Hello everyone! My name is Raphael Governali, and I am a first year General History graduate student at American University. I live about an hour North of New York City, in Westchester County (or, as it is tenderly known by New Yorkers, “Upstate.”) I came to AU from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT, where I received my BA in General History. There, I wrote a thesis in which I studied the tactics employed by the American abolitionists, in their fight against slavery. My interest in abolition first began in May of 2019, when I started an internship with the John Jay Homestead. At that internship, I was tasked with transcribing a variety of letters from William Jay, the son of John Jay, and an active member of the American abolitionist movement. Abolition remains my primary historical interest, however, the Civil War and Reconstruction class which I took last semester has expanded my interests into 19th-century American political history as well.
One of my first introductions to digital history came in February of 2020, when I served as an intern at the New Haven Museum. There, I was tasked with photographing, measuring, and accessioning a variety of collections materials. Then, some of these materials would be posted to the museum’s online exhibition. This experience gave me behind-the-scenes exposure to the processes and tools which go into the publishing of history online, like working with professional databases, and following guidelines for how the collections materials should be prepared for online exhibition.
With the emergence of COVID-19, and subsequently the move to online spaces for many museums, the importance of digital history has been made even clearer to me. When applied correctly, digital history can afford historians the opportunity to reach a far greater audience than they might otherwise be able to, and it can allow historians to utilize multimedia tools not just to convey the ideas of history, but the experiences of history as well.
In taking this class on digital history, I hope to discover the tools that a historian can use to research and publish online, and how to utilize those tools correctly. Although the old ways of doing history will certainly remain relevant, like reading and publishing in journals and at conferences, it will be important for historians to utilize these new tools and spaces of history. I am looking forward to getting to know the rest of you better, and to begin to be a part of the change that is happening in the field of history.