In tasked with analyzing a public history project of our choosing, I was naturally drawn to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s (USHMM) “History Unfolded: US Newspapers and the Holocaust.” I had been previously been made aware of this project, though I had never looked too much into it. Below is a screenshot from the websites home page that explains their mission:
At the time of my writing this, this initiative is only featured at the bottom of the museum’s homepage. This tells me that community outreach is not a top priority/mission of the museum. While there are lots of other resources available to the public, like their encyclopedia, the public outreach seems to be lacking.
In respect to the tools they utilize, it greatly reminded me of the database that Rowan University has for documenting COVID-19 related experiences that I discussed in a previous blog post. When you create an account with “History Unfolded” and follow some prompts, you are given a list of topics/events that the museum would like citizen historians to research.
How does USHMM ensure that their citizen historians are utilizing accurate information? They have certain time frames where interested folks can utilize newspapers.com for free! This greatly enhances the products contributed to the project since it provides interested participants with reliable primary sources that are digitally accessible. When you create an account, you are shown this announcement:
As you likely noticed, their call for submissions ends on June 30, 2023. While it is clearly noted that there will be a “transformation” of the site to focus on the analysis of the provided data, this information was only made available after you create an account.
While I get targeted ads from USHMM from my educational focus, my blue-collar, welding boyfriend does not. As written by Deborah Boyer for the National Council on Public History, “A social media presence and mobile-friendly website are two means of increasing the likelihood that diverse audiences will find and use a digital history site.” I have only previously heard of this initiative from physically attending USHMM and talking with employees. I strongly believe that this imitative would be even more successful if they had a stronger online/social media presence.
At the time of my writing this, there are 55,553 total published submissions! While this is incredibly impressive, a prevalent social media prescience could push this even further.