History should not be only for those who seek it out. There are people out there who believe history should be presented only in the way historians want it. You see a source, you want to learn more, here are the references, footnotes, the reading list and you expand.
I got into history in a strange way. Jurassic Park. I love dinosaurs and in 1993 they were everywhere. The cinema, toys, Weetabix boxes and every other place a Tyrannosaurus-Rex image could fit on.
Jurassic Park got a lot of the facts wrongs, it reinvented the velociraptor but tested a young boys imagination. To cut a long story short, palaeontology got me interested in archaeology and archaeology got me into history.
So let’s go back to that starting point with Jurassic Park. A young me was more interested in digging up peoples gardens looking for ancient treasures and fossils rather than what a dinosaur was. I knew some names and I knew what they look liked but Jurassic Park taught me that. Where am I going with this?
1994 the Natural History Museum’s dinosaur exhibit went on tour, my school were lucky enough to go to the exhibit as a part of a school trip and that was when my eyes were opened up to the fact that there was so much more to know about dinosaurs. Not only that, the person showing us around was using Jurassic Park as a reference when talking about the exhibit. I had never been so interested in something in my whole life. Before that my life centred on football and Pogs.
Go forward to 2008 and I am in my archaeology lecture and an essay topic pops up about the crystal skulls in South America. Wait a minute, I thought, I have just watched an Indiana Jones film regarding that and now I want to do this for my essay. Now Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls tells us how these crystal skulls are from an alien race, far-fetched but obviously this is Hollywood. There was no reference that these were some of antiquities biggest scam in the movie. (Feel free to do some further reading ;))
As a child and an adult, my interests grew from a seed being planted. This morning I read an article from History Today which was written by Kate Wiles. Great article and very well written.
I respect the opinion but I do disagree with some of the points being made. It was talking about a Twitter account called @medievalreacts which has medieval pictures changed into modern memes. Some are funnier than others but they are there for all to enjoy. The argument presented by Kate Wiles seem to be that they are created by another company to make money and that they do not do anything for historical knowledge or those who want to know more. My argument is…..so what? How about introducing a new concept of historical awareness?
I present some of our attempts at memes, we presented a medieval image of Hell and used it as a #motivationmonday meme. It is not there to educate people on their daily commute to work about the medieval ideology of Hell, but maybe one day a person of any age are in a museum, or watching a television show and see the original image or one similar, they turn to their partner and talk about the meme they saw on their way to work, then they look closer. They may read it and gain that extra bit of knowledge on the subject but a one off picture has triggered that response. Before that they may have just carried on through the museum or talked through the television programme.
What I am trying to say is let’s take history back from the historians. We created Hashtag History because we want to broaden the reach of history. We happily spend our time putting together quirky and interesting content and when we can a humorous twist on history, does that mean silly memes? Yes it does.
Reading a comment from the article someone put “twitter needs footnotes so references can be added. Posting an image without referring the source is an abomination unto Nuggan”.
140 characters is what we have. Now I do not believe in plagiarism and I agree giving credit is something that should be done on work but just think of a stupid meme and what it can do if it even grabs one person’s imagination. It is worth it.
History Today is a magazine for the academic, I can imagine histories newbies struggling getting their mind around some of the articles including this one but that is the target audience.
The idea that everyone should expand on a picture with further reading keeps history in the academics club.
We join Horrible Histories and the many amazing Twitter profiles that push history to the masses. The live historians and volunteers who push the imagination. Leave gobbets and referencing to the historians and academics. Let’s give history back to the people and let them enjoy it, through films, pictures or memes.
I enjoy reading History Today, I love what happens in heritage but others don’t. We want to work with websites, magazines, heritage sites and any other history outlet to give everyone else the opportunity.
I am not saying people do not have the opportunity but there is a barrier and a hint of history snobbery.
History for all, accessible to the masses and the choice to follow it up or just do nothing with it.
It’s time to take history back
The Hashtag History team