When I began to study history as an undergraduate – or perhaps as early as high school – I studied it because I wanted to satisfy a curiosity about people and about the systems and rules by which we live. I wanted to know what people used to be like, how we had become to be as we are, about what used to matter to people, and how those struggles shaped current ones. I became fascinated by the history of how people create, live in, and deconstruct ideas like gender and nation, how these ideas define us and how that, too, has changed over time. This interest led me to read as much as I could on any topic of interest, but what was even more enjoyable were the conversations which came afterwards. I would chat endlessly about history with other students and with my professors and eventually with visitors to museums and historic sites at which I worked. They were these conversations which brought me into public history.
The most rewarding part of working in history, for me, is still the satisfaction of having sparked or satisfied someone’s curiosity in a topic, a place, or a story. These moments would often come by the end of a tour or presentation, when someone had read a newsletter article or walked through an exhibition. Visitors talk amongst themselves, share stories, ask questions of one another, or approach me eager to show off what knowledge they brought to the exhibition or how deeply they understood it. These conversations have lasted minutes or an evening and in those moments I feel as though I’ve come full circle can enjoy both the process of learning a history story and sharing it so others can satisfy their need to understand their culture, their legacy and themselves.
This is the reason I’ve elected to study public history; I find it immensely satisfying to study and share the past. More than that I think it’s important to take every opportunity to become the best professional I can become. People have an innate curiosity and need to know from where they come and from whom they come and they deserve the best experiences our cultural resources can afford them. Essentially, I am in this program because I enjoy working in history and I want to do a good job both for myself and for others.
The reason I am taking History and New Media is a part of this larger desire. Understanding digital media and being able to use it are a part of communicating in the modern day and essential to reaching as wide an audience as possible. One’s access to history ought not be barred by one’s ability to travel, especially when technological work-arounds exist. Digital media is a powerful tool and it’s best we learn to use it well in order to properly maintain blogs or twitter feeds or newsletters in order to maintain contact with a community and reach out to new potential visitors. While anyone can start a blog or log into twitter, I hope that through this class I will learn the theory and best practices which will make my future work benefit from use of the digital media.