While the historical study of human sexuality has expanded rapidly since its moment of burgeoning popularity in the 1980s, few historical archives host special collections that reflect this new field of inquiry. In response, the creation of the Digital Sexuality Archive (DIG Sex) was undertaken to produce a searchable database of digital repositories for students and scholars interested in the history of sexuality and its related fields. As academic institutions have begun to digitize their collections, and as activist institutions and individuals have begun to digitally construct their own, an array of primary sources recording sexual thoughts, desires, and acts of the past have become publicly available online. The objective behind DIG Sex has been to streamline the research process in a way that—by data mining and categorically tagging each resource and its items—provides a standardized point of departure for students interested in this adolescent field, in which primary sources have often been inaccessible by traditional means. By taking advantage of the growing creation of digital archival resources, DIG Sex has curated a collection of diverse digital repositories that both simplifies the research process and promotes scholarship that privileges visibility and accessibility.
Helen Eckhard is a third-year History major at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. Her academic interests include American women’s history and the history of sex and sexuality. During the summer of 2016, Helen served as a student collaborator with Professor Carolyn Herbst Lewis to create the Digital Sexuality Archive (DIG Sex), a searchable database of digital sources related to gender studies and the history of sexuality. Helen has also helped pilot an interactive web display for her school’s Center for the Humanities, and serves as a research tutor for the college libraries.