Benjamin Franklin

State of Ben Franklin’s World: 4 Months Since Launch

State-of-the-PodcastAre you thinking about adding a podcast to your historian’s platform? I thought it would be interesting to share how “Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History” has fared as a method to communicate the work of professional historians to the history-loving public.

In this post, you will discover how Ben Franklin’s World has performed during its first four months.


Brief Overview of Launch

I launched Ben Franklin’s World in two phases: a soft launch and a hard launch.


Soft Launch

The soft launch took place on the website.

On October 7, 2014, I posted the first four interview episodes plus my short pilot episode; the pilot offers a brief explanation of who I am and why I started the podcast.

Until early December 2014, these episodes could only be accessed from

The soft launch gave me time to tweak the show and build a catalog of 8-10 episodes before I listed it on iTunes, the largest podcast directory.

Podcast experts recommend debuting a podcast on iTunes with 5-10 episodes.

Launching with several episodes allows new listeners to download multiple episodes. (Many podcast listeners like to binge listen to new shows.) This strategy also provides enough content for your podcast to generate the download numbers it needs for placement in iTunes' “New & Noteworthy” sections.

“New & Noteworthy” sections provide prominent placement within specific categories and/or the entire iTunes store. Placement in "New & Noteworthy" helps listeners discover your podcast faster; think free advertising.


Soyuz_fg_22.07.2012Hard Launch

The hard launch took place on December 2, 2014 when Apple accepted my submission and listed Ben Franklin’s World on iTunes.

New episodes appeared every other Tuesday until December 30, 2014, when Ben Franklin’s World became a weekly show.

By starting as a twice-monthly program, I created positive buzz for the podcast and gave myself time to build a sufficient store of new episodes to support a weekly show.


Strategy Results

This two-part launch strategy worked.

Ben Franklin's World built a small, but dedicated following of friends, family, and people who found the show via social media between October and December.

Early listeners provided useful feedback, which I used to tweak the show. They also helped to elevate the profile of the show when it launched on iTunes.

After iTunes listed Ben Franklin's World, I sent an e-mail to the 30+ people on my e-mail list. I informed them that they could now find the show in iTunes and asked them to provide honest ratings and reviews. (Apple uses ratings and reviews to help determine which shows to place in its "New & Noteworthy” sections.)

Their downloads, ratings, and reviews helped place Ben Franklin’s World in the “New & Noteworthy” section of the history category before the end of its first week on iTunes.

Placement in "New & Noteworthy" also boosted the profile of Ben Franklin’s World. Show download numbers went from single and double-digit downloads per day to 100 and 200 downloads per day.

Ben Franklin's World #35On December 28, 2014, the podcast took off.

The show received placement in the “New & Noteworthy” section for the entire iTunes store and two or three times appeared among the top 10 shows in “New & Noteworthy."

The result: December 28, marked my first 1,000+ download day with 1,304 downloads. On December 29, the show had 2,548 downloads. The peak came on December 30 with 3,545 downloads in a single day!

Throughout January, Ben Franklin’s World did not have a sub-1,000 download day.

Peak days always came on Tuesdays (new episode release days) when instead of having a 1,000+ download day, the show had a 2,000-2,500+ download day. Release days always put Ben Franklin’s World among the top 200 podcasts in the overall store.

Apple allows new podcasts about 8 weeks of eligibility for its “New & Noteworthy” categories. Ben Franklin’s World enjoyed great placement for exactly 8 weeks.


Downloads Post “New & Noteworthy"

On February 1, 2015, iTunes removed Ben Franklin’s World from “New & Noteworthy.”

History New & Noteworthy 123014Download numbers have dropped a bit, but I am very pleased with the performance of this young program.

New episodes still experience 2,000+ downloads on release day and numbers stay above 1,000 downloads per day until about Thursday or Friday when they dip into the 900-500+ downloads per day range for the rest of the week.

With that said, new episodes still reach 5,000 downloads in 7-14 days.

