Survey of the Fields

How has the work of digital public history changed over time?

The early phase of digital public history appears to focus on disseminating information, photographs, and documents for teaching and research purposes. The audience engagement, based on images and information, assumes that visitors are searching to find out more about the given topic’s history. The Blackout History Project  solicited input to enhance the collection and broaden perspective, however, the soul purpose seems to inform the public of these events. Later, the digital public history work shows great advancement in the design of sites, the navigation and inclusion of video and audio recordings have moved the historical process to another level. These sites expand on the purely research and historical information in a way that they aim to gather responses from visitors of the site. Part of the historical experience is to share and examine the effect of history on contemporary audiences. They tell the stories and examine the perspectives to allow for a broader understanding and interpretation. This lends itself to great educational purpose, such as the Raid on Deerfield project. The more contemporary sites of the digital public history move towards outsourcing digitized historical documents. These sites also incorporate social media to reach a wider audience and invite more contributors. The educational purpose is still prevalent and desired by some, for instance the Lincoln at 200.  It seems that while early sites were offering, revealing and making information available, the more recent sites have a slight shift in focus inquiring help, collaboration, or interest in spreading history while revealing new perspectives and connections to the public and to the individual.

What qualities should we be looking for as markers of good digital public history work?

The markers users, creators, and visitors of public digital history projects should be looking for good navigation, the quality of information that is driven by research, public interest, and asking or answering questions of history and the human experience within that history. These sites should be designed to fulfill a need to further explore histories that we know or we wish to know. It should examine perspectives with a critical eye and build its content to serve audiences of all sides. In addition, the site should have a strong presence on social media sites.

  What are promising new directions in this field?

One of the promising new directions are the ones that consider public history in light of   education. These sites offer an additional view of history as they supplement textbooks and lectures. Also, the ability to house and showcase document, photographs, and videos allows visitors to view, gather, or use these in research or education. The outsourcing aspect of this field is exciting because it not only involves the public, but also expands on historical research.


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