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robertogreco : @historyinpics   2

it’s history, not a viral feed | Wynken de Worde
"Feeds like @HistoryinPics make it impossible for anyone interested in a picture to find out more about it, to better understand what it is showing, and to assess its accuracy. As a teacher and as someone who works in a cultural heritage institution, I am deeply invested in the value of studying the past and of recognizing that the past is never neutral or transparent. We see the past through our own perspective and often put it to use for our own purposes. We don’t always need to trace history’s contours in order to enjoy a letter or a photograph, but they are there to be traced. These accounts capitalize on a notion that history is nothing more than superficial glimpses of some vaguely defined time before ours, one that exists for us to look at and exclaim over and move on from without worrying about what it means and whether it happened.

But history is not a toy. It’s not a private amusement. And those of us who engage with the past know how important it is and how enjoyable it can be to learn about it and from it. These accounts piss me off because they undermine an enterprise I value.  Historical research—indeed, humanistic inquiry as a whole—is being undermined by the constant plugging of economic value as a measure of worth, the public defunding of higher education, and the rampant devaluing of faculty teaching.

And so @HistoryInPics makes me angry not for what it fails to do, but that it gets so many people to participate in it, including people who care about the same issues that I do. Attribution, citation, and accuracy are the basis of understanding history. @HistoryInPics might not care about those things, but I would like to think that you do. The next time you come across one of these pictures, ask yourself what it shows and what it doesn’t, and what message you’re conveying by spreading it.

And so as to not leave you on an angry note, I leave you with the following recommendations. Want some old pictures to laugh at? @AhistoricalPics is a hilarious, spot-on mockery of the trend. Looking for a twitter feed that will call attention to interesting historical tidbits while also providing accurate information and reliable attributions? @SlateVault, curated by actual historian Rebecca Onion, is a vault of treasures indeed. If those don’t give you enough outlet for your whimsy, try @libraryofaleph, which tweets verbatim the captions of images in the Library of Congress, allowing your imagination to run wild and then letting you search the Library of Congress yourself.

Follow these accounts and resist the others. You’ll thank me in the long run."
attribution  copyright  history  2014  sarahwerner  twitter  @HistoryInPics  @HistoricalPics  @History_Pics  mattnovak  truth 
february 2014 by robertogreco
@HistoryInPics, @HistoricalPics, @History_Pics: Why the wildly popular Twitter accounts are bad for history.
["“I know what this is!” vs “I wonder what this is about?” - @rebeccaonion on shallow history vs historical discovery." https://twitter.com/samplereality/status/431435603029540865

"We need more things in this world that make us end our sentences in question marks instead of exclamation points." https://twitter.com/samplereality/status/431436258888679424 ]

"These caveats aside, Werner’s cry—“These accounts piss me off because they undermine an enterprise I value”—resonates deeply with me. Lack of attribution for the artists who took the photos these accounts use is only the beginning of the problem. By failing to provide context, offering a repetitive and restricted view of what “history” is, and never linking to the many real historical resources available on the Web, these accounts strip history of the truly fun parts: curiosity, detective work, and discovery.



"Attribution, meanwhile, isn’t just about giving credit to a creator. A historical document was produced by somebody, at some time, under certain conditions. To historians these details, and the questions they provoke, are what give historical documents dimension. As John Overholt, the curator of early modern books and manuscripts at Harvard’s Houghton Library (and an avid Twitterer and Tumblrer), said to me via email:
Every image is also an artifact—it has a creator, a context, and, in the era of film photography at least, a physical original that sits in a repository somewhere. Divorced from all that metadata, a stream of historical images is always going to be a shallow experience.

By not linking to sources or context, history pic accounts create an impression of history as a glossy, impervious façade."



"When she posted her rant on the history-pics phenomenon, the Folger’s Sarah Werner received pushback on Twitter, and was accused of being “against fun.” But a critique of this mode of history-on-Twitter is actually the opposite of elitist schoolmarmery. By posting the same types of photographs over and over and omitting context and links, these accounts are robbing readers of the joy of the historical rabbit hole—and they’re taking a dim, condescending view of the public’s appetite for complexity and breadth of interest.

In my capacity as blogger for the Vault, I spend a lot of time in (free!) digital archives, on the blogs of libraries and museums, and on sites produced by historians working inside and outside of the academy. A delirious pleasure of historical inquiry, on- and offline, lies in the twists and turns: You think you’re writing about children’s encyclopedias from the 1920s, and at the end of the day you’re researching the primatologist Robert Yerkes. This joy is easier than ever for anyone to experience, given the ever-growing body of linked information and original documents available on the Web.

I’m under no illusion that every blog reader follows the links I include to the archives where I find documents, or that every Twitter follower clicks on the links I put in @SlateVault tweets. But if they do, and they land in a digital archive or on a blog, they might see a slider pointing to related documents, a right rail with links to intriguing past posts, or an appealing subject heading. Or, they might decide to plug some of the information they find into Google Books, and see whether anything fun surfaces.

My hope is that I’m providing a starting point, not an end point, with each post. I never know for sure if what sparks my own curiosity will kindle a similar fire with readers, but if it does, I want readers to be able to pursue the subject beyond the confines of my short posts and tweets. The history-pics accounts give no impression of even knowing this web of legitimate, varied historical content exists. Given their huge follower counts, this is a missed opportunity—for their readers, and for the historians and archivists who would thrill to larger audiences for their work."
2014  history  curiosity  rebeccaonion  sarahwerner  @HistoryInPics  @HistoricalPics  @History_Pics  johnoverholt  questioning  askingquestions  attribution  context  mattnovak  truth  twitter  alexismadrigal  discovery  learning  complexity  artifacts  bestpractices  tumblr  research  howweshare  internet  web  online  questionasking 
february 2014 by robertogreco

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