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Rebekkah Rubin, Public History M.A. Candidate, UMass History

Before I came to UMass, I spent a season working as a historical interpreter at a living history museum. Every morning I put on two petticoats, my dress, and a bustle, and drove to work. Throughout the day, I talked with visitors about the temperance movement and women’s rights in the 19th century. During breaks, I took pictures of juneberry pies that I had just baked in the wood stove. I brought out the coffee container in the museum’s collections that came from my hometown, 530 miles away, but visitors rarely saw. After I swept the dust off of the front porch and let the embers die down in the stove, I posted the pictures to Twitter, using the hashtag #ITweetMuseums. On my days off, I visited local historical societies and museums, tweeting all the while. By tagging my tweets with the hashtag #ITweetMuseums, my museum experiences became accessible to people who ordinarily would not have had a chance to visit these museums. When I couldn’t venture out to new museums, I scrolled through my own Twitter feed, searching for #ITweetMuseums tweets that transported me to museum exhibits miles and continents away.

Throughout Professor Marla Miller’s “Writing History Beyond the Academy” seminar, we have discussed the ways in which historians can use Twitter to their best advantage. From a visit by Lee Badgett, professor of economics at UMass and author of The Public Professor, we discovered that being on Twitter can be beneficial in making connections, and those connections can be essential in discovering ways to make your research benefit the greater good. From talking with Rebecca Onion, Slate.com’s history writer and the department’s Writer-in-Residence (whose public lecture “Truth, Lies, Clicks, and Shares: How History is Faring on the World Wide Web” can be viewed here), we’ve learned that people are engaging with history in all sorts of new ways on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet.

Earlier this semester, the department hosted Mark Schlemmer, the founder of I Tweet Museums. I Tweet Museums’ mission is to “encourage and support museum staff to tweet museo-relevant content from their personal Twitter accounts.” Schlemmer, the registrar at the New York Historical Society, is inspired both by his own work and the work other museum professionals do on a daily basis. He created I Tweet Museums as a platform for museum professionals to share what they are naturally impassioned about in their day-to-day work.

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Johnson

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Erica Fagen, Ph.D. Candidate, UMass History

<img class="size-full wp-image-552" src="https://umasshistory.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/h4rxtje.jpg" alt="Hipster Darwin Meme (imgur)” width=”500″ height=”444″> Hipster Darwin Meme (imgur)

About a year and a half ago, I showed students in my History 101 discussion sections a “Hipster Darwin” meme. (The thick, horn-rimmed glasses are a feature characteristic of the hipster wardrobe). This photograph of Darwin, with the added glasses, includes the text “I talked about the survival of the fittest…Before the Hunger Games.” This mashup of history and twenty-first century popular culture was met with (mostly) laughs and (some) groans by students, and I explained to them that this meme combined two of my favorite interests, and using humorous images is an engaging way to talk about history. These sorts of images, however, are not without their problems. Memes, tweets, photographs, and Tumblr posts were the subject of Dr. Rebecca Onion’s public lecture “Truth, Lies, Clicks, and Shares: How History is Faring on the World Wide Web” on March 2nd. Onion, history writer and editor at Slate’s blog The Vault, was this year’s Writer-in-Residence. Before her visit to UMass, I read many of her articles on Slate, so needless to say I was excited to hear that she was coming to UMass. As someone who studies historical memory on social media, I was very interested in her lecture, in which she discussed how social media is transforming the way we experience history on social media platforms like Twitter and Tumblr. Her insight was not only useful to me as someone who asks this very question, but to my fellow historians as well, who got to see a whole other side of history, or as she called it, “what happens with history in the wild of the web.” Using the hashtag #WIR2016, many of us tweeted her lecture, quite the #meta experience I might add.

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