Navigating the Infinite Archive

With the development and enhancement of the internet the process of researching has dramatically changed. Once upon a time a historian would generate a research question and then subsequently spend the next extended period of time deep in the archive stacks digging through artifact after artifact. The process was rather laborious.

In today’s world the internet plays a more integral part of daily life than ever before. According to Turkel the number of Google searches, Yahoo! Searches, and YouTube video views continues to grow on a daily basis. Along with the growth in the number of searches there also is an ever expanding growth of the content available on the internet.  In addition to the vastness of the internet organizations like Google have launched an effort to digitize every published book in modern history. Turkel believes that it is not unreasonable to think they might finish digitizing the 130 million books within our life time (62).

Turkel establishes seven fundamental principles to doing digital research. Step one is to make everything digital. He proposes that every historian who utilizes analogue sources should take the extra few minutes to digitize the source and preserve. Step two calls for historians to keep stud in the cloud. With the availability of cloud space on servers it allows for historians to backup all work before a catastrophe strikes. He believes in using the LOCKSS principle; that is “Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe”. Next, historians should manage citations in a program such as Zotero. These programs can export citations into word processors using pre-formatted style guides. Step four is an interesting tool for a historian to have access to. Step four requires the information to come to you. The user signs up for an RSS feed. The RSS feed will give a steady stream of news about a selected topic, thus enabling the user to constantly stay updated on a new developments related to a research topic. Step five explains how the limited amounts of time and attention are the scarcest resource. The use of online databases allows for the historian to expedite the process of research.  Step six and seven focus on some of the positive aspects to digital history. The historian is able to collaborate with others, and share their research with fellow professionals.

It is quite fascinating how the world of computers and the internet has changed the way we research. Not to take anything away from traditional research methods but in a world where time is highly valued the use of online databases and the ability to participate in digital history allows for research to be done much more efficiently.

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