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Digital history and the hidden archive

Two months ago an important conference took place at the European University Institute in Florence on Public History and the Media. Exploring a variety of forms of public history, the second day was devoted to the topic of ‘digital public history’. While the links between the two fields are fairly obvious they are of course not the same. As one participant put it: “Digital History is not the same as Public History *but* Public History needs Digital History”. 

Various projects that were presented or referenced during this day explored ways in which the public can be engaged in, contribute to, and co-author history. Thus the Philadelphia Public History Truck, “a mobile museum project which partners with Philly neighborhood grassroots organizations to explore local history”, enables new voices and audiences to be heard and engage in (local) history. The Europeana 1914-1918 provides an excellent example of enaging the public to create a new user-generated online archive/museum. Digtal history functions in an enabling way here: new voices/audiences and user-generated materials empower ‘the public’ in various ways. But clearly these are also new forms of creating history.