According to The Journal of American History, digital history is “anything (research method, journal article, monograph, blog, classroom exercise) that uses digital technologies in creating, enhancing, or distributing historical research and scholarship.” (pp. 453) Digital history appears to be new enough that its range is pretty vast. Almost anything that was produced or distributed with the aid of any technology can fall into this up and coming field. William G. Thomas III’s definition of digital history is also vague, but I like where it’s going: “To do digital history, then, is to create a framework, an ontology, through the technology for people to experience, read, and follow an argument about a historical problem.” (pp. 454)
By the time I finally got around to going to college pretty much everything was either already or on its way to being digitized. As my favorite Latin American history instructor would always tell her students, we have it easy. Most of us don’t know what it is like to have to look for a journal article by using a card catalog. An incalculable quantity of information is available to us at the click of a mouse. And any information we, as historians, put out there can be read, viewed, and experienced, just as fast.
Best of Both Worlds highlights the other side of the coin. Digital history is not only about making it easier for historians to create and distribute their research, it’s about seeing the transfer of knowledge through from origin to recipient. Historians don’t just want to share information with other historians. That would make for a very short conversation. The goal of historians is to convey their findings to the public and get them to engage. I like to think about it like T.V. show or movie or book that I am really into at the moment. All I want to do is share my passion with others. It wouldn’t be any fun, though, if I was the only one talking. Museums in particular have a huge task in getting people to engage. Most museum visitors go to look, not to ask questions. This is where digital history is crucial. I agree with Matthew K. Gould who finds that “digital humanities is not just ‘the next big thing’…but simply ‘the Thing’…” Welcome to the twenty-first century.