Open Source History (I really got into this one!)

The best quote to start this article with would have to be, “The student of British culture reported that Wikipedia proved as accurate as the Encyclopedia Britannica and easier to use”. That one sentence says it all. I feel as if the reoccurring theme I keep getting back to on this blog is that, it is not the material or source that needs to be scrutinized but the researcher. When using an open source, or a wiki, a source that can be changed by another person, one must examine the credibility of that person or source. In the case of Wikipedia, Roy Rosenzweig’s article makes it clear that while it is not the preferred historian reference it may be a good starting point. If you open up any Wikipedia article, the sources are listed below. Many times, those sources, (mainly secondary sources), supply you with a baseboard to jump off of into a topic or theme. I mainly prefer primary sources when researching a topic for a thesis paper or project but I’ve found on numerous occasions that the people, books or other forms of sources cited at the bottom of a Wikipedia page help me to understand a topic and see how the page construction came to be. On one or two occasions I have had in depth conversions with my professors about historical accessibility. One of the main reasons I am a history major and public history minor is that I want to pursue a career in the field and show people who may have fallen asleep in their high school US History class how history comes alive if you look at it the right way. Wiki’s are one way of opening that door. Once a person understands that history is a living and breathing thing, I have seen people from all sorts of backgrounds suddenly see that spark in historical data that I can only describe as a light switch being turned on. It may be as simple as attending a historical reenactment or living history exhibit where people are dressed up in costume and acting in character. Where do those people turn when their interest is peeked? Google. Where does Google bring the average person researching the life of George Washington? Wikipedia. If Wikipedia is just as reliable as a top-notch encyclopedia what is to stop that average person from scrolling to the bottom of the page and seeing a book citation? What is to stop that person from then turning to Amazon and picking up a book that gives them a foundation to a historical mind? Accessibility. If historians prefer intellectual doctoral thesis papers and essays among their peers there is nothing wrong with that. However, there is undeniable promise in the accessibility and reliability of online wiki’s.  



(Every child’s first historical figure!)


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On The Hunt

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunt: Find and blog how you found these three historical items (be sure to include links to, or excerpts from, each item):

1)    An op-ed on a labor dispute involving public school teachers from before 1970:

-Step One: I googled op-ed because I completely forgot what it meant. The definition came up on Google and I learned that an op-ed is an article or editorial, something on the written page.

-Step Two: I thought back on my History of Working Class America class from last spring with Professor Rogers and remembered a series of teaching strikes surrounding the same era as the civil rights movement.

-Step Three: I then went to the library website to search through the Hartford Courant Historical. I logged into my ccsu account.

-Step Four: I then typed in teaching strikes in the search bar and updated my timeline to 1960s and before.

-Step Five: I opened up an article dated August 31, 1967 entitled Teacher Strikes?

-Step Six: I clicked on the Summary and Cited using Refworks, Turabian Style Reference.

– Teacher strikes? 1967. The Hartford Courant (1923-1987), Aug 31.

2) The first documented use of solar power in the United States

-Step One: I googled “the first documented use of solar power in the United States.

-Step Two: I click through the sited until I found what seemed to be the first company to establish use in 1974.

3) The best resource for the history of California ballot initiatives, including voting data.

-Step One: I googled California voting registry

-Step Two: I opened the government site and clicked “Archives” where a listing of archives is available as a link for researchers.

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Google Heads

Nicholas Carr, do you really think that Google is making us stupid? Or is it perhaps the person themself that makes the choice to be lazy? It seems to me that much like any other task in life, research, whether it is looking up the weather or a complicated mathematical formula, requires the researcher to be proactive and discrete. When I do research there are a few things I look for; a recent look at the topic or event, a reliable source as free from bias or agenda as possible. In short, I’m looking at recency, authorship and sponsorship. In my introduction to public speaking class, the first lesson my professor went into was how to do proper research. Perhaps the timing matched up nicely with reading Carr’s article and learning how to be a credible professional speaker, but I felt that the two topics paired nicely together. Google quite literally opens up a world of websites and it is your job as the “Googler” to distinguish which site or document has the most up to date information, the most reliable author and an unbiased sponsor. Responsible researching is the duty of the scholar. I have a difficult time agreeing with the notion that physically using Google is bad for the brain. Sure, typing in a question and receiving an answer is possible but using the three criteria I listed above help negate any undesirable outcomes. Much like anything in life, you get what you give. What makes using Google any different from the ancient era of encyclopedias and library digging? Minus dust allergens and speeding up the process, Google and other research tools have done nothing but give us access to more material and at a faster rate than we have ever seen before. The Internet may provide us with more distractions but those distractions come hand in hand with valuable material, if you know where to work. Google is not making us stupid. Search engines simply give us an updated supply of equipment to work with.


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Blogging in Academia

I can see how blogging in academia, a world of professors and experts, may attractive a negative overtone due to the copious nature of research and carefree blogging reputation. However, I find that the best way to spread knowledge is to make it accessible. A historian who has spent years developing a thesis may reasonably seek a different audience than one looking to spread word about a research project, but I feel that blogging comes down just that, audience. Dan Cohen’s article, “Professors, Start Your Blogs,” makes an important distinction when he states that, “blogging can be a powerful way to provide “notes from the field,” and I feel that professional blogging should be used in that way. The article also mentions this idea that, “the key to being a successful scholar [is] to become completely obsessed with a historical topic, to feel the urge to read and learn everything about an event, an era, or a person”. We live in a digital age. As cliché as it sounds, the days of pouring over card catalogs and taking long trips to find primary source documents are behind us. The Internet provides a perfect venue to discuss our “historical passions” and interact with other professionals around the world at the click of a mouse. It is clear that online resources such as Zotero, Google Docs and even the capability to turn documents into PDF files expand the historian’s horizons when executing tedious research projects. Who are we as historians without our ever-growing network? Blogging provides a brainstorming board, creative outlet and networking haven. 

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The Start of Something New

Hello all and welcome to my blog! Just to start out, my name is Mary. I’ve never put much thought into blogging before today. This new adventure provides me with the opportunity to put some of my inner most thoughts into words, pictures and links. I look forward to interacting with others and making some new connections.
I love history. I love to travel. I believe the two are interconnected in the most beautiful way. Who doesn’t love traveling somewhere new? I know I sure do. Better yet, who doesn’t love traveling back to a place where you have a bit of history? I thought I would start out by sharing a picture of my favorite place in the whole world. The steps in the picture down below lead down to Hamilton Beach on Chebeague Island Maine in Casco Bay. As I sit here now thinking about this place, I can feel the sand beneath my bare feet on the worn out wooden steps and the rocky stretch leading down to the sand below them. I remember summer after summer with my family laying in the sun, swimming in the water and I can taste the burnt some-ores made over nighttime driftwood fire pits.
To me, history feels the same way. History is my favorite place to travel, my favorite story to repeat over and over and my favorite memory to analyze with the all seeing perspective that only comes with time.



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