One of the assigned readings for the week, Chapter One: “Exploring the History Web” of Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web by Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, is particularly interesting as it relates to our final projects and future careers.
Cohena and Rosenzweig note,
- Historical scholarship translated into the online environment has been even less daring in format than museum or film efforts—a reflection of the formal conservatism of most scholars, the power of conventions in scholarly writing, and the heavily textual nature of most scholarship. Although vast quantities of scholarly work appear online, the mold of that scholarship is overwhelmingly traditional. Indeed, in some cases, online work is merely an electronic reproduction of an existing print format, with some of the major advantages of the digital form, such as searchability, tacked on.
As someone who chose to study public history specifically because it straddles the line between popular and scholarly culture, I found the above quote to be a useful, albeit indirect, warning.
The internet offers a medium that allows us to explore and present history in multitude of ways; non-linear narratives, interactivity and direct feedback with audiences, the use of audio-visuals, etc. In my opinion, it would be foolish not to keep up with current trends when communicating history to an audience, both on the website final for this class and in future endeavors. After all, if people don’t read long blocks of text anymore (though that’s debatable), they need to be drawn into historical scholarship via non-traditional methods, whether it’s through Twitter or Facebook or a really fascinating internet clip that goes viral.
The critiques raised in this chapter have me thinking about what methods I might use to enable my website to be both informative and engaging. The examples provided by Cohen and Rosenzweig are a great start, and I think that from now on I’ll be a more discerning web surfer–taking note of what works and what doesn’t on all websites, both historical and non, will help me-all of us, really-build the best site possible in the time allotted.