From this week’s readings it seems that the digitization of history has been more openly welcomed by public historians than by their colleagues in academia. While Anne Lindsay notes that many public history institutions have been driven the web out of necessity as visitors increasingly see the web as a first stop for information, it is a necessity that is less powerful in academia, and has driven a fuller engagement with the digital world by public historians and heritage tourism sites. This has had a significant impact on these heritage sites and organizations, as their expansion into the virtual digital world has opened up public history to those who, for financial or other reasons, cannot make it to the physical sites. For those visitors who are restricted by non-financial means, this has also opened up a wider population of potential donors. The creation of virtual tourism however, is not the only role for the digitization of public history, as Lindsey points out that this digital experience must be harmonized with the narrative of the physical site as well, allowing each to reinforce the other and build a connection with visitors. Additionally, and tying back to many of the articles from last weeks reading, is the advantage posed for public history by the scale and accessibility offered by a digital presence. Unlike a physical site, the web is not restricted by space and, as it is easier to revisit than a physical museum, faces much less restriction in time as well.
Another idea, less explicitly stated by Lindsay, is developed more fully by Melissa Terras and Tim Sherratt. This is the role of social media in driving access to specific parts of collections and digitized sources. While some of this is intentional, such as the increasing use of Bots to draw attention to random entries from various collections, much more is the result of individual user decisions and links. This can have somewhat of a skewing effect, as Sherratt points out that the Trove’s visitors spiked due to a link to a specific article from redditt. Even more worrisome are the users that data mine these digital collections for evidence to support an already held opinion, then sharing that data without context. This type of visit is also fickle, as Terras points out that these spikes in interest are often short lived. Visitors navigating to these sites also rarely engage further with the content available, with Sherrat pointing out that only 3% of visitors linked in from redditt further explored the Trove’s holdings past that one article. However, as Sherratt argues, “3% of a lot is still a lot,” and for a least some people this might have opened up a greater engagement with history. A point left unmade in either of these articles is also perhaps important: surely the original user of these articles and images spent significant time engaging with the site, then sharing it with social media or redditt both expands the exposure of public history and demonstrates the interest it held for that user.