Jenny Reeder

History Online–The Beauty of 17th-Century Blogging
September 1, 2006, 4:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the process of creating my blog and joining the online academic community of historian bloggers, I’ve come to understand the Samuel Pepys online diary a little differently. I think the website is basically Pepys’s own post-mortem blog. His seventeenth-century diary serves as a meeting point for historians and interested public to converge in a text. There are both benefits and challenges to such a wireless and paperless medium, particularly in light of other online history projects.

In class we examined several different types of histor websites. Some were quite comprehensive, such as the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, while others were very specific, like the Valley of the Shadow. The Pepys site is even more focused on one person’s daily diary, without many of the bells and whistles of complicated site layout, images, and videos. The power of this website lies in its focus. The daily entries allow for scrutiny and numerous annotation, creating an in-depth network to explore the larger world of Samuel Pepys. Bloggers add maps, newspaper articles, images, and links to additional commentary, providing insight on a larger scale to the basic words on a reprinted page.

The collaborative nature of blogged annotation is both a benefit and a challenge. Users come from varied backgrounds, some adding information, others raising questions or providing critique. The blend of academia and general public may raise some eyebrows; however, the very focused nature of the site on one 17th-century figure in a distinct location filters the interest level. The layers of annotation and linking within each entry allow for valuable cross connection across the entire project. Challenges occur with the scrutiny–or lack of–with such open postings.

I can think of a couple of nineteenth-century diaries that I have worked on that I would love to see pursued in a similar fashion. I would love to have the input in a larger online dialogue, crossing time and place. On the other hand, the digital format of my blog raises questions of my own permanence. Will my words and ideas endure as long as Pepys? Will scholars and others gather around my archived entries to discuss my meanderings?


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