Gettysburg College Collects Blogs for Special Collections

Clare O'Dowd | September 29, 2012

Gettysburg College has acquired a couple of exciting new items of Civil War interest: blogs! Yes, I said, “blogs!” The College’s Civil War Institute has started a project to collect and curate these discussions of Civil War memory, which you can read more about here.

Blogs and social media have often been cited as potential primary and secondary sources of social history, most recently in regard to the Arab Spring. Many of the tools used to organize and document these uprisings we social media-based, and there is an immediacy to these social media records– Twitter and Facebook accounts, blogs, etc. In this light, a blog centered around a 150-year-old event may be in danger of being seen as only reflective. However, the Civil War, as perhaps the greatest conflict in American history, one that deeply shaped and scarred the country, its consequences are felt still. So, it stands to reason that it might occur to an institution to preserve and curate how the memory of the Civil War affects people today.

The blogs bought by Gettysburg College, Cosmic America and Civil War Memory, while written by scholars sharing their thoughts on history, also cover current Civil War events, not just anniversaries or reenactments but news items as well, such events as the protests surrounding a planned statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest to be erected in Selma, Alabama or that Lynyrd Skynyrd will still fly the Confederate Flag at their concerts. The blogs also share links to Civil War humor in pop culture, such as a video of Drunk History with Don Cheadle as Frederick Douglas, Will Ferrell as Abraham Lincoln, and Zooey Deschanel as Mary Todd Lincoln. Sharing our twenty-first century thoughts and humor tells posterity not only about the Civil War but also about this generation and its connections to it now.

As content on the Internet can be quite ephemeral, it is not so strange that libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural heritage institutions would be looking to capture, preserve, and later curate these blogs as cultural records. And if we were to look at blogs as cultural records, these Civil War blogs would be pieces of Civil War historiography.

Who knows? Maybe one day, far in the future, people will have the pleasure of studying TC’s historic Learning at the Library blog.