Historical Research Meets Social Media

Immediacy is not a word one typically used when describing historical research back in the day. I remember when you had to read an entire book, and take copious notes, in order to discover nuggets of interesting and/or usable information. Prior to that, one had to first track down a useful bibliography, preferably one put together by someone who came before you in your field and whose research you could trust; then you had to track down each individual book, whether it be in a library, through inter-library loan or from an antiquarian or used book shop. When you were done with the book, you then scoured the bibliography for more leads on research possibilities. It took time. Don’t get me wrong – I still love doing research the old fashioned way. In fact, if I could, I’d spend my days in some cobwebbed basement archive blowing the dust off contemporary sources and making notations with a fountain pen. Which is why Victoria had to practically drag me into the 21st century and into the scary world of social media.
First there was this blog. Oh, the angst of creating it! What’s Blogger and what does one do with it? Step by step, Victoria and I fumbled our ways through the mysteries of writing, saving, scheduling, linking and posting each post. Later, like cubs finally leaving the den, we boldly tested our new found skills and added gadgets to our sidebars. And they actually worked – woot woot! After a while, Blogger became second nature to us and I in particular settled into it comfortably and congratulated myself. You did it, I told myself, you mastered Blogger, you have a working blog and you can now sit back on your laurels and enjoy your success.
Like the devil on ones shoulder, Victoria was not content with this success. “We should branch out,” she soon whispered into my ear. “We should establish a presence elsewhere,” she cajoled.
“Huh? Like where, for instance?”
“Oh, I was thinking Twitter, maybe.”
“Twitter!? Tweet? Us? Me? What’s a tweet, anyways? I mean, I’ve heard of it, but what is it, exactly? And why do we need it? Would using Twitter make us twits?”
You may believe that I hemmed, hawed and dragged my 19th century feet for quite some time before finally taking the Twitter plunge. I went in and set up an account – auspiciously, NumberOneLondon was still available.
 Kristine Hughes Kristine Hughes @NumberOneLondon
My first tweet was a repost of that week’s installment of “A Couple In England.” Within minutes, I saw this tweet:

Hstry.org@HstryOrg 11 Apr

We’ve had a couple of requests to create a timeline for the Battle of Waterloo. What do you think? Yay or nay?

to which I replied
Kristine Hughes @NumberOneLondon 11 Apr
@HstryOrg Yay, my good man.

Hey . . . this Twitter lark was pretty okay. I mean, I’d only just shown my face and I was already being asked my opinion on a Waterloo timeline. Right up my street, what? I entered a couple of search terms in the box at the top of the Twitter page and found some other likely suspects, people with descriptions that pegged them as having an historical bent.
I emailed Victoria. “Hey, this Twitter thing is pretty okay! Already found some really interesting history thingys to follow.”
To which Victoria replied, “Good for you! See, I told you it wouldn’t be hard.”
“History.org wants to know if Waterloo timeline good idea.”
“Woo Hoo! Hope you said yes.”
“You may depend upon it, madam.”
Within the hour, I was being followed by Sir Arthur Wellesley@TheFirstDuke ,   Apsley House@ApsleyHouse and DukeofWellington@PillarofState
 I emailed Victoria. “I’m being followed by Apsley House.”

“No kidding – the real Apsley House. And a couple of Dukes of Wellington.”
“But not the real DoW.”
“Probably not. But real Apsley House.”
“Excellent. Go to bed now.”

Over the course of the following days, the benefits of Twitter became obvious to me – it was a bit like having one’s own `London, England, Regency, Georgian, Victorian, Historical Research, Interesting Tidbits’ ticker tape machine. Little nuggets of historic information arrived on my screen every few minutes – if not seconds. These nuggets pertained to everything from historic house preservation to museum exhibits, from research materials to pop-up walks in major cities, from gripes about scholarly work loads to historic trivia. For example, below is an exchange I had recently with author Rachel Knowles, which began with my tweet re: Brummell’s birthday:


Kristine Hughes @NumberOneLondon 7 Jun

Happy Birthday to Mr. Beau Brummell. http://fb.me/1X2tY7U8y

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, was born #onthisday 7 June 1757 and married 17 years later on the same day

Kristine Hughes @NumberOneLondon 7 Jun

@RegencyHistory Georgie and the Beau? An auspicious date, indeed.


Absolutely! @numberonelondon
Amazingly enough the Dss of Devonshire and Beau Brummell died on the same day too – 30 March
I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t put that together before. Born and died on the same dates!? Hhhmmm. If you don’t find that interesting, you’re reading the wrong blog.
Just when I came to believe that using Twitter was a bit of a doddle, it dawned on me that the immediacy of Twitter lent itself to a Facebook page. I could use all the interesting bits and bobs I found on Twitter and elsewhere to keep our FB page current, relevant and, with luck, interesting. Now I was the one playing devil’s advocate. And whispering into my own ear. I emailed Victoria.
“Hey, we should do something with all this great stuff coming in over Twitter.”
“Like re-tweet?”
“Like a Number One London Facebook page.”
“We have a blog, remember?”
“Blog is more static. Doesn’t lend itself to constant, real time change.  Whereas you’re meant update FB page on fairly consistent basis. So it would be the blog in a different, more immediate format.”   
“Uhm . . . . okay?”
So in I dove and found myself navigating my way through creating yet another page on yet another social media platform. Not only did I manage to get it up and going, I even figured out how to link my Facebook posts to Twitter. At this rate, I might try my hand at neurosurgery next week. Within days, I had found some really diverse items to post on the FB page and it was starting to look like something. Please take a moment to log on and see – you’ll find our Facebook page here. Do “like” us if you find yourself so inclined. You can find us on Twitter here. We hope you’ll become a follower.

Upon finishing this post, I emailed Victoria. “Finished post. Go in and look at it, will ya?”

“Looks good!”

“I think I’ll go in and fiddle with Pinterest for a while.”

“Go to bed.”

I signed off. And only then realized that Victoria had never answered my question – are we now twits?



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