Sept. 13th: The Beginning

Do… or do not. There is no try.

— Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (Yoda)

I’m not the biggest fan of Star Wars (I don’t dislike Star Wars; I just wouldn’t call them my favourite movies), but this quote has recently struck a chord with me as I move from the small town of Fort Erie, and from the much smaller Brock University, to Western. Learning the ins and outs of a new city and new campus has been a bit of a challenge so far, but I feel like I’m adapting well and getting all settled into my new schedule and new life here. This quote acts as a nice reminder for me that I’m already here; I’ve accepted my offer and made my choice not to try, but to do.

I’m both excited and nervous about having to step out of my comfort zone with this digital history course. I feel like I’m proficient when it comes to technology, but part of me knows it would be easier to do new projects with forms of digital history that I am already familiar with. However, a larger part of me knows this is a great learning opportunity and I’m sure I will get a lot more out of learning new programs and projects. I am looking forward to discussing and learning different ways that digital history can be presented, such as the upcoming podcast project. While I’ve recorded and edited videos, I’ve never done any kind of podcast work; I’m hoping the editing process will be similar to what I already know. I find the open-endedness of the final project rather daunting at this point; the fact that we can use almost anything to accomplish whatever we’d like is exciting but also seems problematic at this point. I’m sure that, as we work through this class, something will click for me and I’ll know exactly what I want to do for this project.

When it comes to what I want to accomplish, I didn’t come into this class with a specific project I wanted to learn how to do. Rather, I’m hoping that I can learn a variety of different skills and digital programs to help me as a public historian. However, as I thought about it more, some ideas popped into my head. One thing that I wanted to share is an article that I read last year and saved for future reference, which has always stuck with me; My Modern Met’s article “Animated GIFs ‘Reconstruct’ Famous Ancient Ruins Around the World” (found here: https://mymodernmet.com/ancient-monuments-animated-gifs-expedia/?fbclid=IwAR313CmUu4p0n2OhzhkmNflFKZnrxGfjm5IcJDjH1pXeYJnkU6mgRk9bzJw) shared such a cool project that I had to save it on my computer. I love the fact that this can help bring back ancient history that has been lost to us. I’m very interested in ancient history, and I learned a lot about ancient wonders that are no longer around to see. Finding a way to bring them back using digital history would be an amazing project for me; I’m not positive exactly how I want to go about doing this, but I’m sure some of the assignments in this class will guide me towards accomplishing this goal (perhaps even as my final project for this class)

Two great examples of digital history games that I immediately thought of were the two most recent Assassin’s Creed games. As I said earlier, I’m very into ancient history, so when Ubisoft came out with Assassin’s Creed Origins (which takes place in Egypt, 1st century BCE) and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Greece, 5th century BCE) came out, I had to see how they were combining digital and public history. Overall, the games both create a historical setting that feels very real, while the stories and characters in the games are more loosely based on primary sources. The games both truly shine as works of digital public history in their “discovery tour” modes. These modes ignore Ubisoft’s crafted story and combat and instead share an educational tour of their recreation of Egypt with information on historically accurate people, places, and events that happened. Anyway, I could (and likely will) talk more about this in another post or project, so I’ll leave it at this: I really wish I could have been a part of the creation of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and hope that I can perhaps accomplish something similar within this class.

There was one last thing I wanted to add to the this week’s post in relation to our discussion in class. Tim asked how to best get children engaged and interested in museums, and I was thinking a lot about that in reference to the museums I’ve worked at. While it depends on the child, I feel that one way to increase the change of children enjoying themselves at a museum is to have exhibits which they can interact with. While museum exhibits are generally meant for looking at and reading, I have seen some great interactive exhibits that both children and adults have loved. The Niagara Falls History Museum had an exhibit that was largely meant for children on different holidays from around the world, and the whole exhibit was interactive. They had a combination of musical instruments, card and video games, and all sorts of other tangible pieces that taught the children about other cultures. The Willoughby Historical Museum has two interactive artifacts on display: a loom and an old telephone and switchboard. Both adults and children loved coming in and learning how both of these artifacts worked, but the children would always be especially amazed at how the process of calling someone worked back before modern telephones. I know that making interactive displays is often difficult, but in my experience it has worked well to pique the interest of kids who otherwise may have been uninterested in our museum.

3 thoughts on “Sept. 13th: The Beginning

  1. I think you’re right that the more interactive an exhibit is, the more likely it is to interest children (and adults too!). I’ve found that ‘sneaky’ learning is often a good way to get kids interested in what a museum has to offer. It may not be as focused on the history as some would like, but it leaves them with a little more knowledge than before and that’s really the goal.

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  2. Assassin’s Creed games are absolutely wild as far as throwing in as much history as possible! After the Notre Dame fire, I downloaded “AC:Unity”. I’ve never played any sort of “substantial” video game but running around the streets of Paris in the 1780s has no right to be as fun as it is. I also agree with your thoughts on interactive exhibits and children. It really depends on the kids, but I’ve led enough school groups through a museum that lacks interactive features to know they’re really important. Even a goofy model showing how a boiler works is better than having them stand there and listen to a spiel. Kids like pushing buttons and turning levers, let them do it!

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  3. Great post Jared! I think your analysis Assassin’s Creed Origins and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is spot on. They are both great ways to make history more interesting to the public, and they really help to make ancient history come alive. I’ve personally played some Assassin’s Creed Origins and look forward to you delving deeper into these games in a future project!

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