Monday, February 02, 2015

Why I love Roy Rosenzweig

One of my greatest scholarly regrets is that I never had the opportunity to meet Roy Rosenzweig before he passed away in 2007. The year that he died, I had just started an exploration of digital history methods that has since become a passion of mine.  I was introduced to his work in graduate school by NYU's Peter Wosh.  I came to appreciate his efforts on a deeper level through my curatorial work at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, especially when the museum became a joint repository of the September 11 Digital Archive.

Since striking out on my own in 2012, I have devoted more time and energy to mastering some of Dr. Rosenzweig's legacy projects including Omeka, and Historical Thinking Matters. And, now that I am teaching my own digital history class at Georgia State University, it has been my pleasure to read through Clio Wired, a collection of his most iconic essays.

I began my class with an exploration of the nature of history, thinking about the work of the earliest historians, especially Herodotus. In his 2005 essay, "Collecting History Online," Dr. Rosenzweig compares the work of contemporary internet-based history collectors with that of Herodotus.

"Upon reflection, it appears that these online collections of the future are not unlike the very first history of Herodotus, which the potential to promote an inclusive and wide-ranging view of the historical record. In this travels around the Mediterranean region, Herodotus recorded the sentiments of both Persians and Greeks, common people in addition to leading figures, competing accounts, legends s well as facts. He wanted to save all of these stores before they were forgotten so that the color of the past would not be lost.  And as he told his audience, he was also cataloging and recounting it all because in the future people might have different notions of what or who is important...Using the internet to collect history shares this vision: it is undoubtedly a more democratic history than found in selective physical archives or nicely smoothed historical narratives, and it shares democracy's messiness, contradictions, and disorganization -- as well as its inclusiveness, myriad viewpoints, and vibrant popular spirit."

Here's to trying to keep Dr. Rosenzweig's vision of the potential of digital history alive!



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