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Roy Rosenzweig: Digital Historian, dies at 57 (WaPo)

Historians in the News




Roy A. Rosenzweig, 57, a social and cultural historian at George Mason University who became a prominent advocate for "digital history," a field combining historical scholarship with digital media's broad reach and interactive possibilities, died Oct. 11 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington County. He had lung cancer.

Dr. Rosenzweig, who taught history at GMU for the past 26 years, founded the university's Center for History and New Media in 1994. As its director, he oversaw the creation of online history projects aimed mostly at high school and college students, including Web sites about U.S. history, the French Revolution and the history of science and technology.

Perhaps its most visible project was the September 11 Digital Archive, a collection of 150,000 items -- including e-mails, digital voice mails, BlackBerry communications and video clips -- made by average citizens at the time of the 2001 terrorist attacks. The center gave the materials to the Library of Congress in September 2003.

The center, part of GMU's Department of History and Art History, has more than 40 full- and part-time staff members.

Dr. Rosenzweig was an author, filmmaker and documenter of oral histories. His books, including a social history of New York's Central Park and the labor movement's struggle in the 19th century for a shorter workday, underscored his interest in presenting what he called "perspectives of ordinary men and women" over the wealthy and powerful.

In the early 1990s, he helped create an award-winning U.S. history survey presented on CD-ROM. He then started the Center for History and New Media, which stemmed from his wish "to democratize the study of the past -- both by incorporating forgotten voices and by presenting the fullest possible story of the past to diverse audiences."

Edward L. Ayers, president of the University of Richmond, who conducted early digital history projects as a University of Virginia history professor, said Dr. Rosenzweig "was the real pioneer in this."...

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