A Public Historian in the land of the public historians.

The creation of a public sphere for exchanging, analyzing and critiquing ideas has opened up the field of history to the general public. Leslie Madsen-Brooks writes ““public history” does not mean just projects, programs, and exhibits created by professional historians for the public but, rather, the very broad and complex intersection of “the public” with historical practice.” What does this mean for academics? I truly believe that as public historians, we have to step our game up even higher. The public is able to get ahold of documents, pictures, and information at a rate of never before. We cannot just throw something on a wall and expect that the public one, hasn’t seen it before and two, cares. We have to tell new stories, with new interpretations and in new ways. The Center for Civil and Human Rights does this well. Most know the story of the Civil Rights movement, but what the Center does is encompass the entire experience in a way that books and the internet never will be able to do. This should be our goal as public historians. This new digital age will force us to work harder, be more creative and do more with what we have. I like that. I like the challenge. I feel like it opens up this world of the never before. We can truly create, no longer are museums expected to just tell a story. We are expected to tell a story in a way not available anywhere else.

Wikipedia, a once contested source, now a source that is suggested for sourcing more material and even for fact finding. When did this even happen? “Truth and the World of the Wikipedia Gatekeepers,” describes some of the issues with Wikipedia being a good source. As historians, we are taught that we must use primary sources in everything we do. Wikipedia seems to not believe in primary sources. I can see where they are coming from. While primary sources as academics allows us to engage with the past and to analyze using secondary sources, for non-historians this may be harder. Not only harder to do, but harder to find these primary sources. Primary sources though are essential to history. They are history. They are what tells us the stories of the past from their own words. According to Messer-Kruse, Wikipedia works like democracy… it claims that the information posted on Wikipedia must be a majority opinion, but what does that mean to history if the majority opinion is wrong? While Wikipedia is a great source for secondary sources, as mentioned in the NPR podcast, it is still a contested land and should be used with a grain of salt. Especially considering that they are not wanting people to update based on primary sources.


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