Scholars as Students: Introductory Digital History Training for Mid-Career Historians

by Sharon M. Leon and Sheila A. Brennan

August 2015

Research, Scholarship, Teaching Digital History


Mid-career college and university faculty generally have achieved a significant level of expertise in their field of study. At the same time, research suggests that experts may not be so clear about every step of the cognitive work they undertake to attack a new research question or problem. In fact, the more expert an individual is, the less easy it is for that person to surface their process and articulate it for someone else. Only by being consciously pushed to consider, reconsider, and articulate these methodological assumptions, can we open a flexible space for new approaches that can complicate and compliment existing habits of mind. Together, these ideas make up some of the underlying approach that the team at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) at George Mason University (Mason) took to design and in conducting the Doing Digital History (Doing DH) two-week intensive summer institute for mid-career American historians. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Office of Digital Humanities as an Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities in August 2014 and under the direction of Sharon M. Leon and Sheila A. Brennan, the effort brought together twenty-three mid-career digital novices to learn the theories and methods of digital history. Experts in their field of American history, these novices in digital methodologies were nervous, unsure of their own abilities, and intimidated by digital history. They all left as confident digital ambassadors with new skills, insights, and motivation to pursue digital work and become active participants in the growing community of digital humanists.

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