How Historical Storytelling Works on YouTube: An Analysis Project Poster + Final Draft

Hi everyone! Here is my poster:

For my print project, it was very interesting to look back on some of the YouTube channels I’m familiar with a new and analytical perspective. I enjoyed analyzing the comment sections of the videos and sensing the audience’s reaction towards the content. I found that the “living history” and historical reenactment videos often bring a more intimate and personable experience to the audience, and that more people will share their stories of their own family history in the comment sections. The audience also responds very well to well researched history contents; the more historical details and references are given in the video, the more likely people will leave comments sharing their own historical knowledge and resources. I also learned a lot about YouTube as a platform from the project by reflecting on its roles in the development of history-related channels. Both “The YouTube Reader” and “YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture” gave fascinating accounts on the evolution of YouTube itself and how people gradually perceived it as a legitimate social media platform. From this analysis, I see great value in creating educational history content on YouTube and the potential impact these videos have on the wider public. 

I really enjoyed learning about digital history together with everyone in the class this semester! This course gave me so much insight into different digital platforms and tools to present and analyze history. After looking through everyone’s digital projects utilizing tools such as TimelineJS and Storymap, I feel very inspired to explore these tools deeper in the future! I learned a lot from the conversations we had in class over the semester. Many of them gave me new ideas and made me think more about my own project. I began to reflect on the importance of historical accuracy on entertainment platforms discussed in the Video Games Week, and I think back on what kind of historical content is being archived on YouTube from the discussion on what is accessible online from the Digital Archives Week. Overall, I think this class provided me with useful resources and information on how to reflect, analyze, and appreciate the processes that go into digital history in the future!

Here’s my final print project:

Print Project YouTube History-Based Videos

For my print project, I chose to look at seven history-related YouTube Channels and analyze what roles do they play on spreading historical contents to the general public and how do the audience react and interact with these channels.

In terms of the YouTube Channels, I tried to find channels that are already well-established and have a significant amount of viewers. I also wanted to analyze channels that have the element of “living history” or historical reenactment, whether it is personally taking the audience to historical landmarks to recount historical events or dressing in 18th-century clothing and talk about 18th-century fashion history. Therefore, I chose the following seven channels as the main focus of my project: Townsends, Drunk History, Karolina żebrowska, The Crown Eye Production, The History Underground, Bernadette Banner, and the English Heritage.

I watched many of their videos to get a sense how each of the channels are representing history. I researched on the creators of these channels to find out their historical background and their motivation of creating the videos. I also focus a lot at the comment section of the videos. I wanted to see how the audience is reacting to the videos, do they feel that they are learning history? How did they come across the videos? Why they like or dislike learning about history in this format? Do they share their own history knowledge or family history related to the videos? Will they seek for more history-related videos or do more research themselves? Do they care about the accuracy of the history knowledge?

In order to better answer these questions, I chose one video from each channel based on how popular they are and how historical they are, I downloaded the comment section onto Google Sheets and use search functions by entering keywords such as: history, historical, family, accuracy, accurate, interesting, education, educational, informative, fun, etc.

An example of the comment section from a video named “1920s Fashion Is Not What You Think”

I also want to incorporate Voyant Tools to analyze the comment sections, but I am still trying to figure out how the clean up the comments data so that the top results from the program is not words or symbol like “the” or “=”.

Preserving Lost Media onto the Vast Reaches of the Internet

For this week’s practicum, I will be presenting on two online collections/exhibitions. The Library of Congress’s collection uses digitized materials to build an online collection on the history of the universe and Rhizome uses emulation strategy to preserve computer games. 

Founded by Mark Tribe, Rhizome is a not-for-profit arts organization based in New York City. The Rhizome website displays various art and culture’s engagements with digital technologies through commission works, exhibitions, digital preservation, and software development. 

The Theresa Duncan CD-ROMs is an online exhibition created by Rhizome and the New Museum. The exhibition tells the story of preserving old computer games through new technologies.  This project is also featured in the Rhizome x Google Arts & Culture, a collection that aims to preserve born-digital art and culture through web archiving and digital preservation. (The Theresa Duncan CD-ROMs: Putting interactive classics online with Emulation as a Service) In the 1990s, Theresa Duncan and a team of collaborators created a highly acclaimed adventure-story computer game trilogy consisting of Chop Suey, Smarty, and Zero Zero. They were noted for having a relatable child’s perspective, and were notable in guiding young girls into dealing with various life issues. Theresa Duncan envisioned these computer games to be a presentation of children’s wild imaginations, therefore, they paid great attention in creating and developing beautiful and vibrant artwork for the game’s interfaces and backgrounds, complete with a soothing soundtrack. 

