DoHistory.org - For Historians and Teachers Interested in History and America's Past
DoHistory.org Launch on February 4th, 2000.
Please HELP GET THE WORD OUT!!!
DoHistory.org, an ambitious new website for historians, teachers, and lay people interested in history and America's past, will be launched by the Harvard Film Study Center on February 4th. The site is an experimental, interactive case study that allows its users to experience the process of piecing together the life and world of an "ordinary" person in the past. At the site, users get to try to piece together the world of 18th century midwife and healer Martha Ballard, whose remarkable diary was the basis for the Pulitzer Prize winning book and the PBS film A Midwife's Tale (shown on The American Experience). The DoHistory website takes its users into the process of doing history, and also provides them with a practical set of printable guides to help them launch history projects of their own.
There are thousands of downloadable pages from original documents at the site, presented in both their original format and in transcription: diaries, letters, maps, court records, town records, account books, medical texts, and more. (The inclusion of a searchable copy of the ENTIRE twenty-seven year diary of midwife Martha Ballard (1785-1812) will be of special interest to social historians, womens historians, medical historians, and midwives). Whereas most history websites give some limited guidance accompanying a mass of documents on a particular subject, DoHistory guides its users through the research process, engaging them interactively with documents and artifacts from the past. Users get to learn some of the techniques and skills required to do history themselves by following in the footsteps of an exceptional historian, Harvard Professor Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the author of the book A Midwife's Tale. They also get to follow the film's producer/writer behind the scenes to find out how Martha Ballard's story was translated onto the screen.
DoHistory introduces its users to the complex, often thorny questions raised when doing history. What sources do we use? And why? How do we assemble and reconcile information from different sources? How do we interpret what we find? In what ways is telling history on the screen different than telling history between the covers of a book?
Exploring the lives of "ordinary" people in the past requires real sleuthwork and imagination. Focusing on the Martha Ballard case study, the DoHistory website attempts to teach its users basic skills for doing history while also inspiring them to launch their own projects uncovering hitherto hidden stories from the past.
DoHistory was funded with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Maine Humanities Council, and the Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation.
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