History reenactment has always been an interactive and engaging way for museums and historic sites to educate the visitors. I also notice that over the years there is a growing trend of reenactment video channels on Youtube. For my print project, I’m interested in analyzing the history channels on Youtube, specifically on the channels that use history reenactment as their main vehicle to present history. I plan to look into several Youtube Channels, such as Drunk History and CrowsEyeProductions.
Drunk History is an educational comedy series where a historical event was recounted by a drunk narrator and reenacted in each episode. Drunk History was aired in 2013 and continued for six seasons until 2020. The series recreated some of the most famous nationals historical events including the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin’s kite experiment. The series also highlighted some of the lesser-known stories, such as Oney Judge, an African American women enslaved by the Washington family, who became the subject of an intense manhunt after she escaped from the family, or Nellie Bly, an American journalist who exposed the condition of the mental health institution in the 1880s and prompted the asylum reform by faking insanity to enter the Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island and record what she saw. The series took on a fresh spin on history storytelling, it used comedy to draw the audience’s attention while recounting a historical event. The historic accuracy of the series remained a point of concern for many history channels on Youtube. The content of Drunk History was also explored and examined by several independent newspapers. There have not been any major disputes on the stories told in the series. However, it is clear that the reenactment element and the character dialogues of the series are only intended to serve as comedy and are not historically accurate.
Different from Drunk History, The Crows Eye Productions tries to make the historical reenactment as realistic as possible. The channel has a series titled “Getting Dressed in…” where each episode would show how it was like to get dressed in a historic period. The channel started in 2007, has 342K subscribers, and has produced 28 “Getting Dressed in …” videos and many other history reenactment videos. In some videos, there are only music backgrounds, the actors would reenact the scene without any narration. In more recent videos on the channel, more videos show the reenactments being narrated and the audience is given a historical background of the period and places the video is based on and detailed descriptions of the clothing used in the video. The time period range of these videos is very wide, with the earliest time in the 14th century to the 1960s. The Crows Eye Productions channel mainly focuses on fashion and clothing in history, although it also expanded its production to create series such as “Walk with me through time”, featuring videos set in different time periods with the narration of extract from literature in the time period.
I am very curious to examine how these platforms communicate and engage with their audience using history reenactment? How is the audience’s reaction towards these approaches? How historically accurate are these contents? Could these platforms reach a broader audience compared to traditional history television channels? I have also come across many other similar channels that are involved with history reenactments, such as Townsends, a channel that focused on the 18th Century lifestyle, English Heritage, and WWII History and Reenacting. Depending on the research of these two channels, I am open to including more channels in the project.