This roundtable “Fragmentary, Visual, and Spatial: A Panel on Digital Historical Research” will feature three presentations by historians who are transforming what constitutes digital research methodologies through the application and use of digital technologies. Panelists will explore trends within the digital humanities that intersect with major questions within history including, but not limited to: the boundaries between public and private research partnerships with regards to 19th century legal materials, visualization of 20th century political cartoons, and the exploration of green spaces in Imperial Calcutta. Following these short presentations, the roundtable will lead a discussion focused on the intersections of digital methodologies, technologies, and approaches in relation to history.
Simon Appleford, Assistant Professor of History at Creighton University, will present Drawing Liberalism: A Macroanalysis of Herblock's Political Cartoons, 1946-1976. Herbert Block, in his role as political cartoonist for the Washington Post, articulated the values of liberalism to a much broader national audience than was reached by the writings of other liberal writers and intellectuals. As such, he played a critical role in shaping public discourse and opinion across a wide-range of political and social issues during the postwar era. This presentation will analyze Block's body of work from 1946 to 1976 in its entirety--some 8,500 cartoons. Through a series of visualizations, it illuminates longer-scale trends in Block's output that are otherwise obfuscated by the day-to-day nature of his working schedule and explores how Block’s liberalism was reflected through his cartoons. The analysis reveals new insights into how a prominent member of the liberal mainstream interpreted and presented the events of the day and suggests new methodologies that can be deployed by other researchers to interrogate large corpora of visual artifacts.
Jennifer Guiliano, Assistant Professor of History at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, will present Public Need versus Private Speed: Fragmentary History of the 19th and 20th century US. In Public Need versus Private Speed, we will explore the ways in which the privatization of digitization efforts trouble the mission of publicly available cultural heritage repositories. Using examples drawn from ongoing research in 19th century legal petitions and 20th century records of Panama Canal workers, this presentation will highlight the troubling ways in which legal agreements and fiscal responsibility has begun limiting research within archives held by the National Archives. The presentation will reveal the complicated, even fragmentary way in which historians must navigate the boundaries of privatization within public research.
Karen Rodriguez’G, Associate Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and an advanced doctoral candidate in History, will present Mapping Imperial Narratives: Comparing Urban Reform in Calcutta and London c. 1860-1920. Historical narratives of the evolution of these two capital cities of the British empire have provenanced London’s evolution as modern based on an increasingly green urban landscape. Mapping urban changes across both cities disrupts the story of London’s ‘modernity’ as an imperial invention that obscures the uneven and defensive nature of London’s urban landscape. Through digital imagery, this presentation analyzes how by comparing open green space—landscapes linked to modernity—in both cities over the same 60 year period disrupts a Whig narrative of progress and highlights the simultaneous, rather than sequential, ‘greening’ of these two cities.