Ian Milligan

Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Analysis

Professor of History

University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo History Logo

Ian Milligan (he/him) is Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Analysis at the University of Waterloo, where he is also professor of history. In this service role within the Office of the Vice-President, Research and International, Milligan provides campus leadership for research oversight and compliance, and is the campus research integrity lead.

Milligan also helps to lead the Safeguarding Research portfolio, oversees the Office of Research Ethics, the Inclusive Research Team, supports research health & safety, serves as a lead on emergency issues related to research (including COVID research response), co-chairs the Waterloo Awards Committee, and helps to coordinate bibliometrics activities. Finally, Milligan co-led the campus-wide Research Data Management strategy and is currently working on its implementation.

Alongside this service portfolio, Milligan maintains an active research agenda. Milligan’s primary research focus is on how historians can use web archives, as well as the impact of digital sources on historical practice more generally. He is author of three sole-authored books: The Transformation of Historical Research in the Digital Age (2022), History in the Age of Abundance (2019), and Rebel Youth (2014). Milligan also co-authored Exploring Big Historical Data (2015, with Shawn Graham and Scott Weingart) and edited the SAGE Handbook of Web History (2018, with Niels Brügger). Milligan was principal investigator of the Archives Unleashed project between 2017 and 2023 (the project lives on as an Internet Archive service).

In 2016, he was awarded the Canadian Society for Digital Humanities Outstanding Early Career Award and in 2019 he received the Arts Excellence in Research award from the University of Waterloo. In 2020, recognizing his track record of research and advocacy, the Association of Canadian Archivists awarded Milligan the Honourary Archivist Award. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Milligan is currently co-editor of Internet Histories and was a co-program chair of the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries. He has an extensive interdisciplinary service record, sitting on selection committees for multiple granting agencies as well as sitting on the steering committee for the ACM/IEEE Joint Conference on Digital Libraries. At Waterloo, Milligan has served on the University Senate as well as the Board of Governors.

He lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada with his partner, son, and daughter.

You can read his full CV here.


  • Web archives and web history
  • How technology is changing the historical profession
  • Research data management


  • PhD in History, 2012

    York University

  • MA in History, 2007

    York University

  • BA (Hon) in History, 2006

    Queen's University

Recent Posts

Pre-November 2019 posts can be found at http://ianmilli.wordpress.com.

Re-Posted from the Conversation: Elon Musk’s buyout of Twitter has placed its user-generated archives in danger

Twitter is in disarray. This is troubling for a platform that comprises no small part of the historical record of today. While only …

American Historical Review Review Roundtable on History in the Age of Abundance

I was thrilled to see that the American Historical Review has published a review roundtable, including an author’s response from …

Interview at Canada's History: The past is now digital

I was recently interviewed by Joanna Dawson of Canada’s History magazine. The focus was primarily on my recent book History in …

Re-Posted from the Conversation: 2020 is a year for the history books, but not without digital archives

Ian Milligan, University of Waterloo A seasonal change is in the air. With a minimal amount of nostalgia about the dwindling days of …

Interdisciplinary scholarship needs to be normalized within professions

Inspired by conversations I’ve had with colleagues, I wrote a recent piece in University Affairs/Affairs universitaires: …


Averting the Digital Dark Age: How Archivists, Librarians, and Technologists Built the Web a Memory (forthcoming)

In early 1996, the web was ephemeral. But by 2001, the internet was forever. How did websites transform from having a brief life to becoming long-lasting? Drawing on archival material in the Internet Archive and exclusive interviews, Ian Milligan’s Averting the Digital Dark Age explores how western society evolved from fearing a digital dark age to building the robust digital memory we rely on today.

The Transformation of Historical Research in the Digital Age

Historians make research queries on Google, ProQuest, and the HathiTrust. They garner information from keyword searches, carried out across millions of documents, their research shaped by algorithms they rarely understand. Historians often then visit archives in whirlwind trips marked by thousands of digital photographs, subsequently explored on computer monitors from the comfort of their offices. They may then take to social media or other digital platforms, their work shaped through these new forms of pre- and post-publication review. Almost all aspects of the historian’s research workflow have been transformed by digital technology. In other words, all historians – not just Digital Historians – are implicated in this shift. The Transformation of Historical Research in the Digital Age equips historians to be self-conscious practitioners by making these shifts explicit and exploring their long-term impact. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.

