As I walk around, the heart of campus is beating with the energy brought on by the start of a new semester. This pulsation seeps into the classrooms where chalk hits blackboards with fresh information. I relish the feeling of excitement and unfamiliarity especially in the uncharted territory of Digital History. To say I am generally inexperienced in the digital world would be accurate. When presented with a task I usually opt for the old-fashioned way of doing things (I write this as I listen to an LP on my record player). This all goes to demonstrate how I am now treading through a foreign land.
But I love traveling. And a good challenge. I look forward to exploring the possibilities Digital History has to offer in expanding my horizons as a student of the past. One area I will strive for growth in is my understanding of computer programs that aid the historian. Already three weeks into the Fall 2015 semester and our class lights up at the sound of “Zotero.” We have happily converted to the Zotero programming system where helpful articles, websites, books, and more are effortlessly stored for future use. Reading Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web by Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig has further proved the importance of making digital technology work for the historian’s advantage. This semester, it will be a priority to take Cohen and Rosenzweig’s discussed skills like web page production, archival scanning, and public presentation and apply them to our study of history. Having a working knowledge of the tools that make Digital History possible will serve as the map directing my academic steps.
In this new adventure I am embarking on, I also want to do my part to preserve and restore the past. There is a special emphasis placed on local history which will hopefully inspire my colleagues and me to dig deeper into the rich wellspring our area has to offer us. While being a mere 15 minutes away from Messiah College‘s campus, I know far less about Harrisburg than I would like. Through research projects, readings, and interaction with the city itself, my journey will be dedicated to accumulating knowledge and dissolving misconceptions about our state capital. As we address movements like City Beautiful in Harrisburg, I eagerly await my role in the new awakening of Harrisburg’s history.
Following my map of technological skill, I aim to reach my destination of discovering and adding to the wonder of local history by the end of the semester. The prospect of what can be achieved in four months personally and academically is what makes this spirit of adventure so tangible. It courses through the veins of students who, like me, thrive off of new experiences and stretching themselves. To conclude my thoughts on the start of a new semester in Digital History I leave you with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby.