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1. Monumental Past — a Doctoral dissertation and an e-monograph

This paper is about the future of electronic scholarship. It takes the form of a commentary about my experiences with publishing an electronic monograph, entitled Monumental Past. The Life-histories of Megalithic Monuments in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany) (Holtorf 2000-2003). This work is available free of charge on the World Wide Web (Monumental Past) or for a small fee from the Centre for Instructional Technology Development in Toronto as a CD-ROM. In 1998, an earlier version was submitted to the University of Wales as a hypermedia Doctoral dissertation in archaeology (cf. Holtorf 1999).

Based on archaeological evidence from approximately 1,200 megalithic monuments, the e-monograph explores the construction of memory and the changing meanings of prehistoric monuments located in north-eastern Germany, from prehistory to the present day. The work engages directly with current debates about the cultural construction of the past, the character and status of archaeology, the aims of heritage management, the significance of monuments, and the many events and processes that have taken place during their 'life histories'. All this was written up in HTML and presented in the form of an electronic monograph, initially stored on CD-ROM and since 2000 on a webserver in Toronto.

In what follows I will be discussing to what extent the electronic format of my work proved valuable in advancing some aspects of current academic discourse in archaeology or pioneered emerging trends in electronic scholarship. The starting point is an analysis of the various responses, reviews and comments my work has received to date. Initially, I had published two papers about my work in the electronic journals Internet Archaeology (Holtorf 1999) and iNtergraph (Holtorf 2000), and the former in particular led to substantial responses by Andre Costopoulos (1999) and Mark Aldenderfer (1999) and a subsequent discussion on the mailing list Intarch-interest. Other comments came by way of personal email messages, most of which were sent by people previously unknown to me, both academics and others. Then there were emails by colleagues who had heard me talk about the project, as well as some detailed commentaries by people who are in one way or another involved in the on-going editing process of my e-monograph at CITD Press in Toronto. In addition, to date my thesis has been formally reviewed by Brian Fagan in Internet Archaeology (2002), David Harvey in Journal of Historical Geography (2002), Jörn Jacobs in Ethnographisch-Archäologische Zeitschrift (2002), Håkan Karlsson in both Lund Archaeological Review (1999) and European Journal of Archaeology (2002), and Marcos Martinón-Torres in Papers from the Institute of Archaeology (2002). At least one further review is currently in print (in Germania) and one or two others are expected to appear in the review sections of some major American journals shortly.


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