A couple months ago I finished a historical case study that concerned an airport in the Red River Valley (in central North America to geographically position you international readers), and throughout the course of this study the project benefitted tremendously for two reasons. This included the cross-disciplinary cooperation that is central to completing a project on time and within its budget; and the increased digitization of all things, historical documents included.
Only after the case study was complete did I correspond with an engineer who in turn made this historian, archaeologist, anthropologist, and historic preservationist privy to the latest and greatest Web 2.0 (or perhaps a prologue to Web 3.0?) engineering software. This is known as Revit, a program that brings traditional drafting techniques into a type of digital matrix. This matrix, in turn, provides digitized centralization for everyone involved in or working on a project. So far, the wikipedia entry on Revit has been the best source for getting familiar with it. YouTube’s search engine produces numerous Revit tutorials as well.
In the realm of history, and through state and private collaboration, the Grand Forks International Airport (GFIA) in 2007 received scanned copies of newspaper articles from the Chester Fritz Library (University of North Dakota), which is in its 50th winter and undergoing its own digital revolution. The GFIA’s website provides visitors with a history sub-link, and here with the ability to download newspaper articles from the years of 1959 to 1968, and from 1968 to 1984. This digitization of the documents allows professional and non-professionals to access them simply by having an internet link, and it also provides an individual with the ability to circumvent the understandable time constraints traditional archives are forced to keep.
The takeaway from digital technologies that seem to “make life easier” is never to undermine the need for future engineers and historians to be trained in the way of systematic analysis. In order for someone to properly use and understand Revit requires that individual to properly learn and understand the advanced mathematics the program requires. This also means historians need to sit down with a stack of digital or 3-D documents and carefully analyze them (this certainly requires hours, and more usually days) before they can deploy the writing styles that they took years and decades to develop as well. The engineer and the historian, after all, has to figure out a way to communicate this information to broader, non-specialized audiences.
[note: I sliced off the last paragraph of this entry on 11/25/2011 4:35PM CST as it seemed to be important but a bit disconnected. Also an Ulteig Engineering Revit graphic was added on 11/26/2011 12:10PM CST.]