I Always Forget I’m A Public Historian

I always forget I’m a public historian. To be honest, I often forget what public history even is. After taking several courses on the subject, it should probably be clear to me by now. But it’s not.

To be honest, one of the reasons I’m most excited about this project is the potential it has to help me work through my own personal issues of opaqueness. I think the first step is realizing that whatever I come up with, it can’t be another research paper. As much I like research, and as much as I like translating that research into text-based narratives, I’m also well aware that most people don’t like to read.

No judgement though! We all get lazy with reading, some more so than others. Nowadays it seems the majority of things I read are on a computer screen, which makes it all the more enticing to just zone out and give your eyes and brain a break from the laborious process of long form word concatenation.

That being said, short blurbs on historical events or places can be quite effective. If you’ve noticed I’m actually practicing that right now by keeping all of my paragraph breaks to around 10 lines. This is something we worked on a great deal in my digital public history course, getting things down to succinct chunks that effectively communicate the themes of a story. It’s a lot harder than it seems, as I’m sure many of us struggled with this week.

So with all of that in mind, I think there are a couple ways that I could go on this project:

1) I mentioned to Dr. King the HistoryPin app. It essentially lets you tag a place or building, write an historical-lish blurb about it and superimpose a recent photo with an one one (which you can cooly transition between with a slider on the screen). My initial thought was to compile the entire classes research into a kind of tour of Hollins Market using HistoryPin, with each site telling a short story about something related to the respective building (who lived there? Who died there? When/why/etc.). The HistoryPin app is honestly a little clunky, as most history apps are, but that could be a good way to go.

2) As I was writing this, and thinking about the idea of a tour of Hollins, there is also another app called Storymap which be a more effective tool to achieve that end. It is essentially an interactive map that you can assign specific places with specific text. The idea is that it takes the viewer on a specific path through a geographic area, often telling a story while it does it. At this point I have no idea what that story would be though and I’d rather not just have it be an aimless sort of tour to random spots in the market like “Heres Lithuanian Hall, ok now heres Zellas! Yay that Hollins Market!” Depending on what the class comes up with, maybe there is a way to pull a cohesive narrative about the history of the market out of all these disparate spots. Maybe?

3) Depending on how much audio interview material we get, it could also be cool to create some kind of online digital exhibit preserving peoples oral histories of the Market. Sort of like how Preserve the Baltimore Uprising does their thing, but this would be specifically for Hollins. That way, it could be something that we give to the community and be like “if you want to document your neighbors oral histories, this is a safe, effective, and easily accessible place to store it”.

Anyways, these are my thoughts and I’d love to hear any feedback.


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