The Future of Public History

When I interviewed Dr. Rosengarten, I asked him, “do you think of yourself as a public historian?” He told me, “I don’t think of myself as a historian in the first place. I am an educator first.” And then he asked me, ““isn’t every history a public history?” I did not answer him at the moment. But is every part of history is public history?
When I tried to define public history, the first thing to jump out of my mind was not some museums, memorials, or something else. It was Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” The history should be the same as a government. Every time I think of public history, it was always about people. For a public historian, the works should be about the people and for the people. The word “public” always comes first. And the public is the people. An ancient story about historians was told in the Zuo Zhuan, a Chinese narrative history written in the 400 B.C. The story was about a historian’s family stayed in truth for the history and the people. The story inspired me since I was a child, and when I writing history, I was always asking myself, who is my audience.
Community history should be a big part of the future of public history. And this community is not only a physical term. It was also meant the virtual community. Because of the internet, people who had the same interests can form their very own communities. Two people sitting apart from the world can communicate the same interests they had. One luckiest thing I have is I can communicate in Chinese, a language that has the largest online communities. It was always fascinating to find some online forums that were built for people who have the least popular hobbies. I did spend quite a time in a lot of different online communities, and in the last thirty years of internet history, a lot of interesting things happened that can be part of writing history. It can help people to learn from each other. But there are also some disadvantages of these online forums. It supposes be exists until the world ends (the Internet was designed for nuclear wars, so I guess it could last after the world end,) but the servers of these forums can be removed, shut down, or any other reason which can make them disappear forever. And unlike archives that can be stored in physical evidence, a shutdown forums meat most of the staff in the serve would disappear forever.
I believe for future public history, the method of transform the information would be more important than other things. Podcasts, Tiktoks could become the next tool for public historians to record and transmit history. It could be a new way of “writing” history. If public history is built on the memories people shared, then the memorials of social media are definitely would become part of history in the future.

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