Fire and flood, whether natural disaster or human-made, pose great risks to our historical materials. However, the third F, forgetting, is the only fully preventable one. And if we fail to undertake this step, there is little point to saving the rest of it. An array of artifacts without any explanation or information pertaining to their purpose, background, use, etc. will do little to inform the future.
This is the second in a three-part series focused on the most severe dangers to history (what HistoryIT calls the 3Fs – Fire, Flood, and Forgetting).
Floods have caused trouble for centuries, but now we have tools that can help mitigate their destructive powers. And no, I don’t mean a good pair of waders, although those certainly come in handy.
Six years ago, in October 2014, I was focused on preparing for my first-ever TEDx talk. Titled “The Future of History,” my talk focused on what I like to call “Generation Click,” the group of people who grew up accessing information exclusively digitally and who have no personal memory of using non-digital tools such as card catalogs or encyclopedias.
History is always in danger. By history, I mean the historical assets that we use as evidence and examples to share stories from the past. These assets are often in a state of jeopardy. Numerous forces could destroy these resources and the histories they contain. This blog series addresses what we at HistoryIT call the 3Fs – the greatest dangers to your history: Fire, Flood, and Forgetting.
This post takes a look at the first F – fire. I have observed that most of us are aware that our historical archives – whether personal or institutional – are one matchstick away from total destruction. This is a serious concern. Though, it rarely prompts an urgency for digital preservation. We always think it won’t be our house that burns. Until it does.
Individuals and organizations all have things from their past that they wish hadn’t happened or had been handled differently. This can be as minor as that eighth-grade haircut or as serious as middle school bullying. It can be as horrifying as knowing your ancestors owned slaves. It can be as shameful as learning about racist policies and procedures implemented in your organization’s past.
With Harvard and other leading universities seeking to ban or effectively eliminate single-gender organizations by sanctioning their members, sororities and fraternities are under attack.
It’s not the first time.
I first got to know the magnetic William Hudnut, III not through that twinkle in the eye, the baritone voice, or the signature “Hudnut Hook.” Instead, I got to know this larger-than-life personality through historical documents preserved thanks to a visionary partnership between the University of Indianapolis and digital history pioneer HistoryIT .
As most baseball fans know, the Cleveland Indians are battling right now for their first World Series title since 1948.
That 1948 team was stacked with future Hall of Famers: Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Bob Lemon, Joe Gordon and Satchel Paige. But one Hall of Famer who wore the Cleveland Indians uniform in the first half of the 20th century doesn’t look natural in it at all.
Pittsburgh Pirates’ great Honus Wagner was known for his bat. Not just figuratively–he led the National League in batting eight times and finished with a .328 career batting average–but for his actual baseball bat, the lumber he gripped in his hands. He preferred a 33 inch bat weighing over 40 ounces, massive by today’s standards, with a thick handle and small knob.
The Jackie Robinson Scrapbook, recently digitized by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and HistoryIT, is a collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, and even baseball cards compiled by a fan, Jack Donovan, during Robinson’s career. Among the many illustrations is a photograph that is perhaps the most famous photos ever from a minor league game.