As of Thursday, February 12, 2015, at 9:57 am, listeners have downloaded episodes of Ben Franklin’s World 83,494 times.

Although downloads do not equal number of listeners, they illustrate that a lot of people are choosing to spend 35-55 minutes each week discovering the great work that academic and public historians are conducting in early American history.

In the near future, I would like to increase the reach of Ben Franklin's World and its daily download numbers so the podcast once again enjoys 1,000+ downloads per day. I have ideas for how I can achieve this feat and I will share my strategies for promotion in future posts.



I enjoy podcasting and the medium has provided me with many benefits.

First, podcasting has helped me achive my goal: It has enabled me to start bridging the gap between professional historians and the history-loving public.

Ben Franklin’s World has created a wider public awareness about my colleagues' historical research.

Second, podcasting has expanded my professional and social networks.

Each week, I have a meaningful conversation with a different colleague, often someone I have not had the chance to meet in person.

I also receive several e-mails per week from listeners who tell me how much they enjoy the podcast and learning about the work of its guest historians.

Third, my work as a podcaster has allowed me to become a more well-read historian.

Since August, I have read one history book a week that does not pertain to my research or my sepcific interests in early American history.

I look forward to continuing this new professional adventure.


Thoughtful-WomanWhat Do You Think?

Have you considered creating a podcast? Do you have questions about podcasting that I could help you answer?


Questions About Historical Interpretation

DeadlineHave you ever had a looming deadline that forced you to drop all of your other projects so you could focus your attention on the one with the due date? This has happened to me.

In this post you will learn about my deadline and you will have the opportunity to explore two questions I am mulling over about historical interpretation.


Chapter 4 Deadline

On Tuesday March 3, I will present chapter 4 from AMERICA’S FIRST GATEWAY (my book-in-progress) at the Boston Area Early American Seminar. The seminar organizers requested that I submit my chapter no later than Friday February 6, 2015.

I have spent the last two months revising the dissertation chapter that forms the core of the book chapter. I read through the chapter, identified where I needed additional evidence, noted what topics I should add, and marked up all of the language and typos I wanted to fix.

I conducted my research throughout mid-to-late December. Kristen the ILL goddess at the Boston Athaneaum acquired the microfilm I needed from the New-York Historical Society and the New York State Library.

I drafted all of the new sections before I left for Florida in early January and since my return I have been piecing together the new, revised book chapter.

I have not completed my work, but I am close to having the chapter ready for the seminar. I am close because I dropped, or put off, many of my other projects, including a blog post for this week.

So instead of offering you a well thought-out post, I offer you the open-ended questions about historical interpretation that are floating through my mind.


2 Questions About Historical Interpretation


Question 1: How responsible is it for Walt Disney World to attempt to tell nearly the entire history of the United States in approximately 30 minutes?

In January, Tim and I spent a few days in Walt Disney World. As I thought I would find good fodder for a blog post, I went into the Hall of Presidents attraction in the Magic Kingdom and experienced “The American Adventure” in Epcot.

Disney’s Hall of Presidents The Hall of Presidents promises visitors the opportunity to “discover the unique relationship between the President and the American people” through a "rousing presentation."

Prior to the presentation visitors mill around a lobby area that contains a few display cases with presidential artifacts on loan from various presidential libraries and institutions.

A Disney employee mingles with guests and poses trivia questions that yield inane details about the presidents.

Example: Which president was a vegetarian?

Answer: Thomas Jefferson.

(It would have been far more interesting if the employee had told me why Jefferson abstained from meat. We could have had an interesting conversation about his thoughts regarding health and illness.)

The program begins with the American Revolution and the shadows of colonial American men, women, children (and presumably people of color) reciting the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence up to the “pursuit of happiness."

The program lasts about 20 minutes, during which time a movie and animatronic versions of all 43 U.S. Presidents lead vistors through how U.S. presidents have helped Americans obtain and live the American Dream through their support and embodiement of the dream, at least in the case of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama.

In case you are curious, in order to embody the American Dream you must possess the characteristscs of equality, courage, determination, and oppenness to possibility.

