historical infrastructure that will serve the needs of the profession and future historical research.