At the end of this amazing second day of the Public History Conference, I visited the Poster Presentations at the Exhibit Hall of the Compagnietheater. Seven public history projects were presented by historians, variating from collecting material about AIDS patients in the 80s to mapping military heritage spots in the Netherlands.
While walking around this Exhibit Hall and talking to the initiators, I heard some interesting ideas about the ways that historians could use digital tools to involve non-academics with history. One girl showed me some experiments to get schoolchildren actively thinking about history. These children had to make a selfie with a historical object (to realize that in fact everything can be history), or had to create a Twitter account for a historical figure (like Martin Luther tweeting “just published 95 theses”). Another project, Vele Handen, used the Internet to attract volunteers to help digitalize historical objects from the Stadsarchief in the Netherlands. One master student in German history had an interesting observation about the whole Public History Conference. He, as a non-public historian, was astonished by the fact that all these public historians were so focused on the needs and desires from the public. At first he was convinced that a historian should do historical research and nothing else. But than he realized that it could be interesting for historians to study the public, and even helpful for historians to get a job easier. During this conversation, I realized that public historians are not only giving something to the non-academic public, but also to other historians.
Finally: the whole Poster Presentation Exhibit about digital history might have been a bit more digital. Poster, now sometimes even written by hand, could be made more exciting using digital tools. But after all I really enjoyed this part of the conference!