Digital archives present the historian with both great opportunities and challenges.
Databases for the Rich. Many in the information industry have recognized that there is a market for historical information. Databases from companies such as ProQuest, EBSCO, GALE, and Chadwyk are sold to universities on a subscription basis for many thousands of dollars a year. These subscription-only archives empower scholars at large universities, but serve as a barrier to anyone who is unable to visit a university or pay for these expensive resources.
Digital Archives for Everyone. On the other hand thousands of universities and organizations are preserving historical records and making them freely available to everyone - in the form of digital archives. Large organizations such as HathiTrust, Library of Congress, Internet Archive, Digital Public Library of America, and Europeana preserve and offer a wealth of historical information. Universities and other organizations are also building digital archives and repositories. Yet much of the riches stored in these archives can only be retrieved with great effort. No one search engine - not even Google - can locate the majority of what is now stored in these digital archives. The information in many archives - such as IndexUNI - an archive of historic UNI publications such as older student newspapers - can only be searched from within the archive. Thus, though online historical riches are now available, they are often only found by those willing to explore individual digital archives or travel to large universities.
Your Opportunity: Curate a Digital Collection of Primary Resources. Researchers benefit from the efforts of librarians, archivists, and other scholars who organize information into useful collections. This field experience opportunity will provide you with an opportunity to gather a variety of online primary sources on a given topic from a wide variety of digital archives to create a digital history collection that other future researchers can easily locate and appreciate.
Intrigued? Take a moment to review some of the digital primary source collections such as the Anti-Imperialist League, Berlin Wall and the Cold War, Fallout Shelters and the Cold War, Postwar Japan - American Perspectives - 1947-1968, and The Soldiers’ Orphans’ Homes of Cedar Falls and Davenport, Iowa, all created by students during their Field Experience in past semesters.