Digital History and the Politics of Digitization | Digital Scholarship in the Humanities | Oxford Academic

Abstract:  Much has been made in recent years of the transformative potential of digital resources and historical data for historical research. Historians seem to be flooded with retro-digitized and born-digital materials and tend to take these for granted, grateful for the opportunities they afford. In a research environment that increasingly privileges what is available online, the questions of why, where, and how we can access what we can access, and how it affects historical research have become ever more urgent. This article proposes a framework through which to contextualize the politics of (digital) heritage preservation, and a model to analyse its most important political dimensions, drawing upon literature from the digital humanities and history as well as archival, library, and information science. The first part will outline the global dimensions of the politics of digital cultural heritage, focusing on developments between and within the Global North and South, framed within the broader context of the politics of heritage and its preservation. The second part surveys the history and current state of digitization and offers a structured analysis of the process of digitization and its political dimensions. Choices and decisions about selection for digitization, how to catalogue, classify, and what metadata to add are all political in nature and have political consequences, and the same is true for access. The article concludes with several recommendations and a plea to acknowledge the importance of digital cataloguing in enabling access to the global human record.


John Hay Library Receives Grants to Digitize Materials of Dissenting U.S. Politics | Brown University Library News

“Through its Divided America project, the John Hay Library will digitize and make available material representing extremes of political thought from 1946 through the 1990s in the United States. With a $250,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission’s Access to Historical Records: Major Initiatives program and a $1.5 million grant from the Arcadia Fund, the project will take on the digitization of about three-fourths of the holdings in the Hall-Hoag Collection of Dissenting and Extremist Printed Propaganda. Consisting of nearly 200,000 individual items from over 5,000 organizations, the Hall-Hoag Collection is the country’s largest research collection documenting the ideas and activities of dissenting right- and left-wing U.S. groups, offering a trove of material that will help scholars and journalists further understand our current political moment. …”

Chronicling America Reaches 50 States

“Chronicling America, the searchable online database of historic American newspapers, will soon include digitized newspapers from all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and housed and maintained online at the Library of Congress, Chronicling America offers free online access to 19.9 million pages of newspapers published in the United States between 1777 and 1963….”

FFDW Works with Prelinger Archives to Make Rare Historic Films More Accessible Using the Decentralized Web | by Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web | Aug, 2022 | Medium

“Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web (FFDW) is proud to announce its collaboration with Prelinger Archives, a San Francisco-based historical film archive, to make rare and one-of-a-kind films accessible to the general public. The Prelinger Archives will use the award from FFDW to digitize a vast collection of archival 8mm, 16mm, and 35mm film footage held by both Prelinger Archives and Internet Archive and make these materials broadly accessible to the public through both Internet Archive and the decentralized web….”

Open GLAM survey – Douglas McCarthy

“The Open GLAM survey examines how GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) make open access data – whether digital objects, metadata or text – available for re-use. Its working definition of ‘open’ is guided by Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Definition. Its summary statement is ‘open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose’ and the Definition helpfully provides a list of licences, rights statements and legal tools that accord with this spirit.

The survey covers data that GLAMs make available on their websites and/or external platforms. It focuses on digital surrogates of objects in the public domain, where any term of copyright for the material object has expired or never existed in the first place. Survey information is gathered via desk research and outreach to the global GLAM community.

The survey is housed and managed in a publicly accessible Google Sheet, and uploaded regularly to the Internet Archive. The survey has an extensive range of data points including institution name, type and country; licences/rights statements for digital surrogates and metadata; links to Terms of Use and copyright policies….”

Millions of Images From Ebony and Jet Magazines Will Soon Be Accessible to All

“Ownership of the Johnson Publishing Company Archive, which includes the photographic archives of Ebony and Jet magazines, has been formally transferred jointly to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) and the Getty Research Institute. Sold for $30 million in 2019, academics, archivists, and artists were reassured to learn that the vast trove would pass into the hands of institutions committed to preserving and facilitating public access to it after extended anxiety that it would be won at auction by private collectors….”

Canada to open one of the world’s largest library and archive facilities

“When it opens in 2026, ?dis?ke is expected to be one of the largest library and archive facilities in the world. 

