The Internet Is Muddling The Past And The Present


Are sites like flashbak and @historysphoto muddling the line between past and present”? Paul Ford says they are:

Pick any historical subject and the Internet will bring it to life before your eyes. If you’re interested in vaudeville, you’ll find videos galore, while college football scholars can browse Penn State’s 1924 yearbook, complete with all the players’ names and positions. And every day, more history keeps washing up. Not long ago the news went out that a Philadelphia woman named Marion Stokes had recorded 140,000 VHS tapes of local and national news from 1977 to her death in 2012. Her collection has been acquired by the Internet Archive, and soon it will trickle onto the web.

This omnipresence of the past has weird effects on contemporary culture.

Take any genre of music, from death metal to R&B to chillwave, and the cloud directs you not just to similar artists in the present but to deep wells of influence from the past…

Ted Scheinman loves it::

Today we have at least three different ways to follow [Lord] Byron on Twitter and can access facsimiles of certain crucial manuscripts via the Morgan Library. Indeed, each day more and more manuscripts appear on library and university websites, a massive boon for both scholars without one of those blank-check fellowships and civilians curious to see a poet’s hand, and to compare it with unattributed parchment passed down in a commonplace book.

Beyond Byron, whole realms of databases and scholarly communities are making dissertations better, even as they make grad school less lonely. Peter Beal’s Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450-1700 is appearing in fits and starts, while the Orlando Project at the University of Alberta brings to light hitherto un(der)-read work by women writers whose importance the pre-digital humanities have overlooked. The British Library seems to unveil a new flight of high-resolution images each day, while stateside enterprises, including the William Blake Archive and the Beinecke’s Boswell project, add significant collections annually.


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