Today I saw the notice from the American Historical Association that there will be 23 separate sessions at the Association’s annual meeting devoted to digital history/digital humanities topics.
If only Roy Rosenzweig were here to see his vision being realized at last.
Seeing the variety of topics covered at these sessions, I realized that I’ve made a mistake in planning to skip the meeting this year. I actually haven’t been to an annual meeting in a couple of years, largely because I had kind of burned out on the whole experience, but also because it had been a while since I had seen a panel on the program that I might have actually wanted to attend. Not so this year. There are at least a dozen offerings on the program that I’m sorry I won’t be able to sit in on.
Kudos to the program committee for upping the digital presence at the annual meeting. I guess I’ll have to put it back on my travel schedule for next year. And, darn it all, the meeting will be in New Orleans…I hate it when that happens.
Today the Center for History and New Media became the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. Roy would have been so embarrassed by this name change, because one of his goals in life was to make sure everyone else got credit for the work they were doing with him. Taking credit was just not his style. But today, $1,020,000 later, we’ve given credit where credit is due.
It’s almost impossible for me to believe that Roy has been gone almost four years. I think about him almost every day and on a regular basis I still expect to see him slouching through the door in his bomber jacket, his messenger bag over one shoulder, and a large cup of coffee clutched in his hand. Like all of the several dozen people at today’s dedication of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, I owe him more than I can possibly put into words.
We miss you Roy.
In 2009, George Mason University and the American Historical Association will offer the first Roy Rosenzweig Fellowship for Innovation in Digital History. This award was developed by friends and colleagues of Roy Rosenzweig (1950–2007), Mark and Barbara Fried Professor of History and New Media at George Mason University, to honor his life and work as a pioneer in the field of digital history.
This nonresidential fellowship will be awarded annually to honor and support work on an innovative and freely available new media project, and in particular for work that reflects thoughtful, critical, and rigorous engagement with technology and the practice of history. The fellowship will be conferred on a project that is either in a late stage of development or which has been launched in the past year but is still in need of further improvements. The fellow(s) will be expected to apply awarded funds toward the advancement of the project goals during the fellowship year.
In a 1-2 page narrative, entries should provide a method of access to the project (e.g., web site address, software download), indicate the institutions and individuals involved with the project, and describe the project’s goals, functionality, intended audience, and significance. A short budget statement on how the fellowship funds will be used should be attached. Projects may only be submitted once for the Rosenzweig Fellowship.
The entry should be submitted by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions about the prize and application process should be directed to email@example.com. The deadline for submission of entries is May 15, 2009. Recipients will be announced at the 2010 AHA Annual Meeting in San Diego.
Several years ago, our late colleague Roy Rosenzweig wrote a very important article for the American Historical Review on what is happening and what may happen to the digital record of our days. In his direct and clear way, Roy called on governments, historians, archivists, and others to take seriously the notion that we have to find ways to preserve and make available the hundreds of thousands of terabytes of information being generated weekly (if not daily) in the digital present.
One of the places that Roy’s charge has been taken up is the Centre for Media History at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. A mutli-disciplinary research and teaching center, the CMH brings together a number of scholars active in digital humanities, media research, filmmakers, and researchers interested in issues of access. As a recent news item pointed out, the CHM will not only be producing resources for the general public, encouraging innovative teaching, and fostering research, its members will also be advocating for more systematic preservation of digital records in both the public and private sectors.
Across the United States (and around the world) there are many universities that could bring together interested faculty and others around similar purposes. But it’s really up to those of us in the academy interested in these issues to take the lead. For so many people in government or the private sector, preserving the mushrooming volume of email, text messages, digital video, blog postings, and just plain digitalized documents is just a headache rather than an imperative. The more we can do to provide guidance on the development of infrastructure for the preservation of these born-digital or digitalized materials, the more our students and their students will have to work with when they begin to address the history of the early 21st century.
Centers like the CHM in Sydney provide a useful model for how we might proceed.