Tuesday, May 13, 2014

#Instagramming #History: an #Experiement

I love wearing the green and grey. I sometimes feel naked if I walk outside without my flat hat (even after years of not wearing the uniform). It was refreshing to work at Andersonville with amazing staff and a healthy work environment. However, I am finding I enjoy the freedoms of working beyond the realms of government, too. I can try things and have fewer restrictions. The proverbial oyster is my world. (Or something like that.)

I have always had a tumultuous relationship with social media. I love it. I hate it. I love it again. I hate it some more. I have gone long periods in which I delete accounts and remove myself from the virtual world. Then I get on "my life is an open book and nowadays we call those open books 'blogs'" kicks. As much as some may not like it, there is a place to create relevance in the digital world. So that's what I am going to do.

My current work includes managing a history walking tour company. We have found creating a presence online is nothing but beneficial to the business side of what we do. We have a website, we have a Facebook page, and we have a Twitter handle. The company is a business, but my colleague and I are interested in sharing our passion for Nashville history. Our constant challenge is promoting the business while maintaining that core of enlightening, educating, and sparking interest of the past. Social media is one tool for us to do that.

I recently read somewhere (a tweet? a blog post? a comment on a thread? I can't remember...) a mention that the hashtag #publichistory did not pull up many pictures on Instagram. My initial response is "well, because only public historians use that term, not the actual public interacting with history." So I checked: 384 posts come up with that hashtag. The most recent of those posts was from 4 days ago. That's an eternity in Instagram world. The hashtag #history, however, pulls up over 3.5 million posts. The "insta" in Instagram refers to that instant: you document that moment at that time. How can historians (or public historians, if I am to play along here) use Instagram to engage? Especially if history is the opposite of instant or that moment?

A photo collection from users on Instagram
I feel it is a quality question, especially considering tentative reach. Just today an article published highlights that media's popularity: management anticipates reaching over 1 billion Instagram users. Say whaaa? Yes. The company even incorporates history into its reach. Here they compile instagram users' photos into a visual aid that accompanies a blog post about the Hearst Castle in California.

So what can I do? I know of a few institutions and agencies that have (and regularly use) Instagram. Now Echoes of Nashville has an account and I plan on using it to capture and share the physical that relates to the historical. Again, this is an experiment. I believe, however, if a funny looking dog can have nearly 800,000 followers, surely an active and engaging history account can get a few, too. Let's see where this goes, shall we?

*All thoughts posted here are my own.

**You can follow the experiment at @echoesnashville on Instagram.

***@tunameltsmyheart is one of my favorite Instagram accounts. I mean no offense by calling Tuna "funny looking." It is why he melts my heart.

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