To be fair, Disney mentions slavery and relates that it above all other reasons caused the Civil War.

American visitors leave the presentation feeling uplifted and patriotic.

Disney’s “The American Adventure"

In Epcot visitors will find a 30-minute audio-animatronic stage show that will take them through “The American Adventure”; from 1620 to 2008.

Animatronic versions of Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain guide visitors through the program, which starts with Twain quoting John Steinbeck who says something to the effect of America didn’t exist 400 years ago. (Sorry Native Americans.)

For Disney, the "American Adventure” begins with the voyage and landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Massachusetts. (What happened to the settlements at St. Augustine, Roanoke, Jamestown, Québec, or Fort Orange that predate Plymouth?) The Pilgrims came to America in search of religious freedom, which Disney implies is what the religious separatists brought to North America.

The program moves from Plymouth to the Revolution. One of the voiceovers states “The British think fools we be over taxes and tea.” (Never mind that the colonists identified as “British” until the mid-1770s.)

Admittedly, it is fun to watch animatronic Benjamin Franklin.

Robo-Franklin discusses the Intolerable Acts and how people in the colonies divided over the politics of the period. He also takes the audience to meet Robo-Thomas Jefferson who struggles to write the Declaration of Independence.

(Incidentally, I read [simpleazon-link asin="087140690X" locale="us"]Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality[/simpleazon-link] by Danielle Allen* while in Florida and she demonstrates that the Continental Congress and the first four printers of the document authored the Declaration of Independence.)

From Jefferson the program moves through the winter at Valley Forge, western expansion and the California gold rush, and on to the Civil War.

Animatronic Mark Twain transitions to the Civil War by mentioning that America was great, but in the 1860s “We the People” did not mean all people; cue Robo-Frederick Douglass who rows in on a bayou raft.

The program lingers on two brothers who chose to fight for opposite sides in the Civil War. When their story ends America rebuilds itself using immigrant labor.

Chief Joseph pops up before “The American Adventure” takes us to an 1876 Women’s Rights rally with Susan B. Anthony. Joseph states that his people want to stop fighting and be brothers. (Chief Joseph feels out of place in this narrative. Disney added him as their token Native American voice.)

Animatronic Alexander Graham Bell and Andrew Carnegie discuss progress before a film montage takes us from the Wright Brothers to the mid-2000s.

By the end of Disney’s “The American Adventure,” I began to wonder: what do most visitors take away from these Disney history lessons and do these attractions spark any interest in further historical study?

I hope the answer to the latter question is “yes" because according to Wikipedia, approximately 29.8 million people visited Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Epcot theme parks in 2013.


Question 2: Why did the History Channel warp the history of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and the other Boston Sons of Liberty as much as they did?

Why weren’t the facts of the period dramatic and compeling enough to follow more closely?

Will the miniseries inspire more Americans to explore their early American history? Or will many people view this flashy fictional tale as fact because it aired on a channel definitively called “History?"

If you haven’t seen the Sons of Liberty miniseries, you should watch it only if you want to spend 6 hours in an alternate universe with a hunky-looking Sam Adams* and an aloof John Hancock.

With that said, I offer you a preview that provides a glimpse of "hunky-looking" Sam Adams and contains more facts than made it into the show.


What Are You Thinking About?

What history-related issues do you have swimming around in your head?


*I recommend [simpleazon-link asin="087140690X" locale="us"]Our Declaration[/simpleazon-link], which Danielle Allen will discuss on episode 18 of Ben Franklin’s World. The episode will post on February 24, 2015.

*Please note that Samuel Adams did not go by the nickname "Sam." Scholars believe that his friends and family called him Samuel and everyone else addressed him as Mr. Adams.



Getting Access: Massachusetts Historical Society Digital Resources

MHS-LogoDo you research or teach United States history? Would you like free, online access to manuscripts, photographs, and objects related to the American Revolution, War of 1812, American Civil War, and other important events through World War I?

