I am a big digitization nerd, and I get really excited when I discover new digitization projects and resources, especially ones that make historical research a lot easier and faster. My latest discovery came through my Twitter feed this morning, and is called Connected Histories. The website aggregates eleven digital resources on British history between 1500 and 1900 (including British History Online, London Lives, The Proceedings of the Old Bailey Online) and allows the user to perform a single search of all the aggregated resources. This function is already hugely important and useful, but there’s more. Users can register for a free personal workspace that allows them to save searches and results, and to connect and share resources with others. What I really like about the connection function is that other users can only access the resources you share, and are not able to connect with you personally or even know anything about you other than your username. So, it’s basically a social network for resources without the baggage of personal connections. Brilliant. Connections can be associated with a course, which makes this a useful tool for organizing and distributing course materials. The website also provides comprehensive research guides arranged by topics, such as family history, crime and justice, local history, poverty and poor relief, etc., and detailed information about the included resources.
I took the search tool for a quick spin and I am quite impressed with the results interface. Results are categorized by document type, date and availability (free or subscription). Users can also access workspace functions from the results page, including saving or downloading of the searches or results, and Google +1 and Twitter bookmarks. My search results (for the word “vaccination”) also came up with an Old Bailey case that I had not encountered before, which I posted on my brand new HLBNA workspace.
I think this project represents the next step in digitization. Digital resources should be more than just a dump for scanned pages, but should provide users with tools for smart, comprehensive searching, saving, downloading, annotating and sharing, as well as helpful research guides.
Connected Histories is a not-for-profit service created by a partnership between the University of Hertfordshire, the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, and the University of Sheffield.