May 18: Public History in a Digital Age #aahm2013

Tweeting from the Saturday, May 18 lunch session on “Public History in a Digital Age: Possibilities and Implications for Medical Historians.” A lot of questions, a lot of good discussion — people seemed to come away from it cautiously interested, and certainly wanting more.


Getting organized for live-tweeting small-group discussions. (Thinking about uses of social media, you might think of this as a potential classroom application).

Questions & concerns, Issues & possibilities

We began in small groups sharing questions and concerns about digital tools and exchanging some ideas about the possibilities of digital media, as well as some of the issues it presents. Many groups focused primarily on Twitter, possibly because the live-tweeting brought it to the fore for folks not used to it, and a lot of questions about the ethics of live-tweeting and the concern about “scooping.” Another common question dealt with the technology itself and the need to learn what it is, how to use it, and what is and isn’t worth learning.

Where to go from here, and some resources

During the break-out session, groups reported back on the sorts of questions and concerns they’d discussed in at their tables and then shared ideas about the future of digital tools and medical history/historians. Included a lot of good ideas about the role of the AAHM and individual historians fostering conversations and sharing valuable resources and use cases.

The lunch session was quite interesting, and it was good to see the AAHM working to get involved in discussions about the possibilities presented and issues raised by the “digital world.” There seemed to be some push-back at first, but much of it appeared to center around the concern about using digital technology authentically, rather than, as Heather Munro Prescott (@hmprescott) put it, “[G]etting on [the] digital bandwagon just to be trendy.” I look forward to seeing the AAHM get more involved in the conversations that have been taking place for some years now about digital publishing, archiving, collecting, and public history.

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