In this post you will discover the treasure trove of information and materials included in 10 of the 41 different digital resources offered by the Massachusetts Historical Society.


Brief History of the Massachusetts Historical Society

Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) stands as the oldest historical society in the United States. It operates as an independent research library and makes its vast and impressive holdings available to anyone who cares to stop in or use its online collections.

Regardless of its name, you should think of the MHS as an archive of American history.

The MHS holds the papers of the Adams Family (including those of John, Abigail, and John Quincy Adams), Horace Mann, and other notable Bay Staters. But, its collections extend beyond Massachusetts.

Some of its holdings may surprise you, such as the fact that it has the largest collection of Thomas Jefferson’s private papers. They also have the papers of Francis Parkman, including his Oregon Trail notebooks.


The Digital Resources of the Massachusetts Historical Society

The commitment of the Massachusetts Historical Society to make its records accessible to all has prompted them to dedicate time and funds to creating valuable digital resources.

library-cloudAs of January 2015, the MHS has created 41 digital resources, which stretch in time from colonial North America through World War I.

The resources run the gamut from fully digitized manuscript collections to companion websites that contain highlights from exhibits hosted in the galleries of the MHS. Many of the resources include lesson plans, study questions, and materials for educators.

Below you will find brief summaries of 10 of the 41 digital resources. Each collection title serves as a link to that collection.

(Click here for listings for 39 of the resources and click here to explore the Civil War Manuscript and Photograph collections.)


Silence Dogood: Benjamin Franklin and The New England Courant

James Franklin published The New-England Courant, a newspaper independent of British imperial interests. Franklin published articles and essays that commented on society, current events, and government proceedings in a lively and satirical style. In 1722, James’ 13-year-old apprentice (and youngest brother) Benjamin contributed to the Courant’s commentary using the pseudonym “Silence Dogood.” Benjamin Franklin wrote fourteen "Silence Dogood" essays. This collection offers images and transcriptions of these early Franklin essays as well as full images of the newspapers in which they appeared.


Maps of the French and Indian War

This collection contains digitized maps that depict North America around the time of the French and Indian War (1754-1763). These charts illustrate how both French and British commanders used maps to determine their military strategy. Maps helped officers determine where to attack the enemy and what geographic features and areas they should attempt to hold or acquire.


African Americans and the End of Slavery in Massachusetts

A digital collection of 117 items held by the MHS. These items include manuscripts and early printed works that offer a window into the lives of African Americans from the 17th century through the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts (July 8, 1783).


Boston Massacre No FramePerspectives on the Boston Massacre

Read and examine materials that offer a range of perspectives about the Boston Massacre. Materials include diary entries, letters, pamphlets, newspaper accounts, printed depositions, orations, trial notes, seven images, and bullets recovered from the scene. This resources includes a comparison tool that allows you to closely view and compare any two of the seven images of the event.


Annotated Newspapers of Harbottle Dorr Jr.

Harbottle Dorr Jr. (1730-1794) lived in Boston. He owned a store, occasionally served as a town selectmen, and was a member of the Sons of Liberty. Dorr was also an avid reader and collector of newspapers. Between 1765 and 1777, Dorr collected 805 newspapers, which he arranged into four volumes. Of course, Dorr didn’t just read his newspapers, he annotated and indexed them. The Annotated Newspapers of Harbottle Dorr Jr. digital resource offers high-quality images of Dorr’s newspaper and pamphlet collection and his indexes. It also has a search feature that will allow you to search for topics that Dorr indexed.


Siege of Boston

This collections offers more than 300 pages of manuscript materials about the Siege of Boston (1775-1776). This represents more than a dozen individual accounts of those who were either engaged in or effected by the Siege of Boston. These accounts represent the points of view of residents, soldiers, prisoners, and Loyalists.


War of 1812

In honor of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, the Massachusetts Historical Society has digitized a selection of broadsides, letters, and artifacts about the war.


