2013 Australian Historical Association Conference – on social media

Green grass, ferns and trees

The conference was held at the University of Wollongong. What a beautiful environment!

Social media has revolutionised reporting.  Citizen reporters flood social media with immediate observations of revolutionary events, disasters, sports matches as well as more mundane everyday moments.  This form of reporting is also changing the experience of academic conferences for many.  People who cannot attend can listen in on the conference backchannels through Twitter.  They can discuss it on Facebook and read about it on blogs during the conference and in the immediate aftermath.

Tweeps and bloggers attending the annual conference of the Australian Historical Association in Wollongong broadcast the news as it happened – or did they? Continue reading

Pause, Reflect and Share: A Busy April

DSCN3147 Front classroom Blackboard wiped CIt is important to take time to regularly pause and reflect, however when we are busy we sometimes overlook this.  Over the last month I lurched from deadline to deadline and forgot to take a step back periodically to assess how I was going.  I hadn’t realised that I was becoming rather stressed, focussing on tasks I had not completed rather than what I had achieved. Then I decided to share with you what I have done over the last few weeks and in doing so regained my perspective.

In March I started a course at TAFE, Certificate IV in Training and Assessment, which will lead me to become a qualified workplace trainer.  I have plenty of experience doing workplace training as part of various jobs over the years but increasingly employers are wanting people to be qualified.  It was time to do the course in order to back up the experience.

At the same time I was asked to conduct a workshop for historians for the Professional Historians Association of NSW which is scheduled for 18th May.  It is titled Social Media for the Cautious Historian – the Basics.  Someone working in public relations asked me to provide them individual coaching to help them learn how to use twitter effectively for their work.  I am also now one of the tweeters Professional Historians Association of NSW (@pha_nsw) and look after the content management system for their website. Continue reading

Reaching Out to the Public – Australian Historical Association Conference 2012

4 people standing in front of sandstone wall

Some of the participants at the conference who reported it on twitter: Brett Holman (@Airminded), Yvonne Perkins (@perkinsy), Dave Earl (@davegearl) and Ashleigh Gilbertson (@a_gilbertson).

Sharing history with the public has been a strong theme at the Australian Historical Association Conference.  Wonderful!  There is so much to be done and so much that can be done.  It is encouraging to see that so many historians are actively addressing this in their work.

Reaching out to the public was shown in myriad ways throughout this conference.  Aside from writing a book that the public can read, historians demonstrated that they are connecting to the general public through:

  • Film;
  • Public history;
  • Digital humanities; and
  • Social media.

Use of technology is an important aspect of most, if not all these categories, however, much can be done with minimal technical skills. Continue reading

Nearly There – Experiencing a Conference Online

Collage of twitter streams forming the letters "AHA" on a background of a photo of conference participants.

Just some of the thousands of tweets sent by participants of the recent American Historical Association conference. Credits at the end of this post.

Nearly a year ago I knew that this year’s conference organised by the American Historical Association would be exciting, but I also knew I would not be able to attend it.  In order to find out what had occurred at a conference like this in the past I would have had to rely on talking to people who had attended and for publication of papers and accounts arising from the conference.  Someone like me would have missed out on hearing about nearly everything that occurred or learned about it months after the event.  Not any more:  blogs and twitter allowed me to hear about what was happening as it occurred or pretty soon after.  During the course of last weekend I was glued to my computer screen when other responsibilities and sleep allowed it, reading the tweets and blog posts that were pouring out of Chicago.  Over the last few days I have been reflecting on my  online conference experience.

Is social media a good substitute for attending a conference?  My experience this weekend has not led me to change my mind on this question. If there are a lot of sessions that interest you and people who you would like to meet, it is still much better to attend the conference in question if you can.  Keeping abreast of proceedings through social media is better than being off-line during an interesting conference but it is still very much a second-best option. Continue reading

Australia’s Historic Newspapers Online

Me reading an old copy of The Age in front of 2 monitors

When I was 10 I kept a newspaper recording a leap in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Australia to 1.7%! This newspaper also reported on the first days of President Ford in office. However, increasingly old newspapers are freely available online.

We all know where to go to access Australia’s historic newspapers online – the National Library of Australia’s Trove website.  This site has deservedly received heaps of praise.  It has a good search facility, there is no charge for use of the website and it has an effective means of correcting errors in the optical character recognition (OCR) reading of the newspaper text – crowd-sourced transcription.  The list of newspapers available on this website is impressive and growing.

Digitising Australia’s newspapers is a herculean task.  For the size of the population Australia had a large number of newspapers – just take a look at the list of newspapers published in the central goldfields region of Victoria between 1851 and 1901 (Hughes, 2003, pp. 18-48). Elizabeth Morrison notes that a directory of newspapers published in 1888 recorded nearly 600 newspapers being published in Australia at the time (Morrison, 2001), p. 471). Many issues of old Australian newspapers have not been kept, but even so the libraries in Australia face a time-consuming and expensive task to digitise those that have remained.  While the Trove database is wonderful, historians need to be ever-conscious that not all newspapers have been digitised and some significant newspapers in Australia’s history such as Queensland’s Worker, and Melbourne’s, The Age, are not available on the Trove website.

Google News Archive

Yesterday through Twitter we discovered that some old copies of The Age are available online through the Google News Archive.  There were mutterings of disappointment earlier this year when Google announced that it would no longer be adding new material to this project, but the digitised newspapers that have already been placed online through this project are still available.  A list of newspapers on this site is available but it does not include the places where the newspapers were published and it is very difficult to tell from the titles.  I thought I would trawl through the titles and try to identify the Australian papers that are on the list.  I have probably missed some – please write a comment to let me know of others and I will add them to this list.  I have not listed those newspapers that are also available on Trove because you will want to access them on Trove as it has better facilities for users. Continue reading

Story Telling in the 21st Century

Women's College, University of Sydney, logo for their History/Herstory Conference 2011
Story telling was the subject of a conference I attended at University of Sydney’s Women’s College recently.  History, journalism and fiction writing were covered by the  History or Herstory conference.  Not only were a broad range of genres covered, the conference also covered a wide range of issues from the traditional to those arising from the technological revolution we are experiencing.  For the last few weeks I have been mired in domestic mundanity.  This conference was a welcome diversion!

Over the last few months I have been exploring the use and implications of technology for history, so I was looking forward to the panels which were focussing on these issues.  I was not disappointed.  The panel discussing new ways to share stories and the future of the book generated vigorous discussion and was certainly the highlight of the conference for me as was the session that followed it on the topic ‘e-books vs. books’.  There was the expected concern about the market for books and the disruption to publishing caused by the emergence of the book but it was good to hear a considered discussion that did not settle for one extreme or other.  Pip Smith, who has harnessed new technology in some exciting creative initiatives, captured this mood when she said that we should not be “absolutist” about our position on books and e-books.  Mark Tanner reiterated this comment in the next panel when he argued that it is not an “either/or situation”.  Tanner looks after Google’s relationships with publishers throughout Australasia and south-east Asia.  Despite having a vested interest in the e-publishing business, he had no qualms about arguing that books will continue to have a role to play alongside e-books. Continue reading