Australian Historian Captivates International Audience

The work of Australian historians, librarians and archivists is highly valued internationally. In my last post I highlighted the work of Australian historians Julia Torpey and Peter Read which featured in a plenary panel at the recent Global Digital Humanities Conference. But they were not the only Australian historians who featured.

Sherratt behind a podium

Tim Sherratt

On the last day of the conference we were treated to an insightful keynote address by Tim Sherratt, Associate Professor of Digital Heritage, Manager of Trove Australia and inventor of many innovative digital tools. Tim Sherratt is an historian who is blazing a trail for thoughtful and innovative use of technology in the research and presentation of history.

Sherratt captivated his audience from around the world with his talk, ‘Unremembering the forgotten’. Delving back into twentieth century Australian history, Sherratt questioned the nature of our access to government archives. He argued that  “access is a process of control rather than liberation”.

Sherratt is working to reveal the lives of people who are not remembered in our histories. In his keynote address he argued that the lives of these ‘forgotten’ people are often recorded in archival documents but these people have been ‘unremembered’. They are hidden from our view because of the way the catalogue search has been structured. Tim Sherratt demonstrated that when we take charge of our search for information by building our own digital tools we can retrieve the stories of the forgotten, but likewise the digital tools we use every day when searching websites can shut out the memories of the forgotten.

Conference BannerIt would be tempting to summarise this keynote, but there is no need. In an act of generosity so typical of him, Sherratt has made his entire speech and slides freely available via his blog. Make sure you read it.

Tim Sherratt is highly respected world-wide for his work in digital humanities. He is one of many digital humanists who openly share their insights and their work online through blogs Twitter, GitHub, THATCamps and other services. They exhibit what I believe is the ethos of the twenty-first century. Collaboration rather than negative competition is how we help ourselves and help others achieve more. I have learned a great deal as a result of the generosity of Tim Sherratt and other digital humanists.

Here are some of the comments about Sherratt’s paper. The tweets refer to Sherratt by his Twitter handle, @wragge:

(Victoria van Hyning is post-doctoral digital humanities researcher at Oxford University)

(Melissa Terras is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University College London)

(Stéfan Sinclair is Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at Canada’s McGill University)

(James Smithies is Senior Lecturer in Digital Humanities at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand)

(Christie Peterson is a digital archivist at Johns Hopkins University in the United States)

(Jennifer Howard is a senior reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education in the United States)

The power of Tim Sherratt’s work is it is accessible to everyone, including you.

Read Tim Sherratt’s keynote address:

It is not just for historians.

It is not just for academics.

It is for anyone who cares about open access and open government.

I have a backlog of posts about the Global Digital Humanities and Australian Historical Association conferences which I attended recently. I’ll be posting more frequently to this blog in the next couple of weeks so keep checking back. Will I manage to post daily? We’ll see what life allows 🙂

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