William Lloyd GarrisonBoston Abolitionists, 1831-1865

This collection comprises a range of materials held and preserved by the MHS that relate to abolitionists and the abolition movement in Boston. It includes issues of The Liberator as well as the first anti-slavery tract printed in North America, Samuel Sewall’s The Selling of Joseph (Boston, 1700).


The Case for Ending Slavery

This resource uses more than 50 primary sources (letters, diaries, songs, legal notebooks, and photographs) to reveal the complex nature of ideas about slavery and freedom that existed between the 18th and 19th centuries. Materials include lesson plans, study questions, and resources for educators.


Margaret Hall’s World War I Photographs

Massachusetts-native Margaret Hall served in the Red Cross during World War I. Between 1918 and 1919 she served at a canteen near the railroad junction at Châlons, France. While serving at this post, Hall kept a diary and took 294 photographs of the war. She compiled her journal entries, letters, and photographs into a typescript narrative, “Letters and Photographs from Battle Country, 1918-1919.” This resource will allow you to browse all 294 of Margaret Hall's photos as well as 29 additional illustrative items that sheincluded in her typescript.



The Massachusetts Historical Society offers an impressive collection of digital resources that will assist anyone who studies or teaches North American and United States history. Presently, the MHS offers 41 online resources.

The organization’s strong commitment to making its collections accessible to all undoubtedly ensures that it will continue to add to its impressive offerings with each passing year.


lightbulbWhat Do You Think?

What is your favorite, free online database?


How I Launched My Podcast

PodcastThe wait is over! On Tuesday October 7, 2014, I launched my podcast “Ben Franklin’s World: A Podcast About Early American History.”

In this post you will discover more about the show, its launch, and what I hope the show will accomplish.


The Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

Each episode runs approximately 30-45 minutes and contains an interview with an historian who shares their unique insights into our early American past.

The podcast is intended for a non-specialist audience of history lovers who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

ben_franklins_worldBen Franklin's World explores the history of early America in its broadest sense. Events in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and South America affected the way North Americans lived, dressed, worshipped, conducted business, and exercised diplomacy. Therefore, some episodes of Ben Franklin’s World investigate non-North American peoples and events and the effect they had on the lives of early Americans.

Similarly, episodes span a broad period of time. I intend to help my listeners explore not only the 18th-century world that Benjamin Franklin lived in, but the 17th-century world that brought forth the period he lived in and the early-to-mid 19th-century world that Franklin and his generation influenced.


The Launch

Tuesday, October 7, marked the soft launch of the podcast.

The full release of Ben Franklin’s World will take place in December when I will list the show in iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud, the three major podcast subscription services.

I have chosen a two-step launch for four reasons:

First, I want to bring history to as many people as I possibly can, which means that I need to produce a podcast that releases quality content on a consistent basis.

By delaying the release of my podcast onto the major networks, I am giving myself time to develop a catalog of 8-10 episodes.

Soyuz_fg_22.07.2012Many podcast listeners want to know that a podcaster has invested themselves in their show before they will spend time listening to it. This makes sense given that most podcasters never publish more than 7 episodes. Potential listeners determine a podcaster's investment in their show by the number of episodes available for download and by whether the podcaster has released those episodes on a regular schedule.

By launching Ben Franklin’s World onto the major subscription networks with 8-10 episodes, I will help entice people to give my podcast a try. My 8-10 episode catalog will offer proof that I am looking toward the long term with my show and that I have released content on a consistent basis.

Second, I need time to practice and improve my skills as an interviewer.

Interviewing is a practiced skill just like writing, teaching, and public speaking.

Thus far I have conducted seven interviews and with each interview I ask better questions and grow more comfortable and confident behind the mic. This is important as it increases the quality of the show and helps me grow my audience.

Most podcast listeners will download and listen to your most recent episode before they go back and listen to your earlier episodes. Having 8-10 episodes will allow me to hook potential listeners on an episode that has benefitted from my practice.

Third, the delay gives me time to seek feedback from early listeners.

Early feedback will allow me to tweak and improve the podcast either before or not long after it reaches iTunes.

Fourth, I would like to make a run at the iTunes “New and Noteworthy” section.

