Introductory Post: Technical and Intellectual Autobiography

Welcome to my blog where I aim to post information about my professional accomplishments, connect with other people in the history field, and share my goals for the future.  I graduated from Providence College in 2006 with a degree in history.  I did not have a specialization as an undergraduate but I did take many classes in American history.  After college, I moved to the Washington, D.C. area and participated in many public history activities.  I interned with the National Park Service on the National Mall and I volunteered for the local historical society of Arlington, VA.  These experiences gave me a broad perspective of both national and local public history. In 2009 I began working as an administrative assistant at the American Historical Association (AHA).  This job has helped me keep up with the current challenges, research and trends in the history field.  Currently, I am attending George Mason University where I am in the applied history track with a specialization in American history. During my first year I have enjoyed taking a museum studies class and have also focused on late 19th century American History by taking a classes on the Reconstruction and the Gilded Age.

Working at the AHA has changed my opinion of technology.  Before I was not a fan of anything technical because I did not see the benefit.  I hated the one computer class I took and was proud to have a cell phone that was definitely not a smartphone.  However, my stance changed after my coworkers showed me the value of technology.  They showed me how it could help me do more in a shorter amount of time and enable me to do things that would be impossible without using technology.  Through this job I have gained experience with mail merge emails, Gmail add ons, the AHA’s association management system, blogs, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and editing the AHA’s website.  I have also realized the importance of technology to the future of the history field.  I have seen how the academic world is slowly focusing more on electronic material and less on their printed matter.  I also assisted in organizing last year’s annual meeting of the AHA that included a special THATCamp session.

In my personal life I have become a big fan of Google products.  I have found that they are easy to use and allow me to do many things for free that other companies would charge for.  I have used Gmail for email, Google Calendar for scheduling and Google Drive to store all my documents.   I hope to strengthen my technical and intellectual skills as well as broaden my knowledge of what else is possible with technology by taking Clio Wired.



*This essay reflects my personal reflections and does not constitute an official statement by the American Historical Association.



Filed under US History

4 responses to “Introductory Post: Technical and Intellectual Autobiography

  1. ARB

    HI, Matt, what advice do you have for an historical society that is just beginning to contemplate a social media & Internet policy?

    • I am by no means an expert. My best advice would be to try to get the most information you can. Ask other historical societies in your area that are more established about their social media and internet policy. You can also go to the American Historical Association’s website ( and use the search box to look for digital history or social media. There are many articles from Perspectives on History that may be helpful. If your society has a museum the American Association of Museums ( may also be helpful. The Digital Museum: A Think Guide by Hecht also involves museums but may give you some ideas for your own situation. My Clio Wired class syllabus may also be helpful to look at . It includes many articles you can access online.

      From my own experience volunteering with a historical society the key is to have the most content that you can. For example, if you use facebook and twitter the quantity is more important than the quality. That is tough for me to say but I think people on Facebook/twitter want short interesting information not a thesis paper. Think of social media as reaching out to a different audience. Maybe you have a core set of people that are local and can meet in person. However, if you can use social media then people who live far away still have access to your society. Hope that helps

  2. Nick

    Yes: for American history, this is just what the doctor ordered. How can we bring improved knowledge of American history to the masses using technology, apps or what? How can we make it less vulnerable to being cherry picked for the political needs of the moment? Is Google History too fanciful (or rather inevitable)? Look forward to hearing more.

    • Yes, bringing improved knowledge of American history to the masses is important. I would say the first step in doing that is bringing technology to them. There are already numerous tools available online but if a person does not have access to a computer then they are not very effective for those people. I think history organization can do a better job of reaching out through social media like facebook or Twitter. Maybe having more technology in schools could make history more engaging and introduce kids to these type of resources.

      In general, I think if people are more knowledgeable about the historical context of events they will be less vulnerable to being swayed by cherry picked historical facts or bias. However, this is an ideal not reality. There are prominent historians who still argue over almost all aspects of history. So I don’t think there will ever be an end to criticisms of bias or cherry picking when politicians use history for their political purposes.

      Google history and digital history changes the framework of doing history. Before, there was limited access to archives so the job of an historian was to search for those scarce resources. The more archives are being digitized the more access everybody has to them. This makes historians become curators not researchers. They have a wealth of information and it is their job to sift through it to decide what is important and what is not. Just a guess but I would think that the ability to “Google” something would make it easier to find specific information but harder to learn the overall historical context.

      Interesting questions. Hopefully I will have better answers by the end of the semester.

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s