The Historian

More often than not, my days are bookended, start with, or end with my dissertation. Some of the work is digital — some spatial visualizations that I’m working on, some text analysis to do — but I’m otherwise writing or reading. The goal for the year is to have a full draft ready by December 31.

At the end of the day, I’m a historian and still bound to the obligations of our profession. As much as I hope to see born-digital work as a stand-alone outcome of one’s graduate education, the professional standards by which we’re judged are still tied — for better or worse — to a culture of print. That reality is not a bad one — I love books, and tend to think lately that the model going forward is companion DH projects that appear with print books.

But the digital components of my work are part and parcel of my historical methodology. Another tool used to understand the past. My hope is some day “digital history” becomes redundant — that this work fades into a collective understanding of how historians do what they do. To paraphrase my colleague Elijah Meeks, the visualizations, databases, interactive scholarly works, physical computing, and code written are not just mere tools. They are tools in the way monographs are tools: claims and arguments that address a research question. Getting to the point where such work is recognized professionally means a lot of things: from having the work recognized as scholarly output to having access to tools and people that make the creation of scholarly digital projects accessible to any historian who wants to investigate digital methodologies.

So, all of my various roles in DH — The Collaborative Historian, The Spatial Historian, The Programming Historian, this day, this week, this month, this year — are all a part of being a historian.

Back to work.