History in the Age of Abundance: How the Web is Transforming Historical Research

Believe it or not, the 1990s are history. As historians turn to study this period and beyond, they will encounter a historical record that is radically different from what has ever existed before. Old websites, social media, blogs, photographs, and videos are all part of the massive quantities of digital information that technologists, librarians, archivists, and organizations such as the Internet Archive have been collecting for the past three decades.

SAGE Handbook of Web History

The SAGE Handbook of Web History marks the first comprehensive review of this subject to date. Its editors emphasise the two different forms of its study: the use of the web as an historical resource, and the web as an object of study in its own right. Bringing together all the existing knowledge of the field, with an interdisciplinary focus and an international scope, this is an incomparable resource for historians and students alike.

Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope

The Digital Humanities have flourished at a moment when digital big data is becoming easily available. Yet there is a gap in the scholarly literature on the ways these data can be explored to construct cultural heritage knowledge, for both research and in our teaching and learning. We are on the cusp of needing to grasp big data approaches to do our work, whether it’s understanding the underlying algorithms at work in our search engines, or needing to design and use our own tools to process comparatively large amounts of information. This book fills that gap, and in its live-writing approach, will set the direction for the conversation into the future.

Current Digital Projects

Averting the Digital Dark Age

This project seeks to identify the cultural, intellectual, and theoretical factors during the early 1990s which contributed to the …

Archives Unleashed

Archives Unleashed aims to make petabytes of historical internet content accessible to scholars and others interested in researching …

Continuing Education to Advance Web Archiving (CEDWARC)

Supported by the IMLS LB21 program, the CEDWARC project develops a continuing education curriculum and teaches library and archive …

A Longitudinal Analysis of the Canadian World Wide Web as a Historical Resource, 1996-2014

This project will help train highly-qualified personnel (HQP) in the humanities to prepare for the digital deluge that is already …

Recent Courses

Due to my appointment as Associate Vice-President, Research Oversight and Analysis, I am not currently teaching.

HIST 640: Digital History

Digital history, the application of new and emerging technologies to the study of history, is an important field that has begun to reshape historical production and scholarship. This graduate level course introduces students to the literature on digital history, and then puts theory into practice by digitally collecting, publishing, and producing new historical knowledge with cutting-edge tools.
See course page

HIST 216: A Long History of the Internet (Online)

The Internet has enabled global connection on an unprecedented level. To live and innovate in a society dominated by network communications requires understanding from where we have come. Yet, as Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen have noted, “the Internet is among the few things humans have built that they don’t totally understand.” (Schmidt and Cohen)

While the technological story of the rise of the Internet and the Web today is important – our course touches on early computing, theories of hypertext, the ARPANET, and the networking revolutions of the 1980s and 1990s – the longer human story is equally critical. How has the concept of information evolved? How has print media emerged and evolved? How have humans communicated over time and space? How have common standards evolved, allowing people across the globe to communicate with each other?

Previously taught Spring 2020 (Online), Winter 2020 (Online), Fall 2018 and Winter 2018.
See course page

ARTS 490: Socio-Cultural Implications of Artificial Intelligence

We have seen exponential growth in the automation of jobs, from the manufacturing to the service sector, and the consequent transformations of our everyday lives, including the displacement of human labour. We are also witness to new cultural forms ranging from gaming devices to companion robots. It’s clear then that the socio-cultural and political impacts of such trends deserve our attention – as students, scholars, policy makers, and practitioners.
See course page

Recent & Upcoming Talks/Events

For a full list of talks and presentations, please see my CV.

The National Library of Canada’s Electronic Publication Pilot Project and its Enduring Contribution to Digital Preservation

I explored the National Library of Canada’s Electronic Publication Pilot Project, one of the first projects in the world to …

Keynote Panel: Digitized Newspapers as Everyday Interdisciplinarity

Historical research has been fundamentally transformed by digitized newspapers over the past two decades. Yet historians have not …

Are we all Digital Historians now? Technology and Historical Practice

Historical research has been fundamentally transformed by digitized newspapers over the past two decades. Yet historians have not …

From Engagement to Retreat? Historians and Digital Preservation, 1968-2003

I explored the relationship between historians and born-digital primary sources between 1968 and 2003 as part of UCL/CESTA’s …

Liberal Education in the Digital Age

I was incredibly honoured to give a talk as part of a panel hosted by the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse Foundation on Does Liberal Education …