Konstanin Dierks, Associate Professor, Department of History
I have been the principal investigator for an ongoing digital history project entitled “Globalization of the United States, 1789-1861.” As a trained historian I have had a steep learning curve in turning my historical vision into digital reality. This learning curve has involved many more steps and levels than I ever imagined. Indeed, now that the foundational website for this project is nearing stability, the maintenance phase is immediately presenting new technical challenges.
This presentation is meant to walk through this learning curve from the perspective of a faculty scholar initiating and then overseeing a long-term digital history project. I shall start, necessarily, with the historical vision, digital ignorance, and management naivete I initially brought to the project. I shall then scrutinize each subsequent phase of the project: what had to be learned, what help was needed, what resources had to be marshaled, et cetera. We might ask “how was everything actually done each step of the way?” but the important unavoidable fact is that I can only answer this question from a limited perspective.
I thus can represent one portion of a digital history project: the faculty scholar with heavy research and teaching responsibilities who contributes their mite to a collaboration where all participants have heavy responsibilities of their own. For my part, I had to learn how to translate historical research into a digital format; I had to learn arcane technical vocabularies; and I had to learn how to manage a network of necessarily part-time work.