A Book-Based Discipline?

“History has been and remains a book-based discipline.” This was in the AHA statement regarding the publication of dissertations, and it’s a statement that many in the historical field find to be true. Books and articles seem to be the end goal for many historians, and many times, tenure and promotion depend on these works. Many times in my young career, I have encountered statements of, “oh, this project is great, but it’s not like an article. Can you publish one based off of this?” or “that particular project doesn’t count for much to traditional historians.”  I, as someone who enjoys and probably prefers doing projects over articles and papers, feel that maybe this concept should be overhauled. Why DOESN’T it count as much? Why, if we are using the same values and methodology, should one output be devalued due to its presentation? Dr. Jason M. Kelly explains in his article “Open Access and the Historical Profession” that, “at research institutions, the book is the standard of scholarship.  Many justify this perspective by arguing that the work it takes to prepare a book is very different from other research outputs. “

In particular, one quote stood out the most to me–“Prioritizing the book over other forms of scholarship reinforces a division between those who produce work for other scholars and those who produce work for and with the public when, in fact, both academic historians and public historians should be producing work for and with other scholars and the public.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. History shouldn’t be available only to those who pay for a book or an expensive journal subscription (which JSTOR has kindly decided that individuals can purchase a membership for $200 a year.) History isn’t just for scholars–it’s for everyone.


Saving Historical Evidence

While reading Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig’s Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, I was struck by two questions that they asked:

“In other words, why delete anything from the current historical record if it costs so little save it?”

“How might our history writing be different if all historical evidence were available?”

These two questions, I feel, are still very important and relevant questions to ask. In an era where things are easily deleted, considered irrelevant, or even produced only through email, we’re facing, as historians, a dilemma of maintaining sources for the future. During my time at the University of Central Florida, one of the things we discussed the most for the Veteran’s History Project was the importance of collecting oral histories, as much of the correspondence of recent veterans is through email, rather than writing letters. These emails are easily lost or even just deleted, which would remove a huge source of information for future and present historians that are trying to explore this information. How do we, as historians, tackle the issue of the the deletion of potential sources? How could we potentially make this information available? Certainly, the internet has made many sources available people that were not previously available, such as through digital archives and web projects, but is there a way to inform people about the importance of their digital footprint and sources?  It is also important to consider the vast amount of content that people are creating now, through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other web sources, and how these items could potentially relate to the future historic record. 

Clearly it would be impossible to save every single item that is created, and even still, we might not want to. However, it is worth considering what types of sources will be saved from our very digital and easily deleted era.

Anne Ladyem-An Introduction

Hello all! My name is Anne Ladyem McDivitt. I will be joining you all at Mason this year to start my PhD, and I have lived in Orlando, Florida for the past several years. I completed both my MA and my BA at the University of Central Florida, and during that time, I was able to accomplish many things, such as curating several exhibits, serving as a GTA, and working within a local history museum. I also completed my MA thesis, which examined the US video game industry from 1958-1986 and its relation to white, middle class masculinity. It was quite fun to research and write, and I am very proud of it! I have also been known to study the African American Civil Rights Movement and Vikings for fun. During my spare time (which is becoming increasingly less), I enjoy playing video games, reading comics, and I have recently become quite the soccer fan. I look forward to meeting you all this semester, and my Twitter handle is @anneladyem, for when you need that.

Because it seemed fun and so you know who you’re being introduced to, I have attached a photo of myself being a soccer hooligan in Orlando. 😀 (I’m the tiny one.)