History in 140 Characters: Historical Accuracy in the Twittersphere

Note: This post originally appeared in my blog, Navigating New Media, which follows my journey through the Digital New Media public history course here at Loyola University Chicago. I encourage you to follow my future posts, as well as those of my classmates. Check out the blogroll on the class website!

I started using Twitter last summer during my internship with the Nantucket Historical Association as a way to post updates of my glamorous (and sometimes not-so-glamorous) #internlife. I shared photos of the painting workshops I ran for the NHA (and the wonderful ladies that came every week), the special events that we hosted at the Whaling Museum, and other historic sites that I visited on the island during my runs, bike rides, and beach days. It began primarily as a way for my friends and family to see what I did everyday and for me to share my exciting experiences, like taking our ArtifACK Cart out on to the museum floor.

Eventually though, I realized Twitter was something even greater than a simple microblogging platform. Twitter was more than a medium for sharing articles and other interesting finds on the internet. Twitter was a way to informally, but directly connect with historians and museum experts that I had always wanted to engage with. It made me feel like an important and contributing part of the #publichistory profession. And, because of this, I quickly realized that Twitter was the most incredible thing I had ever used. Again, bold statement (What is it with me and making bold, sweeping statements today? #problematic #letsthinkaboutthis #butreally). But it allowed me to share my thoughts in a concise and immediate manner with a network of public history and museum professionals. And they could respond, they could challenge me, they could reinforce what I was thinking, they could offer different perspectives. The ability to interact and network so concisely and so quickly with others in the field have made me feel more connected and included in the field, even if I’m still just a student at the very beginning of my professional career. I think, also, that this level of interaction has helped create a more inclusive and unified field, as it becomes easier to share new research, interesting finds in the archives, or important news from professional conferences like the National Council on Public History or the Society of American Archivists.

Continue reading “History in 140 Characters: Historical Accuracy in the Twittersphere”

Advertisements

Making The Case for Food & Public History

In so many of our public history classes the issue of relevance always seems to sneak its way into the conversation. We have been taught that the most successful museum exhibitions are those that are relevant and engaging to visitors and those that allow them to make meaningful connections between the past and the present. Yet this is much harder than it sounds – especially considering the fact that our audiences range widely in age, class, politics, ethnic identification, and so many other characteristics. How can we find a topic in history that is relevant to all members of our diverse audience?

As an open and admitted foodie (sometimes, much to the annoyance of my cohort), I have found a deep passion in cooking, gardening, and learning more about traditional foodways – from grinding my own cornmeal for tortillas to making my own ricotta cheese and everything in between. Thus, it was not all that unusual that the answer to my relevancy question revealed itself as I put the finishing touches on my mother’s best guacamole recipe.

Food. All people eat food. Food is relevant to everyone. Everyone.

Continue reading “Making The Case for Food & Public History”

History during the Holidays: Greenfield Village Holiday Nights at The Henry Ford

The holidays are all about traditions. We all understand that the coming of the holiday season means honoring the same family practices and hearing the same family stories from our aunts and uncles, grandma and grandpa, mom and dad. Our holiday traditions become a part of our heritage, a personal history that deeply affects who we are. But even these traditions change as we change.

One tradition that defines the start of the holiday season for my dad and me is the annual Holiday Nights walk at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Actually, all of the seasons and holidays have at one time or another been marked with a trip to Greenfield Village, May Day? Yes. Halloween? You bet. The opening of baseball season? Why not? They have a baseball team after all. In this way Greenfield Village has become a part of my DNA and without a doubt influenced me to go into Public History now. From its romanticized Main Street with fleets of Model Ts speeding down the street at a steady clip of 10mph, to its “Working Farm” that allows visitors to milk cows, feed chickens, and weed gardens, Greenfield Village packs the entirety of 19th and early 20th century American history into one whirlwind history attraction. Make sure you wear good walking shoes.

Image

So my dad and I heralded in the holiday season as we usually did: Model T ride first (the line gets too long later on), a visit to the printing press and blacksmith, a 1910 Carrousel ride (or two or three rides), a caroling-required wagon ride, a walk through Thomas Edison’s laboratory, and a visit to Santa who calls out to the children (and to 22-year-old Public History graduate students) by name due to helpful elves with a walkie-talkie system. Yet the highlight of our visit is always the dramatic telling to “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by a man named Anthony. He tells the same story over and over, but tells it each time with the same passion and excitement as the first time. At the end of his telling people thank him, hug him, take photos with him, and treat him with so much love that he becomes part of their family for that moment. All of these holiday activities are generally ahistorical, but still warmed my heart with holiday cheer and reminded me of the many memorable father-daughter moments from visits past.

Continue reading “History during the Holidays: Greenfield Village Holiday Nights at The Henry Ford”