Embracing Technology in the History Field

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The Winter Issue is Full of Surprises!

By Elizabeth J. Normen

(c) Connecticut Explored Inc. Winter 2010-2011

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By the time you read this, I hope to be well on our way to figuring out whether we can some time in 2011 deliverConnecticutExploredtoyourKindle,Nook,iPadorothere-reader. Iexpectthiswillelicitoneof two reactions from our readers: “Great!” or “Huh?” Personally, I love the hard-copy magazine and have nointerestinabandoningtheformat.

But my husband has embraced his Kindle, and he’s in good company. The New York Times reported (9/1/2010) that by the end of 2010, “10.3 million people are expected to own e-readers in the United States, buying about 100 million e-books,” roughly triple the stats from a year ago. The publishing industry is surprised by how quickly e-readers have caught on. That’s a trend we can’t ignore. But can we afford it? I don’t know yet. Sometimes technology is crazy expensive, and sometimes
it’s downright cheap.

One way or another, for history organizations, embracing technology and new media is a must-do in today’s world. We’ve had a Facebook page for almost two years, and I’m finding it to be a great (and free) way to spread the word about the magazine and our stories. Many history and culture organizations—and history fans—are also on Facebook, and the medium promotes a culture of sharing (in the best sense of the word!) Many organizations are also on Twitter (I confess we aren’t—yet.) They’re blogging, posting to YouTube, creating Webcasts, podcasts, and more.

Across the history field, museums and sites are embracing technology in many exciting ways. Connecticut Landmarks is installing a state-of-the-art geothermal heating-ventilation-air-conditioning system for its 18th-century Butler-McCook and Amos Bull houses in Hartford. At the groundbreaking for the new system in early September, Ty Tryon, board member of the Ancient Burying Ground in Hartford, told me about the site’s new self-guided tours delivered via cellphone. The Connecticut Art Trail introduced an application for iPhones last fall. Museums have been busily digitizing their collections for years, and the body of primary resource material available online is exploding.

To what end, all of this embracing of technology, you might ask. In modern-day parlance,“It’s all about you.” It’s all about enabling readers, visitors, students, scholars, and those of us who are just plain “interested” to access Connecticut history easily, in the way we want, and when we want it. And increasingly it’s about enabling audiences to record their reactions, to comment. So, in that spirit, let me know what you think: Does an electronic subscription to the magazine interest you?

 

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