Digital Collaboration

I recently came across the Medical Heritage Library while looking for potential research topics. Started by Harvard in 2009/2010 under the Open Knowledge Commons, this site holds almost 50,000 digitized documents, films, and images related to the history of medicine. It is a “collaborative digital library,” in which Yale, Harvard, the National Library of Medicine, Columbia, the Wellcome Library of London, and other libraries and institutions devoted to the subject and its digitization, upload and curate open access primary sources. The contents encompass six centuries and are all text-searchable. One of the site’s goals is to foster a “digital community” with research, support, and education in the history of science and medicine.


The MHL is illustrative of the advantages of collaboration in the digital world. It allows everyone with access to an internet connection to learn about these materials in a centralized location. Because of this virtual consolidation, users are able to view content from across the United States and across the Atlantic- a truly international approach. The project also allows any institution to contribute possible materials and to publicize their contribution. Rather than focusing on individual scholarly collaboration, the MHL is a larger-scale collaborative project between libraries and other appropriate institutions.


Open Topic Proposal

For the open topic, I want to discuss scholarly collaboration within the digital media world. By “scholarly,” I include work produced by historians, scholars in general, and history collecting institutions. Since collaboration is a central tenet of doing digital media in history, I think the class needs to examine this topic further. For example, we could explore the advantages and disadvantages of digital project collaboration, especially compared to analog formats. We could also talk about the initiation of collaboration, involving networking, advertising, and building a digital identity.

Some possible discussion points include:

    – How does digital media enable scholars to collaborate differently than without it?

    – Is collaboration in the digital world better?

    – How does one become involved in digital projects, whether initially or later on?

    – How do scholars advertise their projects in order to gain collaborative insights- how do we network in the digital world?

    – What different digital tools are conducive to collaboration?

Some possible readings include:

Dan Cohen, “Zotero and the Internet Archives Join Forces,” Dan Cohen Blog, Dec 12, 2007,

Douglas Linder, “Lessons Learned from Building the Famous Trials Website,” The Jurist, January 2001,

Michael Mizell Nelson, “Improvising Digital History in the Deep South Digital Desert,” History News Network, Dec 31, 2012,