Institute and society publishing in the 2020s: what can we do for ourselves?

A partnership event between the IHR and the Omohundro Institute (30 Sept 2020) brought together US and UK historians and publishers to discuss responses to digital publishing.

What are the opportunities and challenges posed by new technologies when communicating history?

Contributions from:

  • Karin Wulf, Executive Director of the Omohundro Institute and Professor of History, William & Mary College
  • Philip Carter, Director of Digital and Publishing, Institute of Historical Research, University of London
  • Catherine E. Kelly, Editor of Books, Omohundro Institute, and Affiliate Professor of History, William & Mary College
  • James Grossman, Executive Director, American Historical Association
  • Tyler D. Parry, Senior Editor 'Black Perspectives', the African American Intellectual Society blog, and Assistant Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • James Baker, Senior Lecturer in Digital History and Archives, University of Sussex and Sussex Humanities Lab (chair)

This event brings together two of the leading historical research centres in the US and UK: the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture (OI) and the Institute of Historical Research (IHR).

Both too are well-known scholarly publishers responsible for an academic journal (respectively, the William & Mary Quarterly and Historical Research) and highly-respected book series. They are also small-scale publishing enterprises that look to digital opportunities to extend reach, raise their profile, and fulfil a commitment to experimentation regarding research and its communication.

This event showcased two recent digital initiatives that combine the traditional values of scholarly publishing with new forms of content creation and communication: the Omohundro’s OI Reader platform, and the IHR’s Digital Humanities Library project as a home for its ‘New Historical Perspectives’ book series with the Royal Historical Society.

Both are simple and relatively low-cost solutions to the OI and the IHR’s publishing ambitions for the 2020s. Short presentations present these new resources as a means of addressing broader questions:

  • should digital always be scalable?
  • what are the smaller scale digital innovations that institutes and societies can undertake?
  • what considerations do we need to take when designing new resources?
  • what’s the relationship between digital publishing and new forms of historical research and writing?
  • how do we best intersect the rigours of scholarly publishing with digital tools?
  • what do we learn from innovations like these; what are the positives, and the frustrations, of working digitally at a smaller scale?
  • what (at this time more than ever) can we do for ourselves to create and communicate high-quality history as widely as possible?

The event included short contributions from publishers at the OI and the IHR, as well as commentaries and observations from several other UK and US innovators, working digitally in history publishing within the university and (small-scale) publishing sectors. 

‘Institute and society publishing in the 2020s’ was the first in a series of Anglo-American partnership events between the IHR and the Omohundro Institute to run in 2020-21. This programme is in response to the immediate challenges historians, and especially Early Career Researchers, face as a consequence of the COVID pandemic.

Watch the video: historians from the IHR, Omohundro Institute, AHA and African American Intellectual History Society discuss digital publishing opportunities.