The “New and Noteworthy” section provides selected podcasts with free, prominent advertising on the front page of iTunes. Placement in this category would bring Ben Franklin’s World to the attention of countless history lovers.

New podcasts have just 8 weeks to make this section. iTunes determines placement based on show ratings and reviews and number of downloads. The more episodes I release with, the more downloads I will receive as most podcast listeners will download not just one episode, but the entire catalog of a show. I hope to encourage early listeners to help promote the show by giving it a rating and a review.


Show Goals

action plan checkboxI have three goals for the Podcast:

1. Create a broader awareness about early American history.

Do you remember when David McCullough published [simpleazon-link asin="0743223136" locale="us"]John Adams[/simpleazon-link]?

For most of 2001, and into 2002, everyone talked about that book. Even people who seemed to have only a marginal interest in history, picked up and read McCullough’s tome.

I applied to grad school because I wanted to learn how I could get people to talk about history the way David McCullough did.

2. Connect non-specialist history lovers with academic and public historians.

I hope Ben Franklin’s World will create wide public awareness about the fantastic research, books, and interpretive programs of academic and public historians.

3. Lead me to my next big professional opportunity.

I would be disingenuous if I did not share my hope that this podcast will lead me to my "next big thing."

My blog has created so many opportunities for me to speak, write, consult, and meet like-minded historians and writers. I hope the podcast will too.

Perhaps Ben Franklin's World will even turn into a self-supporting enterprise or a profitable endeavor that will support my historical research. Stranger things have happened.


Share Your Story

What is your current or next career endeavor?


*Video of Soyuz rocket launch courtesy of Wikimedia Commons contributor DryominG


5 Ways Public History Institutions Can Use Google Glass

Google GlassOn Thursday, July 17, 2014, I brought Google Glass to the Library Company of Philadelphia at the invitation of its Director, Richard Newman. Our mission: To find out how public history institutions can use Google Glass to enhance and broaden their outreach.

We experimented with Glass for four hours.

In this post you will discover our experiments with Google Glass and the five ways we think public history institutions can use Glass to innovate history interpretation and increase outreach with virtual visitors and school groups.


5 Ways Public History Institutions Can Use Google Glass

After a brief tutorial on how to use Glass, Rich and Nicole Scalessa (IT Manager & Reference Librarian) took staff members around the Library Company to find out how their institution could use Glass to offer visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the Library Company and its holdings.


1. Exhibition Previews

Our first stop took place in the Library Company’s exhibition space.

The Library Company's exhibition “That’s So Gay: Outing Early America" featured panels and cases describing the history of homosexuality and its portrayal in early America.

Rich had a staff member don Glass and follow him around the exhibition space. Periodically, Rich stopped around the exhibit and offered commentary about the panels and objects he and his staff member were looking at.

Rich and Nicole believe that videos taken with Glass offer the Library Company an additional way to present information about their exhibit to virtual visitors. They speculated that they could use this video in conjunction with a blog post that explains the exhibit. Both forms of media would express the same information, but visitors would have a choice in how they want to discover more about the Library Company's exhibitions: print or video.

2. Conservation Demonstrations

As the caretaker of over half a million rare books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and graphics, the Library Company of Philadelphia has an in-house conservation team and a book bindery.

Library Company of PhiladelphiaOne of our experiments took place in the book bindery.

Rich asked one of the book binders if they would wear Glass and provide an explanation of how she helps take care of rare books. The book binder spent the next 10-15 minutes discussing a new technique she used to repair an old English binding.

The book bindery video revealed that Glass videos offer a more personal touch than videos taken with a traditional video camera.

Google Glass takes videos of what you see as you are seeing it; video cameras capture the same footage, but from a less personal vantage point.

The book binder’s video offers visitors the opportunity to feel like the conservator is conducting an one-on-one tutorial of her binding repair technique.

This finding prompted Rich and Nicole to wonder if the Library Company might use Glass to create not only interesting behind-the-scenes footage of the Library Company, but also to create series of informational tutorials that would appeal to different types of visitors; guests who may not know anything about the Library Company vs. those who want to know more about the inner workings of the institution.

