If you know me a bit you know that there are few things I love a whole lot. I love marketing. I love social media. I love crafts and ladybugs. I love flowers and cooking. I love librarianship and curation.
But none of these things claim my heart the way history does. History has been my lifelong friend. When I learned how to read as a kid, one of my first books was about key Native American chiefs. My favorite books when I was a girl included books about Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln.
Lately, history has been in the spotlight here in the US, but not for very good reasons. Sarah Palin, who ran with John McCain on the Republican ticket in 2008 and who is now a key member of the Tea Party, apparently said that Paul Revere alerted the British, not the colonists. People are using this opportunity to get their laughs in or to make Palin’s flub a partisan issue, as you might expect. But I’m not laughing. I am highly disturbed. How can someone who is in the Tea Party (after the Boston Tea Party), which perpetually says they want to bring back the moral integrity of our Founding Fathers, not know about Paul Revere?
For me, this is not an isolated event. When I was a teaching assistant I encountered a young woman who, when asked why we celebrate July 4th, turned beet red. Our Civil War battlefields are turning into strip malls. Historical landmarks are being torn down to make way for condos. When I visited the Abraham Lincoln house, the park ranger who spoke to us didn’t know when Lincoln was born. We are losing our history.
Why does losing history matter?
One of many reasons why I love history is that it cues us in to how we got to where we are. Studying the history of your country, wherever you may be, can explain to you why people live where they live, why certain people or types of people are in power. More importantly, history can teach us what we need to avoid in our future. Imagine hearing the words “Never again” but not knowing that those words became the slogan for remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II. How could we bear as humans to repeat such a mistake again?
And yet, if we don’t remember, who would be able to tell us these things?
Where Social Media Engagement Can Help
Lately, I’ve been looking at Twitter accounts tied to our National Parks and our historical places. Some of them are neat, but for the most part, these accounts just talk about the commercialism tied to these places. “We’re holding this event today.” “Today you can get $5 tickets.” And that’s fine. That information needs to get out there. But what I’d love to see, and what I think we need, is for people to start reminding us of our history where we spend a lot of our time – online.
There are so many ways this could be done. Here are a few ideas I came up with:
-> Post a historical fact every day. If someone comes to buy tickets and can repeat what fact you posted, they get a 5% discount on their tickets.
-> Have monthly history quizzes – people who answer correctly win a prize, whether a gift card or free tickets to your site. Meanwhile, people learn history and your site gets exposure online.
-> Museums could feature historical figures or events that reflect their galleries
The opportunities really are endless. There are so many ways to get the word out about our historical places while also teaching people why those places are so important.
History is more than dates
Often, when I tell people that history is my great love, they look at me kind of funny and then say, “Oh, I hate remembering dates.”
Let me tell you a secret. So do I!
But history is so much more than “This happened on blah blah date.” For example, you might not remember what dates the first battle of Bull Run happened in the Civil War, but did you know that some of the first shots went through the house of a man who also owned the house where Lee surrendered to Grant at the end of the war?
Did you know that the man who ordered the first shots on Fort Sumter was the prize student of the man who ended up surrendering Fort Sumter?
Did you know that Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln very nearly did not go to Ford’s Theater that fateful night in April 1865?
History is full of these moments, these brief moments in time, when the entire fabric of a nation could have gone a completely different way. That has nothing to do with dates, but it is a rather interesting take on fate.
Would this not be great fodder for online conversation?
What do you think?
How do you think online engagement could bring history back to us? How do you perceive of this problem in our society? Have you experienced it yourself?
I’d love to talk about it with you.
This is post #67 in The Engagement Series. I hope you are *still* enjoying this series. Thank you for hanging in there with me! 🙂