Digital Public History and Audience(s)

As an academic historian who is learning about Digital Public History, I’ve had to think about the audience of my work in new ways. I can’t just rely on a shared knowledge of historiography and terminology to make my work relevant. Instead, I’ve had to consider in greater detail how much background my audience needs and how they might respond to the information I’m sharing.

This was particularly true for my main class project, the YSM & Slavery Pilot Project website prototype. The user personas we built helped me think through the different kinds of people might visit the final site and what they would hope to get out of it. Most basically, it made me realize that there would be multiple audiences for the project: medical faculty, secondary school and college students, and local New Haveners.

I’m not sure that all of my final project fits with all of these potential audiences, but I tried to at least make different elements appeal to different audiences. Each of the three topic pages start with quick bullet points for viewers only interested in getting quick takeaways. The Bodysnatching topic will appeal to the widest audience with its graphical storytelling. Local community members and students will hopefully find the Black medical students page interesting enough to read through, while Race and curriculum is most directed at medical school faculty and graduates interested in their profession’s educational history.

Ultimately, I have new tools for and experiences with thinking through who will use a website (or any work of history), what they want to get out of it, and how to shape a project to those audiences.