The experiment also made me wonder: could an institution such as the Library Company use the intimate way Google Glass captures video to create a series of conservation videos or live demonstrations that they could sell to raise funds to support such work?


3. Intimate Collection Commentary

Rich and Nicole continued to experiment with the intimacy of Google Glass videos.

In another experiment they asked Librarian James N. Green to show and describe one of the Library Company's more recent acquisitions: an early directory of London called The History of London from the Foundations of the Romans to the Present Time.

Jim donned Glass and discussed the significance of the directory. He spoke for 15-20 minutes and in that time imparted valuable information.

Historians use city directories to learn about the people, places, buildings, jobs, and governance of a city in times past. The Library Company's copy of this early London directory is unique in that it is not only a first edition, but its owner (one of Benjamin Franklin's book dealers) wrote commentary about the people, places, architectural styles, and important events described by the directory in the margins around the entries.

Jim equated the directory and its contents as a Facebook-like timeline of the owner's life. For example, near the entry of the great plague, the owner described the experiences of one of his relatives during that dark and troubled time. He also added information about people, places, and events when he felt entries lacked sufficient detail.

Jim's tutorial on the London directory was engaging and informative. Anyone who views his video will feel as though they are standing next to Jim and yet seeing the book as he sees it.

At some point the Library Company may opt to use Jim's video to highlight their acquisition. They could use the video on their website to inform visitors about Library Company's holdings.

They could also include the video in one of their e-mail newsletters and use it as a special thank you to members and donors whose support made the acquisition of the directory possible.


VIP-Pass4. Behind-the-Scenes Tour

Our last experiment with Glass involved a trip to the basement.

The Library Company has one of the oldest, if not the oldest, library card catalogs in the United States. Rich, Nicole, and I took Glass to visit this historic artifact.

Nicole wore Glass and filmed our explorations through the card catalog. We marveled at the sheer size of the catalog and debated its date by the handwriting on the cards.

We explored the catalog as an exercise in how the Library Company and other public history institutions can use Google Glass to offer additional behind-the-scenes content to its visitors and members. The historic card catalog resides in a staff-only area.


5. Live Stream Videos

Although we limited our experiments to video, we did not limit our ideas.

The three of us speculated how the Library Company could use the forthcoming Google Hangouts video conference app to live stream library tours and exhibitions into classrooms.

The ability to live stream video from Glass would open the doors of the Library Company to more than just local school groups.

I also imagine that librarians and archivists could use this app to offer specialized reference help.

When a researcher inquires about a particular manuscript or book, the librarian could pull the book or manuscript and use Glass to offer a live stream of the item to the researcher. The librarian and researcher could then have a live conversation about the book or manuscript while looking at it.

There is no date on when Google will reissue its updated and enhanced Hangouts app for Glass, but possibilities abound for how it will enable institutions like the Library Company to enhance in-person and virtual visitor/researcher experiences and interactions with their institution.



I left the Library Company impressed with Rich and Nicole’s ideas for how public history institutions and museums could use Google Glass to promote their work and enhance (and increase) visitor experiences with their institution.

I had considered how museums might use Google Glass prior my visit, but my early thoughts dealt only with enhancing the way visitors could view exhibits; Glass could help visitors focus on an object instead of the text placard below it.

I imagine this would work similar to QR codes, visitors would scan a code on the object case or placard which would call the information panel into their Glass view screen. Visitors could then look at the object while reading about it.

However, Rich and Nicole have shown me that Google Glass offers public history institutions many different ways that they can enhance visitor interaction and experiences with their institutions.


What Do You Think?

What do you think about the possibilities that Rich and Nicole experimented with?

Can you think of other ways public history institutions could use Google Glass to broaden their visitor outreach and/or enhance their historical interpretation?


"A Day with Google Glass" by The Library Company of Philadelphia

 Montage courtesy of The Library Company's Youtube Channel