Informing "The Smartphone Has Changed How History Is Written"

One of my favourite publications is The Atlantic, so I was thrilled when Alexis Madrigal reached out in the wake of the popularity surrounding my AHA 2020 talk on digital photography in archives.

You can read the piece here, and, of course, proud author quote at:

Enter the smartphone, and cheap digital photography. Instead of reading papers during an archival visit, historians can snap pictures of the documents and then look at them later. Ian Milligan, a historian at the University of Waterloo, noticed the trend among his colleagues and surveyed 250 historians, about half tenured or tenure-track, half in other positions, about their work in the archives. The results quantified the new normal. While there is a subset of researchers (~23 percent) who took few (less than 200) photos, the plurality (~40 percent) took more than 2,000 photographs for their “last substantive project.”

The piece that Alexis is drawing on should be published at some point this year, or early next year. Academic publishing isn’t exactly quick, so I’m thrilled that the research has already had a chance to get out there.

Ian Milligan
Associate Professor of History

Exploring how technology is transforming historical research.