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  • Havsfjord

The American historians Roy Rosenzweig (past away 2007) and Dan Cohen published the first edition of Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web in 2005, where they start by asserting that ‘The future is digital’ (2005). This is presented as a guide, not so much technical, but rather for how and why artifacts and analogue material can and should be digitized. In our current time of rapid development within everything technology, 2005 is a long time ago: but Cohen and Rosenzweig has developed a thorough guide that is still useful to someone who has worked with digitizing previously and or who has just stepped over the threshold (me personally being part of the latter category).

Some of the key points Cohen and Rosenzweig brings forth are in regards to the financial costs of digitization that needs to be carefully thought through beforehand, particularly to limit the under- and overestimates. The costs for potential in-house work, where staff needs to be trained within the new technology, or out-sourcing where numerous other potential costs that is not going to appear in the actual bills: such as the potentially time consuming task of collecting and preparing of the material. Digitizing can be utilized as a way of displaying collections that otherwise may not have had the opportunity to be accessed or created to a single collected archive rather than scattered. It enables for people outside of the realm of bigger archives and funding opportunities to establish archives of history and artifacts that previously may not have been deemed valuable enough to archive long term. Because even though Cohen and Rosenzweig takes us through a thorough perception of the technological advancements being made, they do not focus as much on the possibilities for smaller actors and the opening of opportunities that digitalization has.

Bringing this into my own first real attempt at digitization, it is a cover of one of the 47 books about ‘Lotta’ written by Merri Vik (actual name Ester Ringnér-Lundgren). This one being first edition (1971) of ‘Ge aldrig upp, Lotta!’ (Eng: Never give up, Lotta!). As Cohen and Rosenzweig points out, going from analogue to digital is and may always be a task deemed impossible to be perfectly aligned. Even though this fact seems rational from the start; the difficulties of actually getting just the right colors, saturation and relation to each other was still more difficult than I had expected. Similar to the process of creating a standardized process which would have to be implemented for this hypothetical project of digitizing and archiving all 47 books. It is not for the faint hearted perfectionist. I therefore did what Cohen and Rosenzweig points out as a common mistake when starting to digitize: not properly accounting for the time and intellectual costs that can occur after the actual scanning.

These books and their covers offers me a comfort and reminiscence of the most important women in my life: my cousin who is more of a sister and our mother’s that are identical twins: their mother and our grandmother, on whose couch I used to sit and read my cousin’s copies before I started buying them myself. I know I am not the only one with this emotional response to this collection of books, as there is a small Ester Ringnér-Lundgren association with approximately 300 members that is very active. Their prime focus of their association is to keep the knowledge, interest and books alive. The insightful guide that Cohen and Rosenzweig has created don’t only limit the purposes and opportunities of digitalization to larger institutions, but also offers key insights into how smaller establishments and more grassroot organizations can digitize and create their own collections. Guides like this opens doors: also the fact that guides such as Cohen and Rozenswig’s and others are easily accessible online without a paywall, enables smaller associations and archives to approach digitizing projects. It also enables archives of artifacts that from a larger institutional perspective is not deemed valuable enough to digitize, but there are opportunities for others to keep it alive; lets face it, teenage culture is not often on the top list of importance. We will never know what the future is going to be deemed important enough for archives, but being biased towards the emotional and artistic value of the books and their covers, I am more than happy to know that they in some way will survive for future kids and teenagers to dive into.

  • Havsfjord

Enabling digitalization for archives, collections and museums at large is not simply felt as a door of opportunity being opened, but rather as an exciting and dazzling box and we have yet to discover ways of how digital art history (DAH) can transform our ways of knowledge production. Simply being on a digital platform has opened up numerous opportunities for communities and activism where change is and has occurred: my mind primarily goes to the organization ‘Decolonize this Place’ who took action against Whitney Museum in New York and their board member Warren B. Kanders who has clear links of owning Safariland, known for making tear gas cans used at the US-Mexico border (Greenberger, 2019).

However, being on and utilizing social platforms is not the main point, but rather what it can bring to our ways of archiving, research and present. Bentkowska-Kafel (2015) argues for the potential of a world museum that has a global easy access reach (where the technology is accessible) (p. 56). Digital archives as well as new digital tools brings world access to collections and ways of research that otherwise would not have been available for a majority of the world and thus enabling academics to do research that would otherwise have been beyond their reach geographically, socially and economically. However, questions regarding its potential opportunities has surfaced, such as Kirsch (2014) asking who and what the digital humanities are for. He continues to question the potential additional skills required within the span of an academic career to also include skills such as coding. This could potentially cause further unequal divides, as studies continue to show that people of color within academia still have to work harder than their white colleagues in order to climb the ladder of tenure positions, and that research from scholars situated in the Global South is still not getting the same attention as from those situated in the Global North (Martinez, Chang and Welton, 2016). Contextualizing this with what Zorich (2012) argues that: ‘Individuals pursuing digital art history also worry about their career paths, since art history departments are not embracing them as serious scholars.’ (p. 25). DAH have potential beneficial opportunities to open up art history and knowledge as well as its academic rooms, but can pose issues if used as a way into a global and democratized forum of knowledge if not embraced as serious.

Kirsch (2014) argues: ‘The best thing that the humanities could do at this moment, then, is not to embrace the momentum of the digital, the tech tsunami, but to resist it and to critique it. This is not Luddism; it is intellectual responsibility.’ As I agree that this holds very true, it does not mean that we can’t still continue to look for the potential possibilities and democratizing effects that it can entail. DAH could as Zorich (2012) argues, bring in other nontraditional partnerships that could work within communities (p. 36), which could open doors that could be very beneficial for a more open world of Art History and step away from the Global North standard of academia, research and art history.

This is just initial thoughts on the topic and I am excited to be able to continue to research the possibilities and problems of digitalization from a decolonial perspective, and will through this course post more regarding this topic. Bibliography Bentkowska-Kafel, A (2015). Debating Digital Art History. International Journal for Digital Art

History, 1, pp. 50-65.

Greenberger, A. (2019). ‘We Will Come Back’: Decolonize This Place Leads Protest at Whitney, Marches to Controversial Board Member’s House. ARTnews. Retrieved from

Kirsch, A. (2014). The Limits of the Digital Humanities. The New Republic. Retrieved from

Martinez, M., Chang, A., & Welton, A. (2016). Assistant professors of color confront the inequitable terrain of academia: a community cultural wealth perspective. Race Ethnicity And Education, 20(5), pp. 696-710.

Zorich, D. M. (2012), Transitioning to a Digital World: Art History, Its Research Centers, and Digital Scholarship. Report to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University.

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