How has the internet changed how history is taught, learned, and explored?
In our inaugural post, Chair Dr. John Sacher discusses some of the ways the University of Central Florida’s Department of History is bringing history into the digital age. Enjoy!
As a historian, my research is focused backwards in time on the American Civil War. As department chair, I recognize that historians and history departments must also focus forward in considering how best to disseminate their ideas. In studying Confederate conscription, I try to decipher the letters and diaries of soldiers, read surviving newspapers, study government documents, and analyze census data. In the twenty-two years since I received my BA in History, an increasing amount of that material is available on-line. In fact, it would be impossible to assign a percentage to this growth since zero percent of the material was available online in 1992.Not only do historians find more of their sources online, but similarly a lot more history research is presented online as well. Personally, I’ve written an article on conscription for the Essential Civil War Curriculum, a web resource assembling peer-reviewed essays on a variety of Civil War topics (Dr. Gannon has also contributed to this website). Also, the UCF history department is home to the RICHES Mosaic Interface, a revolutionary digital repository that houses objects collected through classes and partnerships within and outside UCF. It allows users to search, visualize, and analyze historical data to make new connections and raise new questions about the past. Additionally, RICHES Podcasts offer another medium that our Historians use to teach History to audiences outside our classrooms. Plus, History students who have pursued internships have kept blogs of their experiences. These are just a few or many potential examples of the ways the UCF History department has entered the internet age.
Digital research and digital presentation will never completely replace traditional archival trips and the writing of books and articles. Instead, they will coexist alongside each other. Given the power of this new type of communication, the History department needs to use it to more effectively communicate with our past, current, and future students. Thus, we are starting a UCF History department blog. It will contain a wide variety of information from nuts-and-bolts suggestions on how to navigate the maze that is UCF (such as how students can obtain money to go to History conferences), more general advice (for example, the ubiquitous question of “what should I do with my History degree?”), and more specific details about events and faculty within the History department.
As you read our blogs, feel free to email me at email@example.com to suggest topics you’d like to see in future blogs. And, if you are an alumnus, please email me to let me know what you are doing and if you’d like us to send you materials on upcoming department events.
I hope that you’ll find our department’s efforts to link our study of the past with the communications of the present to be useful. And, while I can’t promise that you’ll find each one of them to be exactly what you’re looking for, I can promise you that they will be much easier to read than the fragment of a 150-year-old letter written by a semi-literate soldier in a cursive handwriting the likes of which you’ve never seen. In short, please take the time to read, enjoy, and respond to our blogs.
John M. Sacher
Chair, History Department