Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Dudziak Digital Legal History Prize to Fraga for "They Came on Waves of Ink"

Here at LHB, the Mary Dudziak Digital Legal History Prize holds a special place in our hearts. The ASLH awards it annually to "an outstanding digital legal history project." This year's winner was Sean Fraga (University of Southern California) for “They Come on Waves of Ink.” In the words of the committee:

his project makes wonderfully creative and compelling use of digital technologies to bring a dusty legal source—a nineteenth-century federal ledger from the Puget Sound Customs District—to life. As his site explains, “But if the ledger is like a window onto the past, then its meticulous lines of data are like blinds, closed and shut tight. There is no plot here, no story; the characters float loose on a non-narrative sea. Digital analysis is a way of curling open the blinds—to see what lies on the other side.” By transcribing, analyzing, and visualizing thousands of scribbled ledger lines, Fraga enriches our understanding of the circuits of commerce and administrative power in the nineteenth-century Pacific Northwest. His site should inspire legal historians to use digital tools to re-imagine their sources and to uncover elusive historical connections that lie on the other side. 

Members of the selection committee were David S. Tanenhaus, chair (University of Nevada, Las Vegas); Deborah Dinner (Emory University School of Law); Kellen Funk (Columbia Law School); and Michael Willrich (ex officio, President-Elect).

Congratulations to Sean Fraga!

-- Karen Tani