Defining Digital History: The Final Four

Hey everyone, I’ll be guiding us through the last four readings for this week! The first article, “Snapshots of History: Wildly popular accounts like @HistoryInPics are bad for history, bad for Twitter, and bad for you.”, is exactly what it sounds like. The article dives into a number of popular history twitter accounts that aren’t interested in historical accuracy, context, additional sources, or even proper photo attribution. The author, Rebecca Onion, briefly compares the historical blog that she writes with these popular accounts. She acknowledges how difficult it is “to hit the sweet spot between click-worthy intrigue and historical interest.” What is that sweet spot? How does that change depending on organization or social media platform? The author focuses on how the lack of additional context and information takes away from what she considers is the best aspect of history. She concludes the article by saying that these twitter accounts are creating dead ends which I COMPLETELY AGREE with. However, what is it that makes people follow accounts like @HistoryInPics (1.02 million followers) while @SlateVault only has 9,000?

“Digital History and Argument” was created as a white paper produced through a workshop. The document’s goal is to bridge the gap between digital historians/digital work and traditional historians/historiographical work. The white paper advocates for a two way street, bringing digital historians into historiographical conversations and traditional historians to digital history. The paper provides a number of specific examples I could go through, but there are a few questions I rather ask. Who is this white paper for exactly? And how can we best utilize its arguments? I don’t want to speak for everyone in the class, but I want to go on a hunch and assume that we all understand the benefits of incorporating digital history into historiographical work. The Colored Conventions Project is just as valuable to me as any other book or exhibit on the topic. Perhaps this white paper is to help introduce the importance of digital history or to persuade those who are on the fence about it. Maybe if a professor said your digital history paper or project isn’t real history, then you can bring this bad boy out. Realistically, I think this paper is a great way to introduce someone to digital history, specifically college freshmen who have had limited experiences with history.

Our next reading is a Medium blog post titled “DarkMatter: The dark matter of the Internet is open, social, peer-to-peer and read/write—and it’s the future of museums” by Michael Peter Edson. Edson discusses how museum professionals, librarians, archivists, and many more have been “participating in an extraordinary — the building of a planetary scale knowledge sharing network for the benefit of everyone in the world.” However, Edson notes that in terms of technology and the Internet, institutions have only tapped into 10% of its power. Edson points to the awesomeness of Hank and John Green and considers other ways people have tapped into the uncharted waters of the Internet. Edson concludes with looking into the multiverse, the limitless possibilities in which cultural institutions can truly connect with people via the Internet. Will cultural institutions be able to harness technology and the Internet better in the future? Will this require taking risks? Or is there a way for museums to experiment with little to no costs involved? Find out next time on …

Our final reading for the week was “More Crowdsourced Scholarship: Citizen History” from the American Alliance of Museums. This reading explores the Citizen History project at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum which investigates what happens if visitors help with the research of a museum. I LOVE this project and it truly highlights “shared authority” that we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about in the public history program. It allows anybody, with time, to become a historian using online databases and research. As historians and emerging historians, what makes us worthy of this work/profession compared to those without “professional training”? Does working to train the public undermine current professional historians? Maybe if the history profession was more accessible, there would inherently be more voices in the field than there are now. I am excited to hear what everyone thinks about these readings!

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