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Creating the 21st Century Historical Archive


I am intrigued by Matthew Frye Jacobson’s project to create a modern archive by collecting materials and interviewing people about present-day events. Here’s a write-up about it. Jacobson, most noted as the author of Whiteness of a Different Color, and Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America is a historian who has moved from someone working on the Progressive Era to modern America. I think most historians always wish they could go back in time and ask specific questions that the documents just do not reveal. I know I do. Historians of recent America can do this very thing through oral histories, though as I am finding out as I move closer to the present, often an interviewee says unexpected things. And while Jacobson has no way of knowing what historians of 2050 will want to know, his archive is of significant value. His photographs and interviews help people understand their own time and its role in broader historical narratives. No doubt historians of the future will also find it incredibly useful.

It’s a website very much worth spending some time exploring.

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