At the start of the semester I was excited to follow NARAtions, a blog for the National Archives and Oh Say Can You See?, a blog for the Smithsonian Institution of American History. Both are considered prestigious public history institutions, so I had high hopes they would value the importance of a digital presence, specifically through blogging. However, I was frankly disappointed and extremely satisfied with the other
NARAtions was the frustrating one. All that blog really did was just update readers on happenings at and around the National Archives. A more recent post (September 30, 2015) announced a new crowdsourcing program launched by the White House, “a tool that provides information and resources to help federal agencies use the power of public participation to help solve scientific and societal problems.” It was interesting to follow various programs, roundtables, and other events at the National Archives, especially to see ways they are trying to implement digitization. But I just do not see how this kind of use for the NARA blog would be effective and engaging for those interested. Perhaps showcasing recent discoveries and acquisitions, highlighting interesting items in the archives, or even recapping various events would have been more interesting for readers.
The Smithsonian blog clearly suggested this organization is more in touch with the digital world and that they actually have a real digital presence. This blog covers a whole variety of different themes (that are also effectively organized). Perhaps the most amusing one was 10 tips from actual teens on how to survive (and enjoy) a trip to the history museum. I absolutely love how the American History Museum is trying to engage the youth with the museum and history and this blog post, among others, highlights this. This blog post was created by teens from the History Explorer’s Youth Advisory Council, a program I also find extremely important as a way to keep history fun and interesting for young people. Other blog posts, like a question and answer post with the curator of a recently opened exhibit (American Enterprise: A curator’s perspective) show more behind the scenes, which I think is important and something that more museums need to do. Blogs and other digital outlets are the perfect way to do that. And naturally other posts highlighted various interesting items within the impressive Smithsonian collection. But they do much more than just highlight these items, they actually create a narrative, often relevant to issues of today. I especially loved the post Packaging the Pill, which provided a brief history of female contraceptives and also related images from their collection. Oh Say Can You See? is definitely a model blog for other history institution and museums.