With the advent of the digital world, there have been many changes for historians.

The field as a whole has begun to shift, with a focus on “expanding access to the past” and looking into developing new tools rather than new arguments. With this expanded access comes an emphasis on a new audience – the public.

Previously, most historians had been focused primarily on providing information to a strictly academic audience. With the digital age, history and museum collections are being found online.

I can attest to the fact that many primary source collections are now available online, reaching a far wider audience than they would have if they had remained available only in their museums. Much of my research deals with Eastern Europe and, due to the wonders of digitization, I am able to discover new sources even without having to jump through an extensive number of hoops.

Unfortunately, there have been some hiccups along the way.

  1. The first computer revolution in the 1960’s failed due to quantitative history being seen as turning the past into a lab.
  2. Pay walls have effectively cut off discussion and defeated the purpose of expanding access to broader populations.
  3. It has been difficult to find cohesion between the past, present, and future.

Even still, some historians are continuing to push the scope of digital history, determined to break down out-dated barriers set up because of fear.

These historians push the envelope by teaching courses primarily online or arguing that Wikipedia – and encyclopedias in general – isn’t something to degrade.

Overall, the field is evolving and certain institutions are finally beginning to catch up by setting guidelines and definitions for what the field is and what it is not.

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