So far this semester we have discussed many digital History topics. From the discussions of digitalization of Civil War records in the article Crowdsourcing the Civil War and digital collections during our trip to the library to listen to a lecture from the university’s archivist on searching those collections to Rosenzweig’s article Scarcity or Abundance? Preserving the Past in the Digital Era and looks at such digital collections as the September 11th archive and the Wayback machine, we have learned a lot about digitization when it comes to certain collections. One digital collection that I would like to share with everyone is the Documenting the American South Project sponsored by the University Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Documenting the American South (DocSouth) is a digital publishing initiative that provides Internet access to texts, images, and audio files related to southern history, literature, and culture. Currently DocSouth includes sixteen thematic collections of books, diaries, posters, artifacts, letters, oral history interviews, and songs. The project has been developing for over a decade with the aims of gathering and digitizing all materials related to Southern culture. Most of the collections come from Southern holdings.
The project dates back to 1996 with the Pilot Project to digitize a half dozen highly circulated slave narratives. The project is designed to provide digitized primary materials to researches, scholars, and students. These sources offer a Southern perspective on many parts of American history. The collections included in the project include: The Church and the Southern Black Community, The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, The First Century of the First State University, First-Person Narratives of the American South, Going to the Show, The James Lawrence Dusenbery Journal (1841-1842), Library of Southern Literature, North American Slave Narratives, The North Carolina Experience, North Carolina Maps, North Carolina and the Great War, Oral Histories of the American South, The Southern Homefront (1861-1865), Thomas E. Watson Papers, and True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students at the University of North Carolina.
As a personal note, I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Sherman’s March to the Sea during the Civil War largely with the assistance of the primary sources available in the Documenting the American South Project. This brings up a question that we have discussed in class. If primary sources are digitized these days, then can serious researchers and scholars base their research solely on these digital sources? Or does historical research require scholars to do in person research? This is definitely something that we have to think about in the digital era.