My final stop at this conference day was the Poster Presentations. Here, young public historians and students presented their theses and (digital) public history projects. A master student in Education who let their secondary school students take selfies with an historical item (from churches to grandparents and from trees to their own primary school) to make them understand and discuss what history contains. A graduated student that advocated the use of the database of an Aids victim’s memorial website to tell the bigger historical story of the Aids epidemic in the Netherlands. Two public historians who developed a virtual map for the yet-to-be-opened Dutch Military Museum and a graduated historian who wrote his thesis about the presentation of the Second World War in games.
Before I came to the session, I was a bit surprised to see ‘poster presentations’ on the program. Is there anything more non-digital than poster? But I have to admit, for me personally this was the most inspirational part of the day. But why? These days were filled with passionate people talking about interesting tools and projects. First of all, the topics showed me a direct view at my future as public history student: thesis and internship projects that sometimes even let to freelance projects.
But, more importantly – call me old-fashioned – I think I simply still love direct interaction with the speaker about his or her subject. Discussion rounds are great, but being able to converse face-to-face definitely does it for me. Some admirers might say that Twitter gives us the opportunity to directly discuss the lecture. True, but I still think twitter is a strange kind of second-screen discussion in which only the presenter – who should be the expert – can’t participate. Moreover, – yes, I really am old-fashioned – I think it’s pretty hard to follow a presentation and tweet and follow tweets at the same time. It distracts my attention from the speaker – who sometimes traveled halfway around the world to tell me his or her story.
Of course we can’t organize a conference with just face-to-face dialogues. And of the value of different views in a discussion should not be underestimated. But sometimes a simple conversation without tools, without moderators and without immediately sharing it with the whole world is just really refreshing.
By Hermien Buis