How do we understand history in the age of digital media?

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The last two weeks I have been thinking about this question. First I thought about it after visiting the Churchill Museum in London. This exhibition rely heavily on original photographs, films and sound recordings from Churchill’s life. There were of course objects as well, but the main source of information was the different kinds of media. The question that popped up in my mind was; if the ideal exhibition is the one that consists of original photographs and film, to give us the opportunity to see the objects/persons of interest in action in their natural context, how will exhibitions dealing with the «pre-media world» look like?

When I last weekend helped out with the conference Remix Cinema, organized by two phd students from the Oxford Internet Institute, the question again became relevant. The conference discussed different types of remixing, and different kinds of practices connected to reorganizing and recontextualization of film. In one of its sessions Thijs van Exel and Annelies Termeer, talked about a remix project done by the EYE Film Institute in the Netherlands. The EYE Film Institute holds a large collection of film. Much of this collection is now part of a digitization project called Images for the Future. To give the project some attention a remix workshop and a competition was held. The material provided for remix was early silent film that was all public domain.
Exel and Termeer’s presentation of the project, and talks by other speakers at the conference, encouraged many questions; what do remixing do with our sense of history? Do the focus on photographic visual media content from the past make us forget the time before the camera was invented? Will we identify more with a person we can see on a photograph, than a person that was not photographed, but only painted? Will we experience a great divide between the times before the photograph and the time after?
Will the possibilities of interacting with the past through media content change the way we present history, and how will it affect the way we present and understand the past we only can access through text and drawings?

Rather than examining three different kinds of museum, as I planned to do, I have decided to concentrate my thesis on history museums, and I hope to touch upon some of the questions asked above.

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