The Past's Digital Presence, February 19-20, 2010


18 - How-To Digital Humanities: "Camera, laptop, and what else?: Hacking Better Tools for the Short Archival Trip"

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This talk examines the finer points of doing archival research with the aid of a digital camera, drawing on my experience with these methods at about 15 archival repositories across the US. Here, I focus on my work with the papers of the US Children’s Bureau, a large (1400 cubic foot) collection held by the National Archives, which holds important primary sources about American women’s history. First, I discuss some practical details of hardware and procedure for shooting research-quality photos of archival materials. Second, I describe the techniques and tools I’ve found useful for organizing my research images, both at the library and away from it, and I explore some of the challenges I think historians face in using commercially-available software tools to organize our research. Finally, I propose some ideas for future software–desktop, cloud-based, and social— that could make this style of work less frustrating and open new avenues for creative, collaborative research.

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This Article is Open Access