Deeper Understandings of Our Past and Present in the Digital Sphere
Digital scholarship changes the way we understand the past. By increasing the accessibility of research tools, digital collections and archives make a previously unachievable depth of research and discovery possible. But now we’re seeing how digital research and investigation can also change the way we tackle the present.
We explored digital research in depth with the FDR Presidential Library, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the National Archives, and the Roosevelt Institute, among others, in producing the October 2021 virtual conference “Examining American Responses to the Holocaust: Digital Possibilities.”
Videos from 14 conference workshops, lectures, a film screening, and the keynote are publicly available on the FDR Library YouTube Channel»
Five hundred people attended the four-day event which showed how computer assisted research can make the navigation and understanding of outsized archives possible. In developing an online conference with the benefits of a real-world one, we sought out platforms that allowed for interaction, question and answer, networking events, and clear event branding throughout. Conference events have since been viewed over 50,000 times.
But how does that effect the present?
Bellingcat, an independent international collective of researchers, investigators and citizen journalists, uses open source and social media in its investigations, and has been answering that question for years. In addition to their other work, they’ve been investigating aspects of Russia’s war in Ukraine. Online archives of war crimes may prove crucial if these crimes are to be prosecuted in courts. Their investigations include the bombing of hospitals, the devestation of Bucha, the Russian missile attack on the Kramatorsk train station, and the use of cluster munitions against civilians. They are further involved in creating a permanent archive of atrocities for use in future prosecutions.
In 1946, the Nuremberg Trials became the first court case in history to use film as evidence, much of it created by the Nazis themselves as they recorded their actions. In future court cases we may see the use of similar evidence recorded by war criminals on their smart phones.