Reviewed December 2018
Cassie Swayze, Digital Assets Librarian
Art & Art History Subject Selector
University Libraries, The University of Mississippi
Current Research in Digital History is an annual online publication managed by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. According to the publication’s "About" page, its objective is to encourage and publish scholarship in digital history by offering discipline-specific arguments and interpretations. The journal is open access and no specific software is needed. Authors are encouraged to use visualizations, graphics, and associated data or code to support their findings. The journal’s editors also provide authors with DOIs, associated metadata, and Google Scholar indexing to promote discoverability. These features ensure published research is accessible and easy for users to locate. Writers of essays published in Current Research in Digital History also present their findings at an annual one-day conference hosted by George Mason University. The journal follows the traditional peer-review model and authors are eligible for a small stipend to attend the spring conference.
Current Research in Digital History has published one volume and is soliciting proposals for the 2019 issue. The first volume focuses on digital history across centuries and geography, although there is a focus on agriculture and Virginia history, which is unsurprising as the journal is published in the region. One article focuses specifically on visitor and access services in museum exhibits. In it, the authors suggest innovative approaches to museum interpretation through text mining practices, and include examples and suggestions for successful mining techniques. This is the only article without large-format visualizations or graphics to aid readers. Otherwise, each publication is accompanied by images and interpreted datasets, although images included alongside research cannot be magnified by the user. Though this would be a desired feature, it should be noted that the majority of open access journals do not support zoomable graphics, except the Journal of Digital Humanities, which in some articles allows readers to view images, charts, and graphs in a new window with higher resolution.
Each article in the Current Research in Digital History is well-researched, focused, and includes bibliographic citations. The intended audience is historians or students of history with an interest in digital humanities (DH) projects. This is one of several open access publications focused on digital history research. The site itself is well executed and easily navigable, and presents innovative research. It is an appropriate resource for history professors or subject librarians to recommend, especially upper-division and post-secondary students interested in pursuing research projects using DH tools. The site is coherent and straightforward in its design. Each article follows the same format: title, abstract, data, visualizations or graphics, and bibliography. Its format is clean and mobile-friendly, an advantage over more established but less navigable journals like the now-defunct D-Lib Magazine. The text is presented in black on a white background, with colorful graphics highlighting both data and interpretation. There is little technology used for this first issue, although the journal is evolving and there may be interactive features included in future issues.
Current Research in Digital History would benefit from further documentation of the digital history methodologies used by researchers to draw their conclusions. Although some of the feature articles include Github links and zipped folders containing source data, future issues might make documentation more prominent for readers. GitHub accounts or related documentation of code, data analysis, and digital humanities toolkits used would allow fellow researchers to replicate successful analyses in their own inquiries. Current Research in Digital History fills an emerging need in the field of digital history, and would certainly be of use to historians and students with an interest in DH projects.