Local History and Community History Response

Local history suffers from the very real challenge of lack of public interest. After all, most of the people interested in Connecticut history are going to be from Connecticut, and while Connecticut isn’t the smallest state in land mass or population (things you only know if you’re from Connecticut!), it’s already a smaller pool to draw from than, say, Civil War enthusiasts or Americans in general, Also, because of their smaller size and the potential lack of public interest, these organizations receive less funding, whether that’s in the form of personal donations or corporate/academic endowments. Many of them have to list themselves as nonprofits, and that usually dissuades burgeoning public historians from beginning careers there. However, while all these challenges would appear to spell the end of local history organizations forever, it is also pretty clear that these organizations aren’t dead for several important reasons. First, their staffs are very dedicated, often because the history is personal to them. Because their audiences–especially their online audiences–are so niche, they don’t have to pander to the public, which makes their websites more enriching learning hubs.

I am encountering a lot of the same problems that local history websites face: smaller audiences, a “so what?” attitude, and a small staff that consists of just me! My solutions to these problems involve adapting the techniques that these sites use: celebrating their uniqueness, making the site as user-friendly as possible to eliminate the technology barrier, and providing a lot of information to explore.

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