Andrew Lih and the Future of Online Public History

23 09 2013

Andrew Lih is the author of The Wikipedia Revolution. He now teaches at American University. He has launched a cool new project that aims to populate the most important Wikipedia articles with moving images. He noticed that while many articles in the for-profit Britannica Encyclopaedia include multimedia content where appropriate, very few Wikipedia articles contain moving images. This is the case even if the subject is one that cries out for such images (e.g., articles about a particular sports move or dance).

Here is how I am going to help his project out in a modest little way.  I currently teach a course for senior undergraduates called Digital Public History. I’m also a huge fan of Wikipedia and believe that it has the potential to transform our planet, particularly the poorer regions where people can’t afford to buy the knowledge they need to make more efficient uses of scarce resources. Next term, I’m going to connect these two interests.  Last year, my students’ group projects involved creating websites about local historical sites. The students based  their websites of archival research. Here is an example of one of the projects.

This year, the group projects will involve creating short videos about historical topics that will be inserted into some Wikipedia articles.  They will also be based on archival research, but will involve somewhat different skill sets.

Many citizens now get their information about history from the Wikipedia. It is therefore up to academic historians to ensure that this information is as accurate as possible. Moreover, we ought to contribute to increasing the effectiveness of Wikipedia articles as tools of communication. As every good teacher knows, sometimes a (moving) picture is worth a thousand words!


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