So today I ramble…
As historians, we balance a fine line between the public and private. As public historians, we must constantly have the interest of the public in our mind. This raises a major question: “Who is the public?” I further push us to analyze the question of “who within the public is important?” A problematic question from the moment it is mentioned. With the popularity of the internet access to historical documents is more accessible than ever for almost anyone. So, who becomes then the public that we are writing for? Who do we need to consider?
Radiolab’s podcast about the photographs of the soldier debate, emphasizes the point of who is our public, who do we respond to, who do we owe. In a way, owing someone should not be our focus as historians, but in away when we do certain works, we are responding to a majority and to stakeholders. The photographs she took would have told an important story that comes with war, it would have told a story of unity, through the development of the photographs into the prayer, but due to stakeholders, the family, the story became one more of death.
With the advent of the internet and the access to newspaper articles and photographs from earlier days, people are more than ever learning about things that occurred in the past. Before the creation of digital open archives, people focused on information gained from books, oral histories and deep historical research, but still people could only find so much in that time. Now, we have the ability to research news articles from around the world, sitting in one spot. This access allows historians to learn more than ever! One of my favorite moments of having this access is learning about all the tabloid worthy actions of the Candler family, including Mrs. Candler having a male guest over at nights when Asa Candler was out of town. After that she was arrested for cheating on Asa, according to the articles, was friends with Chief Beaver and he arrested Mrs. Candler for Asa. While information like this is not vital to research or a thesis, as public historians it is fun to share and now with the internet we can share it.
For me, in my research, I likely would not be able to do the massive amount of research that I can do on Deaf history without the internet. Gallaudet holds all of its information from around the nation, actually even the world, on one site. Although, as I have mentioned before the site is rough, it is still better than nothing, before I would have had to go to DC and go through their archives on campus, if they allowed me in. Gallaudet through the use of the internet has also been able to gather information on Deaf cultures around the world. I am also able to view videos on Deaf President Now, from the 1980s, and protest that are happening throughout the world as the world Deaf community becomes reinvigorated. With the creation of the internet the question of who is our public becomes even more problematic, who cares about what we research, especially when they can research it themselves?