This Post Was Born Digital

Collecting history online offers many new possibilities to historians. Reaching a much more broad audience, saving documents that would otherwise vanish over time, and accessing documents that were not “born digital” are among a few benefits. When considering a category for an online history project it becomes clear that not every subject is suitable for the digital world. A topic in which most of the participants of the event already dead may lead to a lack of documents and testimonies. In addition, an event in which too few individuals participated will yield a lack of information as well. Though it may seem appropriate to avoid esoteric topics, there are at times “cult” followers of such obscure information, but it is still a gamble. From large projects to small projects, it’s always wise to find tools that cut corners for your research, storage, and display of your information. For displaying your media, a safe bet is instant messaging, or preferably e-mail as both were early forms of correspondence on the web that many are comfortable with. Attracting contributors is essential when you want to build a community around your project. Putting your best foot forward by placing your most intriguing content on the home page is a good way to attract people. Conversely, rotating your featured content on the home page works equally well by showing the diversity of your catalog. Of course, seeking out contributors on your own volition can yield positive results as well. Interaction is also important in building your community. Offering a web forum for contributors to discuss their documents and testimonies will give users a sense of unity and ways to connect with like-minded people. A final piece of advice is to always leave open the possibility of revision. If something isn’t working out, then change it. Alter your layout, the medium in which you display documents, the navigation process, etc.

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One thought on “This Post Was Born Digital

  1. I think that sometimes it is surprising how well certain digital tools can be used to bring a topic with few documents or lack of testimony to life. Digital storytelling is a great example of a way a little known topic or one with little documentation can be illustrated in an interesting and engaging way. If the historic topic is void of specific photographs, photographs that are not exactly representations of the specific topic (but are about the same subject or from the time period) can be used to provide context for the topic being presented. As far as design is concerned, I completely agree that it is important to remember that web based products are always open for alterations. And if something does not work out as expected, it can be changed.

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