New Article: Mining the ‘Internet Graveyard’: Rethinking the Historians’ Toolkit

Exploring Canada's Digital Collections in the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association.

Earlier this month in Victoria, my article “Mining the ‘Internet Graveyard’: Rethinking the Historians’ Toolkit” won the Canadian Historical Association’s prize for the best article published that year in the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association. It’s now available online [HTML and PDF], behind a two-year rolling paywall.

It’s similar in spirit to some of the issues I’ve spoken about on this blog, and is almost a preview of sorts to my current and ongoing work on formal web archives. This focuses on using an ‘Internet Graveyard’ as found at Library and Archives Canada. It grew out of a 2012 conference presentation held at the Canadian Historical Association’s annual meeting in Waterloo, Ontario.

In short, the article advances three main points:

  • Argues for the necessity of distant reading, arguing that historians will soon need to account for born-digital sources in late 20th-century scholarship. The volume of sources necessitates, in those specific cases, computational reading. (I don’t argue that we all need to be programmers, no more than we all need be oral historians, etc.)
  • Situates the field into the broader scope of computers in the humanities.
  • Provides an extensive case study of navigating Canada’s Digital Collections, using custom tools built in Mathematica. I take the reader “beyond the word cloud” and show how we can create on-the-fly finding aids for large amounts of information.

2 thoughts on “New Article: Mining the ‘Internet Graveyard’: Rethinking the Historians’ Toolkit

  1. maggiemcguire says:

    This seems like something I’d definitely like to read. Are you referring to older articles that aren’t available digitally, as well, or was your focus primarily on research that IS available digitally, but with a group of historic scholars who don’t know how to access them?

  2. Ian Milligan says:

    Hi Maggie,

    Thanks – if you don’t have institutional access to the article, I can flip you a copy. In the article, I’m focusing more on the latter: in this case, a bunch of dead websites. I argue that it’s a good case study to try out some methodologies we’re going to have to become a bit more comfortable with.

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