I first came across the controversy surrounding the highly successful @HistoryinPics Twitter account after reading Alex Madrigal at the Atlantic. What’s all the fuss? Two teenagers have leveraged a Twitter account based entirely on images from history to the tune of roughly $50,000. In a matter of a few months they’ve attracted over 1 million followers. In aguest post at the National Council of Public History’s blog, Jason Steinhauer weighs in on a host of issues that he finds problematic. Unfortunately, Steinhauer pretty much misses the mark.
“They spot trends on social media, exploit them to gain massive followings, then monetize the traffic. It’s a business model, not an attempt at serious research.
And therein lies the discomfort: while museums, archives, and libraries worldwide are starved for funding, fighting for relevancy, and arguing daily for the value of serious historical research, two teenagers come along, grab a bunch of old images without permission, throw them up online without context, and suddenly they are social media superstars. Is that “right”? Does that contribute to the public good? Are we jealous?”