In history there is so much that has been lost because we simply cannot find any evidence to explain what happened. Examples like the Mayans, the lost civilization of Crete and other come to mind. I have no evidence to support this claim and so it is merely an opinion but I believe that because we now study our history so intensely and are living so much longer that we are more interesting in preserving our history and legacy than we ever have.

This is where the Superbowl is held in a week. It’s amazing how things change.

The Occupy, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina archives are publicly created internet based collections (try saving that 3 times fast) of images, videos, documents and other items. To use the Occupy site as an example, the purpose is, “documenting and saving the digital evidence and stories from the Occupy protests worldwide.” The Hurricane and 9/11 sites have similar ‘about’ pages that state that they are creating a collection of images, videos, documents as well as blog posts and other personal stories. In other words these sites are helping to actively create a social history collection for these events.

I find these sites fascinating as they give very personal perspectives to these subjects as opposed to the mass media news stories that covered them. It puts us into the shoes of single individuals who suffered through the tragedies or took part in the protests. It keeps the memory of these movements fresh too. Meaning that as time goes on, the Hurricane, the towers falling or the mass protests that were ongoing aren’t simply remember from the peripherals. What I mean to say is, instead of remembering them simply from afar, we can remember them through the eyes of the peoples who witnessed and were affected by them first hand.

Having history told in this way is extremely valuable in my opinion. We are able feel more in touch with the Second World War by reading personal letters to and from soldiers who were fighting on the front lines. Using the same idea, being able to read the personal account of someone who protested in the Occupy Olympia movement, see a picture of sign on the door of a UNDP office close after 9/11, or download the Oral History of Emma West who rode out Hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, gives us deeper insight and a more personalized look at history.

I was incredibly impressed by how extensive the Hurricane Katrina Archive seemed to cover the event. From pictures to video to Oral Histories and other things, it just seemed to be extremely deep in its coverage of the event. I think that can partially be attributed to it them going out and interviewing people who were in the storm because it made sure that even those who had lost everything were able to have a voice in what happened. The same seems to be true of the 9/11 archive but I find that the age of the website is makes it slightly difficult to navigate.

The Occupy Archive is pretty limited in the number of items you can find on it. Most of the items are pictures, there are very few stories and there are a limited number of interviews. I have a hard time exactly pinpointing why this is but I have a feeling that historians find that while it is an interesting event in a sociological context, it’s not as important as a natural disaster or a massive terrorist attack.

This is more of a side note but I found it cool (and it likely wasn’t a coincidence) that all of these websites were funded/supported by the George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (I assume that if I don’t put the full name that they’re going to send out a hit team to teach me a lesson).

Overall, I think it’s great that people think it important to actively keep record our social history. In 100 years, the new generations will be able to understand our generation and era more fully because of these sites. This is a slightly personal note but I find myself thinking about what legacy I may have and how my future bloodlines will think about it, so this topic hits home in a way and I hope that we (as historians) can appreciate the importance of these sorts of projects.

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