Twitter and Instagram: Historians in the Digital Age

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest etc. ever thought of these digital social media platforms as a method of research or public engagement as an historian or museum professional? More and more people in 2019 have social media profiles that highlight their work to a wider, often global audience in a way that people twenty years ago could only dream off. I have and do use Twitter (and soon Instagram) daily to interact with historians across the world and to catch-up on the latest historical research and news whilst also promoting myself as an historian, blogger and curator.

Dr. Kate Strasdin’s recent blog post for the Royal Historical Society ‘Historical Transaction’s’ blog highlights her usage of Twitter and Instagram as a method of research and public engagement. Dr. Strasdin discusses that she set a remit for herself in terms of what she would share on social media photographs of dresses from museum collections that fit within the date range of the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century. Similarly, I try to only share photographs, articles, blog posts etc. that reflect my interest in 20th century women’s history with an emphasis on the domestic, social and dress history of Great Britain and Ireland.

Social media is amazing for the actual ‘social’ albeit digital social connection you make with people who work in museums and/or as a historian. I’ve met people from across the world by simply re-tweeting a Tweet, commenting on a Tweet, liking their Instagram post etc. this has led to inter-actions that I would normally not have been able to partake in. Where else can I have conversation about all thing’s history and museums with people from different continents daily? I have grown on a professional level that would not have been possible even fifteen or twenty years ago if I did not use social media to interact with people within my field.

I have also been given opportunities to work with museums and research projects because someone has seen my tweets on Twitter or read my blog posts; opportunities that would not happen if I hadn’t used social media as a self-promotion tool along with the ‘traditional’ method of networking and attending conferences and events. Historians are now in the digital age and the use of social media as a tool for research, public engagement, self-promotion and learning will not decline but only continue to grow. I follow Dr. Strasdin on both Twitter and Instagram and I am mesmerized with the beautiful clothing she posts on a nearly daily basis. Dr. Strasdin’s posting on social media has led me to understanding and learning about little known dress collections, eras of dress I’m not knowledgeable about and even learning about different ways of how to present historical data and objects in world-constrained social media posts.

Thus, in turn I am learning from Dr. Strasdin’s posts and adapting her research methodologies for my own historical practice. Consequently, the use of social media as a tool for historical research is almost like a never stopping wheel always moving forward to a new destination albeit the destination is new social media followers, research methodologies and new methods of public engagement. I  am one of those historians that do want consistent interactions with people who are interested in history, as a method of gaining freelance work and a chance to promote things I’m incredibly excited by e.g.1950s kitchens or 1940s Irish fashion. Without social media I would not be the historian and blogger that I am today as without the use of social media I would not have been able to attend events, training programmes or conferences that I might not ordinarily of heard of. It is no doubt as social media continues to grow we within the history and museum community need to continue to interact with people on a daily basis and who knows where this may lead?!

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