taking history into the 21st century
in front of Monticello are organizers of the "History
and New Technologies in the 21st Century"conference,
held at the nearby Kenwood estate last month. Left to right
are: William Thomas, director of U.Va.'s Virginia Center for
Digital History; Holly Shulman, of U.Va.; Jim Horn, from the
International Center for Jefferson Studies; and Worthy Martin,
U.Va. associate professor of computer science. Superimposed
on the laptop computer screen is a letter-copying device,
called a polygraph, which Jefferson acquired in 1804. U.Va.'s
founder declared it "the finest invention of the present
By Charlotte Crystal
technology opens new paths for research into early American history,
but it also has intro- duced issues that are yet to be resolved,
according to participants at a conference in Charlottesville last
meeting, which included 40 leading historians of the early American
republic, was organized by members of Monticello's International
Center for Jefferson Studies and three U.Va. entities: the
Institute for Advanced
Technology in the Humanities, Studies
of Women and Gender program, and the Virginia
Center for Digital History.
conference was the first-ever meeting of its kind to be held by
historians," said Holly Shulman, research associate professor
and a Dolley Madison scholar at U.Va. who was one of the organizers.
"Changes won't take place overnight, but I have high hopes
for the outcome."
history professors already incorporate new technologies into their
teaching in many ways -- such as using e-mail to hold virtual
office hours, accept assignments or post reserve reading on the
those functions, research capabilities are expanding as more and
more information is digitized and made available on the Internet.
Data storage and data mining techniques create new possibilities
for researchers to gather huge quantities of data and analyze
them in new ways. Electronic publication opportunities also have
Jefferson would have been fascinated by the Internet," said
Jim Horn, Saunders Director of the International Center for Jefferson
Studies. "Its global reach, speed, interconnectivity and
potential for communication and education would have kept him
at his writing desk for long hours."
explored such issues as:
the question of "gate keeping" and how peer-reviewed
journals could, or whether they should, retain control of professional
the changing nature of "publications" from books and
articles to multi-layered documents online that use hypertext
the issue of finality in a medium that allows editing and updating
the ease of collaborating with other authors and new opportunities
for interdisciplinary projects;
new relationships between authors and readers in a medium that
allows for interactivity;
the importance of archives' structures, their maintenance and
their ability to be searched over time as technology changes;
the likelihood of an evolving role for historians as primary
documents become accessible to almost anyone over the Web.
organizers intend to keep in touch with participants and other
historians interested in exploring the new capabilities that information
technology offers. Their efforts will include a web site devoted
to Jefferson studies and the early national period, sponsored
by the International Center for Jefferson Studies, which will
be developed in collaboration with the Virginia Center for Digital
History and the U.Va. Electronic Text Center.
discussions also will be summarized in an upcoming edition of
the American Historical Association's journal, Perspectives.
the conference web site at http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/nhnt/