The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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The digital scholar

1  Interdisciplinarity and permeable boundaries

In this video Aaron Shapiro, Director of Public History at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, talks about being a public historian. He discusses two projects where he used a variety of digital scholarship techniques to gain inputs and exposure. As you watch, try to consider how such projects would have been implemented before digital scholarship.

Skip transcript: Aaron Shapiro: digital scholarship at UNC Charlotte

Transcript: Aaron Shapiro: digital scholarship at UNC Charlotte

Aaron Shapiro
One of the challenges for public historians is to make sure that their work is seen by a broad audience. And I came to UNC Charlotte this past year to direct the programme, but for the previous five years I directed the Public History Programme at Auburn University and was involved in a couple projects that I helped get funded and created and integrated into my courses. And so I wanted to talk a little bit about those two projects, in some ways, to highlight what it is that we do as digital public historians.
So the first project involved a small grant from the USDA and involved doing a series of oral histories with retirees from across the South who had worked for the US Forest Service, actually dating from the 1940s to the present. And then, ultimately, what the students were able to do was create a series of different projects. Some of the groups did video projects. Some of them did podcasts. Several of the groups sort of reflected on their experience. And one of the things I really emphasise in class is that it's less about the final project. You can go to the website and look at the final project. But it's more about the process that's involved.
The other project I wanted to highlight a bit this morning was a project that, while I was at Auburn, looked at capturing - well, basically, creating a digital memorial for all Auburn men and women who had died in military service, from the Civil War to the present. This was a project that involved more staff and more folks from all across the university. That project is live, and you could take a look at it. And ultimately what we were able to do was to allow community members to ultimately contribute their stories. And I think that's really one of the wonderful things about digital projects and digital technology. You know, not to disparage the archive, but we need the archive. We need the physical archive. But sometimes we can't get at those stories. And so, when we create digital projects that reach out to the community and engage with the community, it allows folks to feel part of the project and to contribute their own stories that can ultimately be integrated.
What we're trying to do here at UNC Charlotte is to really emphasise the interdisciplinary nature of what we're calling 'digital arts and sciences technologies' - sort of this broader initiative. And so we want to encourage people to really think outside their discipline. And I think the projects that I've been involved with encourage students to say... I mean, that historians need video-production skills. OK? So they need to work with people in communication studies and film studies and to think about how different media actually help us tell stories. And so, for public historians that are working with me and other colleagues in my department, one of the real challenges is to make sure that they leave here with the tools that make them effective public historians in the wider world. And increasingly that means certainly leaving as a solid historian, but it means also bringing to bear a whole host of other knowledge bases, for lack of a better term, that are necessary to really be effective sort of scholars and public historians in the real world.
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Aaron Shapiro: digital scholarship at UNC Charlotte
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This week’s extract from The Digital Scholar is based on Chapter 6 (from page 46 onwards of the PDF). It starts on the next page.

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