Lots of bloggers are posting histories of Halloween today. Here’s a small sample, ranging from the Christian to the Socialist, from the synthetic to the sarcastic:
Late Update (Halloween Bonus): It’s not a history of the holiday so it doesn’t fit with the other links, but Syd Lexia’s history of McDonald’s Halloween “Happy Pails” is too good to pass up.
This Week in Geek Humor has a post today chronicling “The 20 Funniest Computer Geek Humor Bits of All Time.” I personally don’t find all the author’s choices very funny, but I appreciate his clear attempt to open a historical dialog.
Watchismo is a collector and online dealer of vintage watches, especially digital watches, from the mid-20th century. He describes himself as “devoted to the highly unusual, obscurely rare and advanced modern designs of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s” and focused on the “rarest styles of the space-age.” There are some interesting galleries on the main website, but more interesting is Watchismo’s recently launched blog, where items from the collection are considered in greater detail and placed in narrative context, for example in this week’s “History of LED Calculator Watches”.
Late Update (11/15/06): Watchismo has done it again with a timeline of Bond gadget watches. That’s “Bond” as in “James Bond.”
Saturday Night Live had a funny sketch this weekend exposing the anachronisms inherent in living history museums and exploring how family- and employee-friendly public history venues like Colonial Williamsburg struggle with historical realities (e.g. slavery) that aren’t so family-friendly. As of this posting the video is still available from NBC, but I can’t promise it will be there for long. I’ll try to keep an eye on YouTube and if it turns up there I’ll post an update.
Late Update (10/31/06): It looks like NBC removed the Williamsburg video from its site, and I can’t seem to find it on YouTube or Google Video. For now, we’ll have to live with SNL’s summary.
Check out Webcomics Nation for Mikael Oskarsson’s ambitious graphic history of 60’s Rock and Roll. Follow the story of classic rock legends through eighty-two (yes, that’s 82) chapters, from Elvis and The Everly Brothers to Woodstock and The Who.
Bill Turkel has a fantastic post about the ways people search for history online. Using search data released by AOL and some statistical methods, Bill has been able to tell us a lot about how ordinary Internet users think about history and what topics interest them most. Clearly this is very important stuff for Found History, and I hope he takes it further. I’d be particularly interested in how the history searches of AOL users compare to those of Google and Yahoo! users, but I suppose (thankfully) that Google and Yahoo! have more respect for their users’ privacy and that this won’t happen anytime soon.
One thing Bill notices is how many searches for “history” relate not to the study of the past, but to the web browser’s cache and how to delete it. Though Bill’s methods are statistical and mine are anecdotal, this is something I have noticed as well. I do a lot of searching around the web for the pieces of found history I post in this blog, and I often find myself sifting through lots of web pages and blog posts about clearing Internet Explorer’s history files on my way to finding a truly historical nugget.
This suggests a converse research question to the one Bill has asked of his data set. It would be interesting to compare the kinds of history people are searching for with the kinds of history they’re posting about. I suppose you could do this by pulling three months’ worth of feeds for blog posts containing the word “history” (easily done through Bloglines or blogsearch.google.com) and running some similar text mining operations on them. Analyzing how “history” is used in titles could be particularly enlightening in that titles and search terms share a similar descriptive intent. And you could easily ask the same kinds of information distance questions of both.
Obviously this has me thinking. Many thanks to Bill.
This is slightly off-topic, but anyone interested in public history should check out the student blogroll for Alan MacEachern’s graduate seminar at the University of Western Ontario. (Most of MacEachern’s public history students are cross registered in Bill Turkel’s digital history class, so there’s lots of good history and new media stuff there too.) I’ve spent most of my time at Kelly Lewis’s Curiouser and Curiouser, Molly MacDonald’s Public History, and Jeremy Sandor’s Humility in History, but they’re all worth a look.
Well done to all the gang at UWO!
This is huge, or potentially so. Yahoo! has launched what they are calling an “electronic anthropology project”—a digital time capsule of images, stories, video, audio, and artwork, all submitted by Yahoo! users. As of this posting, the project has collected more than 4000 objects from nearly 3000 people in just over a day. When the capsule closes on November 8th, the collection will be transfered for long term preservation with the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings project. Until then you can explore it through a very cool Flash interface. By any measure this a very welcome expansion of the practice of online collecting … even if Yahoo!’s claim that “this is the first time that digital data will be gathered and preserved for historical purposes” is patently and outrageously false.
The English History Matters (not to be confused with the U.S. History Matters—CHNM’s own “U.S. Survey Course on the Web”) is encouraging all England and Wales to submit entries to a “mass blog” on October 17 as part of their One Day in History drive. Organizers say they picked October 17—an “ordinary day”—because they are looking to record the “mundane and ordinary lives of citizens.” They are also asking participants explicitly to reflect on “how history itself impacted on them—whether it be simply commuting through an historic environment, or how business history influenced their decision-making, or merely that they looked up some old sports statistics or listened to some pop music from the 1960s.” Entries will be archived with the British Library, the National Trust, and other agencies. The group, a heritage advocacy organization, also encourages regular public contributions of photographs and stories to its website through it’s Share Your Thoughts section.
Late Update (10/13/06): “One Day in History” is now open for contributions in advance of the main event.
Late Late Update (10/18/06): “One Day in History” looks like a success. As of this writing, more than 500 people have contributed to site. Based my own experience with online collecting, I’d say that’s a more than satisfactory day’s work.
Last night Jeremy mentioned an article from Slate about GM’s use of images of Rosa Parks and other historic persons and events to sell Chevy trucks. Here’s another article from the New York Times. Commentary on the ad—which also features images of Joe Louis, Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, the World Trade Center site, and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina—is roundly negative. The ad may well be in bad taste, but I was interested to read that the Parks Institute (an organization established by Rosa Parks herself) is in on the act, reminding us again that the politics of memory is a complicated business.