Be Kind, Rewind
Most, if not all of us, have experienced learning about history through video. As a former secondary educator, I often used Video as a supplemental instructional tool. This form of teaching was affectionately called the “lesson in a box” by one of my principles, which in itself is a historical reference to old VHS tapes. When working as a substitute teacher I welcomed and cringed at the idea of using video for lesson plans. The reasons: it benefited my time in the classroom because managing student behavior was easier, but showing the same content class period after class period became mind numbing, no matter how interesting the content. Side note: This is why I will never watch 2001: A Space Odyssey again. Video, like audio and infographic content, is another method of making historical subject matter more accessible to a larger number of people, those who might never pick to a journal article or text.
While watching the suggested video selections this week, I was struck by how brevity can be beneficial when highlighting specific topics. Why? Because we live in a sound bite world, where lasting opinions and beliefs can be formed after reading 140 characters. Videos like the Andersonville Stories, Minuteman, and Presidential Coffee clips share historical content or discuss historical topics in a manner that make the subject being covered interesting and impactful. The watcher will not become an expert after viewing the clips, but the videos may encourage the viewing of additional content or further personal research on a topic found to be interesting. For example, after watching the Minuteman video clip on colonial attire I did some research on the difference between stays and corsets, which I also found to be a common Google search topic.
When looking at the impact historical video content can have on an audience, the Whitman Mission Historical Park video selections showed that video content – like other forms of historiography – must be updated. The information presented should reflect inclusive and modern beliefs surrounding race, gender, and ethnicity. Historical videos should not perpetuate antiquated ideas about race and culture, but provide the audience with a balanced and accurate accounting of the each story being told. However, it is also important show how the manner in which we produce and share content can change, especially when previous beliefs and ideas are challenged. As a student, I found the second video more impactful because of how flawed and “racist” the content in the first video was.
There are many ways to experience history, and this can be done through books, podcasts, tours, and video. I believe a varied approach to learning and instruction can entice a larger number of people to seek out information on topics they find interesting or valuable. More significantly, the manner in which the content in presented is also varied in its quality, accessibility, and purpose. Whether that purpose is to entertain or inform, I hope the long-term goal of any historical video is to engage and challenge an audience to participate in thoughtful reflection on the topic they are viewing.
Below is a sample video I made while working on an Island Histories story.