These games were played on CD-ROMs, which modern software no longer supports. In order to restore these games and allow them to play on modern operating systems, Rhizome collaborated with the University of Freiburg in Germany to create a system called Emulation as a Service (EaaS). This software allows the Theresa Duncan CD-ROMs to be played again on modern computers’ web browsers. This technology allows the digital art in the trilogy to be accessed again by a newer generation and ensures the digital preservation of not only Teresa Duncan’s work, but potentially thousands of other titles that are rare to access on their original mediums. 

Finding Our Place in the Cosmos: From Galileo to Sagan and Beyond is a digital collection from the Library of Congress. This collection explores the universe and the work of American astronomer Carl Sagan by highlighting manuscripts, rare books, newspaper articles, audio, and movie posters collected in the Library. The online collection includes three main sections: the history of the understanding of the Cosmos, Life on Other Worlds, and Cal Sagan’s own personal collection. One thing I found interesting is a depiction of the Martians stemming from 1898. The online collection highlights different sources in each of the sections, serving as a general overview instead of a comprehensive exhibition of the Cosmos, inviting the audience to explore more of a vast number of digitized items related to the universe.

A depiction of one of the Martians from Edison’s Trip to Mars in the collection.

Why is the digital preservation of Theresa Duncan CD-ROMs just as important as preserving documentations that are deemed historically significant? Should the digitized contents like video/computer games from the 90s be accessible to the public, free of charge, the same way that digitized images in a collection are open to the public?        

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on Wednesday!

Asian American Voting History

Documentary First Vote tells the stories of four Chinese-Americans who voted for the first time after gaining citizenship in the 2016 presidential election and the 2018 midterms. It tracks each person’s stories and perspectives on the political spectrum. I was very curious about Asian American’s political participation and their voting history after seeing discussions of the documentary.

Asian American voters are a small yet rapidly growing group in recent American elections, and consequently have a smaller voting history than most minority groups in the United States. It is not until WWII that the restriction on Asian descendants to become citizens began to be lifted. By 1952, most Asian immigrants became US citizens and gained the right to vote.

For my digital project, I plan on creating a website showcasing important trends and statistics in the voting history of Asian Americans. I wanted to use different visualization tools, such as Flourish and Tableau, to demonstrate various data collected from Asian American community voting. I wanted to make graphics with the help from the Unlimited Graphic Design Services, on important moments in Asian American voting history, such as the amount of time it took them to be able to vote, statistics on how groups of Asian Americans voted, and why they chose certain candidates and the overall percentage of Asian Americans who vote in every presidential year since the 1940s. Graphics would also feature prominent Asian American political figures who were voted in. I am also interested in outside influences that affect voting patterns, such as immigration flow.       

The availability of accessible data is an important factor. I initially wanted to conduct research on voting records from the 1950s to the present. However, I found out that most of the records that contain information on Asian American voters have only started since 1992. Before 1992, the percentage of Asian American voters to the whole voter population in the US was below 1 %. According to the Roper Center at Cornell University, from 1992 to 1996, the percentage of Asian American voters increased to 1%, from 2000 to 2008 the rate increased to 2%, 3% in 2012, and 4% from 2016 to 2020. In recent years, more studies and standardized exit polls have made great strides in piecing together modern Asian American participation in elections. For example, AAPI Data collaborated with the Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the Asian and Pacific Islander Vote organizations to release several reports on voter surveys from the recent presidential elections, focusing more specifically on the gender, ethnicity, age, and location of Asian American voters. I will be using data visualization on voting data after the 1990s and use other methods, such as infographics, to present voting history from the 1950s through the 1990s. Election exit polls from the Roper Center, The New York Times, Edison Research, and the survey from the AAPI Data are planned to be used in my research. 


Asian and Pacific Islander Vote


Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Roper Center 

Edison Research

The New York Times Exit Polls

HistoryTube: The YouTube Trend of History Through Reenactment

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. 

Season 4 Episode 6 “Kpop Sisters”

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. 

From video “Getting dressed in the 18th century”

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.