Promoting Online Public History Resources: What Works? What Doesn’t?

As public historians who use the web to collect, collaborate, and share, much effort goes into organizing, researching for, and designing the sites we create for universities, museums, and cultural resource centers. However, personal experience in doing public history online has lead me to believe that project promotion – online and off – helps determine a project’s success as much as content development, methods of collection, and the incorporation of functional design elements. Public historians frequently rely on an “if you build it, they will come” mentality that fails to account for how targeted audiences engage with and become interested in historical content online. Without first figuring out how to generate interest in an online project – which (hopefully) leads to active participation and collaboration – public historians will fail to realize key long-term goals and objectives.

I propose this session in hopes of discussing what works best in promoting online public history projects. In particular, I would like to address engagement and promotion within communities traditionally silenced by celebratory historical narratives.

What types of social media campaigns have you launched and how successful were they? What differences exist between project promotion on PC’s and mobile devices? What role does e-marketing play in the development of online public history resources? What online tools work best in promoting web-based public history projects?

Categories: Project Promotion, Session Proposals |

About Will Tchakirides

Will is a History PhD Candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee exploring race and policing from the vantage point of African-American police officers. He earned his MA in Public History from American University, where he specialized in digital archiving and museum exhibition.

2 Responses to Promoting Online Public History Resources: What Works? What Doesn’t?

  1. Emily Pfotenhauer says:

    I agree that promotion/outreach/user engagement should be a key component of any successful digital public history effort. I’ve definitely run into the “if you build it, they will come” assumption–the perception that users will discover content through Google et. al. without further marketing. An additional discussion question I might add to Will’s is: What is the value of aggregating a digital project within a broader resource such as WorldCat, the National Portal to Historic Collections sponsored by AASLH, or the various state- or regional-level portals?

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