Part of the digital realm’s draw is that the internet is a space full of innumerable capabilities. With that in mind we need to recognize the applicable categories, but not pinhole works to a single type.
- Archival/Database – digitized primary documents or a link based site providing access to other online resources
- Teaching Resource
- Exhibit – object based, interpretation (the majority)
- Virtual Tour
By acknowledging the possible categories we can better evaluate the individual sections. In the case of online community forums, how are the forums organized? Is there an overarching theme? Does a moderator regularly police responses and help extend the discussion?
Just as in any scholarly work, the site must have original research and interpretation, as well as a discernable argument. It needs to be more than simply a journal article placed online, it needs to take advantage of the expansive digital tools available to help solidify the argument. For example, when reviewing a teaching resource, the audience or grade-level should be acknowledged and evaluations should be based on that level.
Telling a story online can be an amazing opportunity to not only extend your audience, but also to explain your reasoning in new and innovative ways. The nature of many of the projects is a post-and-forget mentality, which forces authors to lose some level of control in the interpretation. The ease of navigation becomes critical to correctly guide the discussion. By utilizing the web’s interactive capabilities and multiple communication and media platforms, you present a variety of learning styles to help individualize the experience. For instance, if you can create a game-like atmosphere, learn-by-doing readership get a better chance at understanding your message. Likewise, by linking video of an event or oral history, you draw in the audiophiles.
The democratization of history on the web has led to some great amateur projects, however, the best way to differentiate those with scholarly works are proper citations and access to primary sources. Not only does transparency assist with interpretation but helps other researchers and allays any copyright issues.
Unlike most academic scholarship which tends to be hidden from the public eye, one of the greatest attributes of digital works is their ability to reach the masses. If the project cannot be easily found in a key word search engine or requires a fee.
As with any scholarly review, if faults are found, constructive criticism and a few options for consideration should be offered. Since adaptability is one of digital history’s greatest attributes, suggestions for improvement could easily be adopted.