At the Digital Humanities: The Next Generation conference a couple weeks ago, I caught up with my colleague Sara Georgini. Sara is a PhD candidate at Boston University, and an editor of the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society. She is writing what promises to be a fascinating dissertation about the religious lives of several generations and centuries of the Adams family, from Deacon John Adams to Charles Francis Adams.
Sara writes for The Junto, and she was kind enough to arrange an e-mail interview with Jean Bauer, creator of Early American Foreign Service Database and Project Quincy, and with Erin Bartram and me, collaborators on The American Converts Database, about digital methods in the history dissertation.
You can read the full interview here. Here are Jean and Erin leading off with answers to the first question.
JUNTO: At what point in researching your dissertation topic, did a “digital” light bulb go off? Can you describe how you chose to incorporate digital research methods or new technology in your work, and how your colleagues reacted to that idea?
BAUER: I was already working on other digital history projects, designing prosopographical databases for The Dolley Madison Digital Edition and Documents Compass when my original plans to do an intellectual history of early U.S. Foreign Policy began to unravel. As I became more and more interested in the communication networks and day-to-day experience of American diplomats and consuls, I realized that the work I was doing for my summer jobs could translate into my own research interests.
BARTRAM: While I think I was always looking for ways that technology could make my note-taking, organization, and writing processes smoother (and keep me from forgetting things), I have been pretty conventional in terms of the product of my research. A few of my colleagues at UConn are working on digital projects separate from their dissertations, so when Lincoln and I first started talking about creating the database, I had some people to bounce ideas off of.