Rare Book School

RBS Home| Course Schedule | Admissions | Support RBS | Contact RBS | Previous Years

L-65. Digitizing the Historical Record

Andrew Stauffer & Bethany Nowviskie

This course will focus on the theoretical, institutional, and practical issues involved in the translation of historical documents and objects into digital formats for scholarly use.  Rather than provide extensive training in specific tools and methods, the course will emphasize the stakes, both local and systemic, of choices and protocols for creating digital versions of paper-based forms. The course will focus primarily on nineteenth-century literary materials from Britain and America (1770-1920) and digital archives associated with NINES (Networked Infrastructure for Nineteenth-century Electronic Studies), a hub for online discovery and scholarship, and a peer-reviewing organization for digital projects.  Additionally, drawing on the expertise of the University of Virginia Library's Scholars' Lab, we will consider challenges and opportunities related to the digitization of non-textual data in the humanities, with special attention to scanned historical maps and demographic information gleaned from special collections and government documents.

Our attention will be equally divided between physical texts (mainly print and manuscript) from the library and RBS collections on the one hand, and digital archives on the other. Our goal will be to analyze and imagine the implications of various technological transformations on the system of books and other documents that support historical inquiry into past cultures. We will be considering topics such as markup, data, metadata, interface, visualization, and archiving from a theoretical angle, with specific examples simultaneously brought to bear from the world of print and the digital environment. Our attention will also be directed to larger practical considerations, including the choice of what to digitize (and the costs involved), the building of institutional partnerships, the discovery and re-use of digitized content by the scholarly community, and the long-term life of digital projects.

The course is intended for anyone involved with the digitization of historical documents, especially those who would like to think about the larger issues and implications from a scholarly and institutional perspective. Participants should bring a laptop to class, if possible.

Course Resources

Course History


Andrew Stauffer teaches this course for the first time.