HISTORE stands for Historians’ Online Research Environments which admittedly doesn’t tell you much on what the project is about even though it does state our planned end result very well. Simply put HISTORE is an attempt to help demystify and identify online tools which are of most value for historical research.
Many historians will have heard of text mining or semantic data (for example) but will not have thought about how these tools could be used in their own research. Indeed many historians will not actually know what these terms really mean or what results they might produce. The technical jargon can be off-putting and as yet there is practically no discipline-based training available either for undergraduates, postgraduates or established academics.
While there is a small group of enthusiasts adopting relevant tools as they have become available, many have confined themselves to searching a few trusted online collections, such as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography or the Bibliography of British and Irish History. Surprisingly, early-career historians differ little from older colleagues, and even a freely available in-browser bibliographic tool like Zotero evokes only moderate name recognition and few declared users. In particular a question about the use of VREs (Virtual Research Environments) in stakeholder research carried out by the IHR produced very few respondents who said that they had ever used one (see The Impact and Embedding of an Established Resource: British History Online as a Case Study). A common response to questions about specific tools was ‘I don’t know what that is’, followed by expressions of interest when its functionality was explained.
All of this suggests that lack of awareness, not active resistance, is the main barrier to the embedding of research tools in the historical community. The HISTORE project hopes to help demystify several of these tools, raise awareness of what they can do and illustrate that these tools are not the preserve of IT specialists but quite learnable by academic historians.
The following tools will form the focus for the HISTORE project:
- Text mining
- Cloud computing
- Data visualisation
- Semantic data
- Linked data