Digital History at Harvard

 The advent of digital technologies has been hailed as a transformational moment in academia. Digital scholarship challenges existing theoretical paradigms and enables new modes of scholarly inquiry, collaboration, publication, and pedagogy.

 At present, these new research approaches and training programs have been incorporated at best unevenly across the university. As a rule of thumb, the humanities and the interpretive social sciences lag behind other fields in the degree to which they have incorporated these advances into new research approaches and training programs. The piecemeal adoption of many digital initiatives can be traced to many factors, including the fact that digital methods and tools do not always translate well across disciplines. Finally, digital scholarship is subtly influenced by the awareness of its own evanescence, since digital platforms currently offer no guarantee of long-term sustainability.

 Responding to these challenges, the digital strategy developed by the Department of History at Harvard adopts a careful, theoretically informed approach that tailors the new tools and methodologies to the unique concerns of the discipline. Our goal is to plan for the long term by developing new initiatives through teaching and training. We seek to create the kind of in-house expertise that is essential not only to maintain existing resources, but also to take on new projects. Our belief is that this model, suitably adapted, can work well for other instructional units.

 The two key components of our approach to instruction are the Digital Teaching Fellows (DiTF) program, which provides support for digital instruction in lecture courses, and a related tutorial program, the History Lab, which offers undergraduates the opportunity to develop their skills while working on faculty-directed research projects.