Doing Digital History with Non-Digital Sources

In discussions about DH in my department, one of the concerns about DH that often surfaces is that digital history is considerably more difficult when the sources are, far from being digitized, not even in print. Where some scholars can grab huge amounts of data from digitized sources to create their networks, for instance, my colleague is building his network one manuscript at a time. Thus, some scholars shy away from DH because it makes research even more complicated rather than simplifying it.

I’d like to discuss how DH can be used for research even when the sources aren’t digital. Perhaps this manifests itself in a different method of using the tools; perhaps it’s merely a different analytical approach. Is there value in doing DH when the data does not fit well into the DH wheelhouse? If there isn’t, what then is the role of DH in researching “older” history?

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About Abby Mullen

I'm a PhD student in the history department at Northeastern University. I study the US Navy in the Barbary Wars. I also work as a research fellow on the Viral Texts project out of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks.