Announcing the Dick Dowling Digital Archive

It gives me great pleasure to announce the unveiling of the Dick Dowling Digital Archive and the related exhibit, Dick Dowling and Sabine Pass in History and Memory. The collection and the exhibit, both proudly powered by Omeka, were produced by myself and undergraduate students in Civil War history at Rice University in collaboration with the Woodson Research Center at Fondren Library, the Houston Area Digital Archives, and the Humanities Research Center.

Dick Dowling was an Irish American Houstonian most famous for his role in a Civil War battle fought at Sabine Pass on September 8, 1863. Beginning in the Spring 2011 semester, Rice students in HIST 246, “The American Civil War Era,” began locating, scanning, describing, and writing about historical documents related to Dowling which were then uploaded into an Omeka collection. Students also produced four interpretive digital projects that also now reside in the collection. The Movie Group produced an introductory video (group blog and video). The Map Group produced several maps with ArcGIS showing the past locations of Dowling’s statue in the city (group blog, map, and map guide). The Timeline Group used SIMILE to produce a dynamic timeline of events (group blog and timeline). And the Podcast Group created several audio tours meant to be heard at various Dowling-related sites in Houston (group blog and audio tours).

Other students in the spring and fall semester of 2011 worked to draft, organize, and lay out the exhibit pages for The Afterlives of Dick Dowling, the first major section of the Omeka exhibit featuring items in the Dick Dowling Digital Archive. Students in the fall semester also helped me to think through the other major section, Slavery and the Battle of Sabine Pass, which I composed in bits and pieces over the last several months.

In a future blog post I hope to say more about how this project developed. For now, I’m happy to announce its existence and invite you to take a look around. Please feel free to leave comments, questions, or corrections here or at dowling-archive AT

H-Net 2.0?

Several years ago now, Mills Kelly wrote a provocative post suggesting that the future of H-Net was bleak. After noting that the traffic on many of H-Net’s edited, subject-specific e-mail lists was declining, Kelly argued that e-mail lists had outlived their usefulness for scholars online. “If H-Net is going to survive into a second decade,” he said, “I would urge its leadership to give up on email and move on. Digital communities in the Web 2.0 world just aren’t created in email any more.”

As someone who participates in Web 2.0 “communities” like Twitter and the blogosphere, I see Kelly’s point, which may be even more appropriate now than it was in 2007. But even then, I wasn’t convinced that Web 2.0 posed an all-or-nothing, “change or die” choice for academics online: either e-mail, or something else. Today, as a book-review editor for H-SHEAR and a subscriber to several other H-Net lists, I still believe e-mail lists and newer digital communities can coexist and thrive together.

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