Virtual History

When we think about studying history in school, it often involves reading a long boring textbook. However in Marc Perry’s article he highlights a new form of teaching history. Perry interviewed Claudio Saunt, a professor at the University of Georgia, and Stephen Berry, who both founded the U. of Georgia’s Center for Virtual History. Mr. Saunt and Mr. Berry have created websites that show pictures, videos, documentaries, and many more virtual representations from history.

For example, Mr. Saunt’s map, “The Invasion of America,”goes beyond a class lecture or a regular book. The map creates a visual representation of how the United States captured 1.5 billion acres from indigenous people between 1776 and 1887. You can click on the timeline to see the United States slowly change each state’s color representing the captured land. Since the website released, “The Invasion of America” has attracted more than 90,000 viewers on this website alone. A YouTube video about the invasion was created as well and has received over 95,000 views.

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Picture by: Hastiin Tilden

With the mass audience received from ‘The Invasion of America” Mr. Saunt proposed to collaborate with Mr. Berry to create another website called IndianNation. Mr. Saunt refers to it as a historical “Facebook of the dead.” In this website you can click anywhere in the United States and Alaska and it will show you which tribes where and are actively present. You can also search different people by gender and location. When you click on a tribe you can see pictures, videos, and documentaries about them. I clicked on a few tribes located in Eastern Washington, but no pictures or documentaries have been submitted yet. It might be because Mr. Saunt and Mr. Berry want the community of descendants and students to help by having actual tribe members share their stories, photos, and letters documenting the lives of its members.

There are some barriers to teaching and writing in new ways for historians. For example, they are encouraged to publish traditional books and articles. However, with the technology, historians will be able to inform so many more people. The number of viewers show how much of an impact teaching through technology can have, which is something historians and other educators should take into consideration.