Presence of the Past Survey

When I began interviewing my roommates about their interactions with the past, it became immediately apparent that there was confusion over the wording of certain questions in the survey. Neither one of them have much experience with history aside from some entry-level college classes taken years ago, and so when asking things like “how connected to the past do you feel on certain holidays,” they were unsure whether to answer related to the historical past or their personal history. While this might have been the point of the exercise, it led to confusion throughout the questionnaire.

The questions could use updating and proofreading, but overall, it succeeded in assessing how much non-historians interact with the past. Adding inquiries related to social media and the internet would provide an even more accurate understanding of how often those who do not study history conceive the past. We live in an increasingly technological world, and while television, movies, and books are still prominent forms of media, most interactions within society revolve around the internet. The wording of the questions could also be tweaked a little in order to make them easily understood by the audience, whether that be through specificity or rewording. Some words were also misspelled throughout the survey, which is a minor thing but one that I noticed nevertheless and wanted to mention. Despite these few flaws, the survey works well to discover what most of the public understands to be “the past,” and I think it functioned as a worthwhile exercise for our class.

One Comment

  1. I think it’s really fascinating that the survey caused some confusion. Do you think that represents any kind of change in historical understanding since it was written? Or just a poorly crafted survey?

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