Digital history is the use of digital media and tools for historical practice, presentation, analysis, and research. It is a branch of the Digital Humanities and an outgrowth of Quantitative history, Cliometrics, and History and Computing. Some of the previous work in digital history includes digital archives, CD-ROMs, online presentations, interactive maps, time-lines, audio files, and virtual worlds. More recent digital history projects focus on creativity, collaboration, and technical innovation, all of which are aspects of Web 2.0. Future work in digital history will likely include projects such as text mining.
Digital history is a rapidly changing field. New methods and formats are currently being developed. This means that 'digital history' is a difficult term to define. However, it is possible to identify general characteristics. Digital history represents a democratization of history in that anyone with access to the Internet can have their voice heard, including marginalized groups which were often excluded in the 'grand narratives' of nation and empire. In contrast to earlier media formats, digital history texts tend to be non-linear and interactive, encouraging user participation and engagement. Digital history is studied from various disciplinary perspectives and in relation to a range of interrelated themes and activities. The field includes discussion of: archives, libraries, and encyclopedias; museums and virtual exhibits; digital identity and biography; digital games and virtual worlds; online communities and social networks; Web 2.0; and e-research and cyber-infrastructure.
Digital methods in historical research offer new ways to record, communicate and preserve documents, artifacts and knowledge of the past. However, there are challenges. These include: developing efficient ways to determine the authority and authenticity of digital content; shifting from long established archival preservation systems designed for earlier media formats to using relatively unstable digital preservation formats and standards; and ensuring better accessibility for those who lack access to the technology due to age-related or socio-economic disadvantage.