Introductory Blog Post

Hello, fellow members of the Teaching & Learning History in the Digital Age class! (Phew, that is a long title.) My name is Katie Willard, and I’m going into my second year of graduate school at George Mason University. I am getting my MA in Applied History, which follows in my grand tradition of getting degrees in applied subjects. (My undergraduate degree was in Applied Mathematics.) I currently live in Washington, DC, and I work at Politics and Prose Bookstore in Chevy Chase.

Given my major and my job, I’m very interested in teaching history to the public. I’ve previously interned with the Smithsonian Associates and the American Veterans Center, where I worked on social media outreach. In addition, for the AVC, I edited audio and video for their oral histories. Most of my struggles stem from coding (a math major is not always a computer science whiz)–without WordPress and Omeka, I wouldn’t be able to do anything I envisioned, let alone make it cool and accessible.

I’m hoping to get a better sense of how to reach out to an audience. Although I’ve seen posts go “viral” (for my pages, anyway) on social media, I still don’t understand what makes that. More importantly, I want to find out how to make a dedicated audience. How much information is too much information? Am I dumbing down material when my audience is smart enough to handle it?

One day, I hope to work at a museum or an organization that promotes sharing the stories of everyday people, much like the project I’ve been working on for the past year. I shared the drawings of PFC Gordon Mannix online because he was talented, not because he was a well-known soldier or famous before entering World War II. My favorite museum exhibits explore everyday people or the everyday aspects of famous people’s lives–the parts that aren’t famous themselves, but lend a sense of humanity to towering figures. I hope this course can help me hone this mission and guide me to where my services are needed most.

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