Democratizing History – Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media

Democratizing History – Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media


Okay, whatever you want to do, alright? So let’s talk about those, those early days. Well, when you’re ready. No, go, go ahead. When Roy was hired, he was always committed to
the notion that history wasn’t just for the historians or the people in our classes. It was for the public. It was for a broader public. Roy’s vision for the center, Roy Rosenzweig’s
vision was very much about breaking down the ivory towers. Democratizing history, you know, he conceived of that
at a time in which you could reach new audiences with information about the past who otherwise
might not have access to that. You know, we all thought he was wasting his
time. We thought scholarship and teaching, that
was, that was the coin of the realm. The idea that you could put these really great
images and these really great sources on a CD-ROM instead of a textbook. You could get so much more to the teachers
and students who could really make the most use out of it. And he decides that we need a center. He’s the only guy in the center. So he puts on his door, he had a terrible
office, a really interior office, a poster like this. And the poster is “Roy Rosenzweig, Center
for History and New Media.” But the fact to have that sort of imagination,
at that time, when no one really knew what the internet was going to be or what computers
were going to do or anything of that nature. And to have many of those websites still have millions of people who actually visit them every single year. One of the most important defining moments
for the center was September 11th, 2001 when we decided to create a collecting history
site around the tragedies of that day. The September 11 Digital Archive has, I don’t
know, over 150,000 digital objects in it, and was the Library of Congress’s first
born-digital acquisition. And so that was a really important moment
for us. The different projects that the center works
on, touches on so many different topics, on so many different levels. Whether it’s geared towards elementary school
students, whether it’s geared towards high school and maybe even college students. Not just historians, but also breaking down
disciplinary boundaries. So PressForward works with, we spent a lot of
time on that grant with scientists, helping them take their research and making it publicly
accessible on the web. Sadly, the second defining moment for the
center was when Roy died. And of course we all couldn’t believe it and
missed him terribly, but The hardest part for us, in many ways, was
to figure out how to go forward without him. And I think the fact that we have gone forward
without Roy, and the fact that we’ve done so incredibly well since that time, is a real
testament to what he left behind when he died. This is the Manassas Gap Shelter. It’s one of the oldest shelters on the Appalachian Trail. It was built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation
Corps. And I often get the question of why do you
go to all this trouble to do this kind of digital preservation of historic sites like
this beautiful old shelter. The answer is that a lot
of these resources are disappearing. I mean just to give you an example. This stuff right here is an invasive grass
that’s taking over the Appalachian Trail, and if we weren’t fighting it back all the
time, before long it would completely take over this site. These logs are chestnut logs and they’re the
last of the chestnut logs in Virginia. If we’re going to make these historical resources
available for future generations, it’s critical that we digitize them now. Each continuing project that I worked on,
that I started on, that I assisted with It reemphasized that, yeah, this is, we’re
doing stuff. Like it’s making a difference, it’s exciting,
it’s good and I want to invest, I want to help students period. This is a place where we can think through
what history means and who is likely to read it, to use it, to interacted with it. And have access to a model of how to do history
responsibly and well. In a way that can transform civic discourse,
it can transform public understanding of the past. In ways that can make an impact that our traditional
scholarship simply cannot. A lot of DH Centers exist. They build a lot of really cool one-off projects. But what the center has done so far is we’ve
built software that has enabled hundreds, thousands of one-off projects. Right? We’ve built Zotero, Omeka, Tropy. I want us to keep innovating in that space. And so it’s a balance between doing really
creative, fun, interesting one-off projects, but also making them sustainable, so that
five years from now, 10 years from now, 50 years from now people can still look at our
projects. For a place like Mason to be able to claim
to be the best at something that’s just this invaluable resource. And you know, we built this over time. And so sustaining it is really crucial. The center today is still that place Roy created. It’s still the place where people sit around
a table, have ideas, kick those ideas around, and come up with things that nobody would
have thought possible a few years earlier.

Author:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *