The incredible expansion of technology and the internet have revolutionized the world of the historian just as they have so many others’ lives. I can now “travel” to conduct research at archives, libraries and museums throughout the world without leaving my chair. I can read hundreds of years of newspapers from across the globe simply by entering a password. Millions of pages of primary source documents are added to this digital river every month. The historian must apply the same standards of external and internal criticism to these documents (perhaps even more so in an age when so much can be easily fabricated by new technologies) as before, but the important thing is that they there.
Which brings to mind that Conner Prairie was an early tributary in this river of knowledge. I was the designer and creator of our website during its first five years online. Putting an historian in charge of a website can be a dangerous thing. That is why when it debuted in April of 1996, our website featured a major section devoted to providing the public with historic information, original research and primary documents. Originally called “History Online
,” this material and much more is still available in our “Learn & Do” sections.
This added depth to our website when most museums (the few that were online) were mainly online brochures led to the Conner Prairie website being the first permanent website to receive an Award of Merit from the Association for State and Local History.
One of the exciting additions resulted from our partnership with the IUPUI University Library
. This collaboration has made possible the “Digital Collections
” found on the site. It features rotating 3D imagery, video, and descriptions of valued items from our archive and collections. Digital versions of some our now out of print collections will soon be added. We will soon inaugurate a new feature in which staff members will tell you about some of their favorite artifacts in our collection. I encourage you to take a look.
As much as I sometimes hate to admit it, the internet is as valuable tool for the historian as the libraries and archives I still love to haunt. If readers are interested, I will devote a future blog to evaluating some of the sites I use most often and how to get the most out of them. Historians, after all, must keep up with the times.
As Conner Prairie Interactive History Park continues to prepare for the grand opening of the 1863 Civil War Journey: Raid on Indiana
on June 4, follow along with the fictitious reporter Wilson Mayweather as he gives a perspective on the events of the only Civil War battle to take place on Indiana soil. This reporter and story are fictitious; representing an amalgamation of historical facts.
Stay tuned for Reporter Mayweather’s next story from the front lines.