History is present on internet not only through digital archives or websites of historical institutions. Common internet user talks about the past on discussion boards, in comments published on popular sites (like YouTube), while reading blogs or editing Wikipedia entries. This sphere of historical discussions usually (excluding maybe Wikipedia) is ignored by educators. There is no tools and no knowledge how to find, observe and moderate such activities – which can be recognized as a part of historical culture. Because of the growing impact of internet on social historical awareness and the potential range of such online distribution of history topics, that sphere may become one of the most important environment of historical education on internet.
Under the discussion about historical politics in Poland The KARTA Center has organized some time ago special panel. In his comment published later in the quarterly KARTA Tadeusz A. Olsza?ski, polish journalist, political scientist and translator of J.R.R. Tolkien essays and poems proposed that historical institutions and educators should be more engaged in the internet sphere. Wikipedia for him is an excelend tool for realizing educational projects. Professional educators working in the institutions could be taking part in the discussions about historical entries, inspiring new ones and engaging Wikipedians to collaborate with them on the next projects.
The Digital Libraries Federation is a project which gathers metadata information about resources published by several polish digital libraries and repositories and makes it available through one web interface (fbc.pionier.net.pl). The Digital Libraries Federation is maintained by the Pozna? Supercomputing and Networking Center affiliated by the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of Polish Academy of Sciences, and the PSNC Digital Libraries Team is responsible for the DLF development.
Some time ago we at Historia i Media have described two new polish historical internet projects: A Commonwealth of Diverse Cultures and the online version of Museum of the Warsaw Uprising. These two initiatives can have a very strong impact for the nextcomming big historical presentations in polish internet by showing how to use new multimedia technologies in the case of history.
Interfaces of both described here projects are developed on the Macromedia Flash technology. It gives a wide range of possibilities in showing interactive animations, sound, video etc. But it has also some big faults – for our interests most important one would be a case of usability in the context of the educational reasons.
For the Commonwealth of Diverse Cultures, this problem has a smaller importance. This project tend to be more some kind of historical internet showcase than an educational resource, how it is in the second case with online version of the Museum of Warsaw Uprising.
Virtual museum offers lot of digitalized documents, photos and exhibits. They can be used during historical lessons. But how? Because of the flash technology, nobody can add a link to the concrete subpage with one resource. Making the homework, pupil can’t put any unique reference to the material – so how it can be used in a text?
It is important to everytime ask a question if the historical resources published online should be more attractive or more effective. Example of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum shows the different way of presenting big internet collections, where there are no problems with references to the concrete materials and subpages. Usability and accessibility has more importance that the attractiveness of interface.
Check also: Case study: Headline History – accessibility and Flash
Feeds is our new tiny tool for all RSS-readers interested in topics of digital history. In this project hundreds of RSS sources from digital history blogs is being put into one feed after the appropriate selection (we want to show most interesting news and resources). Using the base of RSS sources and functionality of Google Reader we can show daily at least several interesting news, resources and discussion related to the topics of digital history. Also a special widget with the latest news can be put on the one’s site.
Of course all copyrights of the content provided by the project feed belong to the original authors. Feed is only a medium to share information about the sources of the content. We do not even publish it on the project site – it is available by RSS channel (powered by Feedburner) or by the widget (Widgetbox).
The mechanism of the aggregation is a part of Google Reader functionality. The database of sources is built by Historia i Media team. Now Feeds channel is available via twitter and Facebook. You can search throught its content using Yahoo Pipes.
On the second stage of the project development we want to work with the RSS sources and prepare a tool for social aggregation and evaluation of the most active and valuable news, which would be dynamically added to the main feed. This project was made in a few hours so please do not hesitate to comment it or suggest any modifications. Please visit a project homepage: feeds.historiaimedia.org/
In Warsaw CSW nowadays can be seen an exhibition titled History Will Repeat Itself by Inke Arns. Its topics were nice described in this two notes of the great art blog We Make Money Not Art, so there is no need to do it again here. But it is worth to concentrate particularly on one of the presentations referring to the issue of media as a way of history re-enactment.
Spielberg’s List is a movie project by Omer Fast. His work – two channel video constructed around the experiences of Polish extras that participated in Steven Sielberg’s shooting of famous Schindler’s List – shows how easily media and entertainment can re-construct memory.
Strong discussion on the polish internet takes place nowadays because of the Fiat advertisement created by Leo Burnett. This polish version of very similar conceptions which could be seen in France or Italy is now being accused of using public memory for the commercial purposes:
see it on YouTube
To tell the truth, Fiat became a part of polish history. But for many people using an image of Solidarity movement, Lech Wa??sa, John Paul II or even the Warsaw Uprising in the advertisement is a violation of principle in which great historical moments and personalities can not be owned by any political or commercial circle – they are a public domain of memory and can not be credited to the one company or political party.
The case of internet communities is widely discussed in the context of the Web 2.0 idea. Cognitive, educational potential of communities is proved in Wikipedia, where groups of users in a dynamic way (discussion, co-operation) build knowledge resources. The quality of theirs works can be sometimes better than articles in the professionals encyclopedias. Despite all the problems connected with collective and freely edited knowledge, Wikipedia became an excellent place for starting a research.
But can online communities be helpful in the case of history preservation? Two projects started some time ago in Poland encourage internet users to collectively gather the historical materials and knowledge.