With work now underway, the 216,000-square-foot, $326 million facility will house the Ottawa Public Library’s new central branch as well as Canada’s national library and archives. ?dis?ke will offer free and open access to millions of documents and Canada’s documentary heritage. It will be the first new building in the Parliamentary District in nearly 30 years. …”

Getty opens access to 30,000 images of black diaspora in UK and US | Photography | The Guardian

“A collection of almost 30,000 rarely seen images of the black diaspora in the UK and the US, dating from the 19th century to the present, has been launched as part of an educational initiative to raise awareness of the history of black people in the UK.

The Black History & Culture Collection includes more than 20 categories of images including politics, hair, education, female empowerment and LGBTQ+….”

DPLA receives $850,000 in new funding from the Mellon Foundation to support the advancement of racial equity in American archives | DPLA

“Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is pleased to announce an $850,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to support its effort to advance racial justice in American archives. This funding will enable DPLA to launch a digital equity project to develop community-based partners and increase partner capacity to lead this work. The three-year project will provide support for underrepresented, under-resourced archives and expand DPLA’s capacity for supporting and partnering with diverse archival projects….”


“In the last few years, several major museums and libraries have instituted an open access policy by designating most or all of the public domain art in their collections with a creative commons license making them available for use for any purpose with no restrictions attached.

We sort through and aggregate the best of these images in one location to make them easy to discover and download.

Some of our sources include….”

Lakota elders helped a white man preserve their language. Then he tried to sell it back to them.

“ay Taken Alive had been fighting for this moment for two years: At his urging, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Council was about to take the rare and severe step of banishing a nonprofit organization from the tribe’s land. 

The Lakota Language Consortium had promised to preserve the tribe’s native language and had spent years gathering recordings of elders, including Taken Alive’s grandmother, to create a new, standardized Lakota dictionary and textbooks. 


But when Taken Alive, 35, asked for copies, he was shocked to learn that the consortium, run by a white man, had copyrighted the language materials, which were based on generations of Lakota tradition. The traditional knowledge gathered from the tribe was now being sold back to it in the form of textbooks.  

“No matter how it was collected, where it was collected, when it was collected, our language belongs to us. Our stories belong to us. Our songs belong to us,” Taken Alive, who teaches Lakota to elementary school students, told the tribal council in April. …”

Study: Open GLAM & education. Teacher’s and educator’s perspective on digital culture resources – Centrum Cyfrowe

“The study is focused on the use of educational digital resources (e.g. lesson plans, learning scenarios, tutorials), educational interactive materials (e.g. games, quizzes, virtual tours) and online, digitised collections (e.g. image, video, sound) developed by cultural heritage institutions such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM).

The study is conducted by Centrum Cyfrowe in partnership with Europeana and EuroClio and aimed at:

understanding the status quo in use of GLAM’s educational interactive materials & resources for educational purposes
supporting the development of new high quality, relevant f GLAM educational interactive materials & resources
promoting them among teachers and non-formal educators…”

Open GLAM & education. Teacher’s and educator’s perspective on digital culture resources

“We invite you to take part in a study about the use of educational interactive materials (e.g. games, quizzes, virtual tours), educational digital resources (e.g. lesson plans, learning scenarios, tutorials) and online, digitial collections (e.g. image, video, sound) developed by cultural heritage institutions such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAM). 

We would like to ask you to fill up a short questionnaire. This will not take more than 10 minutes. The study focuses on teachers, educators and librarians that educate students/pupils approximately from 3 to 18 years old….”

Preserving endangered Islamic manuscripts – College of Arts & Sciences

“The Haalpulaar people were among the first Senegalese to widely embrace Islam. Haalpulaar scholars wrote Islamic manuscripts in Arabic, but also used the Arabic script to write poetry in the local language, a writing system known as Ajam?. Today, Arabic and Pulaar manuscripts are held in family libraries, while Taal’s original library still sits in French libraries since its colonial confiscation in 1890. Most of the manuscripts in Arabic are at the Taal family’s main library in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

Camara said the body of work produced by the Haalpulaar is a bit of an untold story: “It became important to prove that this poetry existed and that it actually predated many of the manuscripts that we boast about in Senegal.” …

Collectively, the team digitized 6,000 pages of text, about 3,500 pages from Senegal and 2,500 from Mali. The materials will be archived in three digital repositories — the British Library’s Endangered Archives Program, University Libraries and the West African Research Center in Senegal. The project also received support from the AAAD department and the African Studies Center at UNC….”