A Public History Newbie's Thoughts on Everything and Nothing

Public History. Comments. Questions. Sarcasm. Maybe Some Hippie Rants.

Are You A Citizen Archivist?

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Facts, free and ample facts that you can correct at will from your own computer. Citizen Archivist makes lets every modern historians dream come true. The website http://www.archives.org encourages citizens to take up the task of developing the nation’s narrative online.
Citizen Archivist states that by contributing to various transcriptions, editing sites, doing work for selected projects, ect… anyone can help the National Archives make information more accessible, understandable and more appealing to the next seeker.
When scrolling through the Citizen Archive page, http://www.archives.gov/citizen-archivist/, I immediately had sense of, “Well, what do I really know? I should just let someone else handle this.” That sensation quickly past because, after all, the Citizen Archivist wants corrections and the public deserves information.
I took up the task of editing Wikipedia (yes, this is really a valid Citizen Archivist suggestion).
First of all, let’s talk about the evolution of how students use Wikipedia. In high school my peers (and myself) would write a paper filled with pilfered facts from the site and be overjoyed that information was someplace other than the dreaded library. Then came freshman year of college, where in each classroom the Professors warned against the dangers of Wikipedia. For about three years I associated Wikipedia with fire, brimstone and Mordor. Wikipedia might even come into your house at night and wreck up the place.
By the junior and senior years the tension associated with Wikipedia had eased up slightly. My professors would often talk more fondly of Wikipedia and suggest that the site was actually an acceptable source to find sources. However, they reiterated that obvious use of facts taken directly from the site was a heinous crime of plagiarism, offensive to the professor’s intelligence and worse of all, could get you expelled from your academic program. As a first year Graduate student Wikipedia is now a new possibility. My professor of Digital History wants us to explore it as contributors as well as add to its content.
The Wikipedia organization itself “encourages users to be bold when updating the encyclopedia. The site can even be considered welcoming. It asserts on one of its various editing instructional pages that “anyone who has edited is known as a “Wikipedian” and, no matter how trivial the edit may seem, can be proud that he or she has helped make Wikipedia what it is.” How nice is that? It seems like the Internets way of saying, “Mi casa es su casa.”
So, to do my Citizen Archivist duty, I headed over to the one subject that I really know on an academic level, Connecticut tobacco history and culture. It fun and exciting to offer the world more accurate history. First of all, I read what was on the page. Only three sources were cited on the short overview. For now, I simply added some depth and context to the history presented based off of a timeline that I wrote for the museum when I began working there- it was just a start. More citation from the actual sources (besides just referring to the Tobacco Museum’s website) will be coming.
As I working doing these mild edits it struck me anew how valuable those who take the time to revise these types of pages are. It takes time and a genuine want of sharing true history.


Author: greengoddesshistory

Public History Masters Student. Museum Director. Trail Runner. Gym Lover. Dove owner.

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