July 1 marked the anniversary of Clio's Current – one year ago we published our first blog post on Canadian views of the world. A lot has changed over the last year, and as historians we like to look back to better understand what we are doing here and what the future might hold. So for today, we're setting historical investigation aside to reflect on the past and future direction of our site.
Clio's began as a project from Geoff Keelan and Kirk Goodlet to communicate the value of history to the general public. We started this site for two important reasons. One, we wanted to make history more relevant to current events by connecting contemporary topics and news to their historical context. It seemed to us then – as it does now – that history is too often relegated to lengthy tomes that go unread by the average reader. We wanted to show how relevant the past could be to the present. History is more than just facts on a page, it is a living part of who we are as individuals and as a community (large and small!). We've tried, perhaps not always successfully, to convey that concept to our readers. The second, but no less important, reason was that we enjoy writing. Writing is how we work out ideas. Working on our PhD dissertations was sometimes aggravatingly specific, and Clio's allowed us to write something short and hopefully entertaining, but still historical. Both these goals reflect the act of communicating history and still drive our contributors today.
We briefly had four contributors at the beginning of the year, but that has come down to three – Geoff and Matthew Wiseman are the primary contributors at the one year mark, while Kirk has been unfortunately occupied with other ‘real life’ projects. Kirk still contributes but Matt and Geoff produce most of the content you see posted.
Geoff and Matt are primarily Canadian historians, so naturally the blog has shifted recently to focus more on history in a Canadian context. One of our future goals for the coming year is to expand our list of regular contributors (and include more guest writers) so we can present a wider range of topics and perspectives. As of now, we want to expand the scope of our posts as much as possible. If you are a historian and you have an interest in contributing to our blog, then please don't hesitate to contact us!
As with any sort of blogging site, we authors track audience numbers rather closely. Some posts reach a larger audience from Facebook, Reddit and Twitter links, but generally we have a small (but dedicated) core of 40-50 readers. We would love to see this number grow – if only to satisfy us (your authors) with a measure of much-needed solace for all the free work we do! History is about sharing stories one way or the other. If you enjoy our blog, please recommend it to a friend and share our work! Or share any suggestions for ways to expand our readership – we would love to hear from you.
Moving forward on Clio's Current, we have been throwing around a lot of ideas for new and different content for more diverse posts. For example, instead of only offering text-based blogs twice a week, we are considering posting and contextualizing a historical photo, radio broadcast, or television clip. We would also like to investigate and write about past and current topics that are brought to our attention by our readers. Do you have any questions about history and a present day topic you want answered? Let us know.
One topic we will continue to reflect upon is academia and history, though it can be a dry for the non-professional. The role and practice of history is changing for its practitioners and its readers. At the very least, our thoughts on history's transformation in the digital age provide a snapshot of our perspective on what it means to be a practicing historian today. We know that there are many answers to that question, nor do we think there are 'right' or 'wrong' answers to it. Our posts about history is how we work out our own answers amidst a jumble of still forming ideas. By creating a record of our thoughts, some day we might be able to look back and track their transformation over time.
We also encourage you to comment on posts, either publicly or privately. We believe that dialogue is one of the best ways to explore the past and we love hearing back from readers, even if sometimes they post to correct our mistakes. Learning is our job as graduate students, so we have no pretensions about our blog being some definitive source of knowledge. Sometimes we will learn from our readers as much as you might learn from us. After all, history must be an ongoing conversation between the past and present, the professional and the layman. Its value derives from a diversity of perspectives. Historians do not hold the keys to the past or to the lessons held therein – our voice is but one of many that benefits from contestation as much as respect. We understand that there is no truly perfect learning. It's a wayward journey, going back and forth, sometimes you know where you're going, and sometimes you're fumbling in the dark. For us, history is more about this journey than the destination. Clio's biweekly and ever changing investigation of the past documents our efforts to make sense of history. Cliché as it may be, we are trying to shape our individual and collective appreciation of the human condition. Hopefully, our readers enjoy accompanying us on that journey.
Finally, we must thank you, our readers, for sticking with us over the past year. Some of you are friends and family, some of you may be acquaintances or fellow historians, and some of you don't know us at all except through these words. Our blog is about communicating history, not just writing words about it for the virtual void, so its value is first and foremost in you, our reader. Thank you for your support, your time, and your curiosity. Don’t be bored of history, or cautious about its questions, or afraid of its answers. Take all of it you can get.