Technology making “Do-it-yourself historians” the future

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Today someone posted a pretty cool item on Facebook. It led me down a unexpected trail. Let me just start real quick with the item. It’s a old gas station pump globe. Ends up the guy who found it may have obtained a item from a old gas station that is no more, but near where I live.  I started looking for images of that old station. I knew the family that owned the station has a picture of it up on there current business’s wall. After some searching I found it’s not online. It was disapointing. I know the picutre exsists but can’t find it. 

The more I think about the future of our history the more excited I get for the advancements to come. Can you imagine a Google Street view screen with a bar to adjust the date. It would be a virtual time machine. To walk down State Street in 1920 and then switch to 1950 and see everything that happened. The technology exists… It’s the content that is buried in peoples attics and hanging on walls fading with time. The public records from the past have been slowly added. I found an example of this in Sacramento where they are adding records all the way back to 1920.  The vast amount of new  information about the past will be there to recreate the past in incredible detail. I forsee a day where companies like Google will have such in-depth history that the way we learn history will change. You will be able to go to Google maps and put in:  Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey PlazaDallasTexas and actually play and rewind that day from every conceivable source. Not just the historic assassination that occurred but other data like that Jody on the 3rd floor of the depository was hired with a picture of her from the records. Or you could go in to the hospital that day and see all the baby’s born, in virtual settings based on images from that time. 

Here’s an image I stumbled upon. The Old 1905 Chicago Coliseum. I never even heard of this. After reading up on it, wow what a history

In a era where many question the future and how the internet will effect our perception of history I’m pretty hopeful. Will Wikipedia distort history? Will it’s influence put Britannica and others out of business? Will the quality diminish? I often wonder if the internet is bringing just as many incorrect accounts of history as factual data. History has always been controlled by those who won the right to write it. I think the future brings a era where idea’s and accounts of history will no longer be the story told by one person or one organization’s point of view but the collect point of view. With 1000′s of people potentially giving their account we can now come to a common agreement.


While companies like Google haven’t created the technology to map our past yet but others are taking advantage of other technologies. WordPress, the open source CMS (content management system) I’m using to write this very blog has opened the doors to a lot of “do-it yourself-er historians”. When I went looking for that image of a old gas station I found something else. Several WordPress sites that are bringing together old Chicago history. One of our clients has been documenting Chicago Television history on the web for years. The pain of doing this, re-sizing images, creating HTML, uploading files, etc made few take on the task. We are now looking at converting his site to a CMS and creating a custom template so it has a unique look. Now the cost and easy has opened the doors. Perhaps you will be creating your own on-line museum for your local community. The time is now to go gather the photos and newspapers that deserve to survive and made available to human kind.  Celebrating the contributions of your neighbors promotes selfless acts within your community and highlighting the mistakes history has let fade makes for a future where we hopefully don’t repeat our mistakes. 

Take a look at some of the sites I found today looking for that one picture. (Museum of the City is a great site to check out)