Long before the finished website for Bethel at War went live, Fletcher and Chris wrote regular posts at a project blog. As Chris explained in a June 2014 post, the blog served several purposes:
Before we’re ready to present anything like a polished product, Fletcher and I are using this forum to share first impressions of sources, to think aloud about questions as they emerge and develop, to keep a record of our research, and to invite participation by readers in the middle of the process.
Some of the posts served as first drafts — or extended versions — of the narrative and interpretive essays that now make up much of the website. Others introduced primary and secondary sources. Still others explored background or tangential themes that wouldn’t be central to the final product, but were interesting nonetheless. All welcomed comment, and a few served principally to solicit memories from members of the community.
Presentation of historical scholarship as an argument presumes a finished product. But most time spent on historical scholarship is messy, involving rooting through Hollinger boxes, begging someone for an oral history interview, coughing through a shelf of city reports or directories, rereading notes, drafting manuscripts, sorting through critical comments, revising, and so forth. A published work does not materialize from a vacuum, and all that preceded and underlays it is legitimately part of historical work. Public presentations of history in the digital age reveal the extent of that “preargument” work, often in an explicitly demonstrative fashion or allowing an audience to work with evidence that is less directly accessible in a fixed, bound presentation. Digital history thus undresses the historical argument, showing that all our professional garments are clothing, even those not usually seen in public.
Finally, the blog — in connection with social media like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and with the assistance of Bethel’s Office of Communications and Marketing — connected us with readers, some of whom offered their own stories of experiencing an age of modern warfare.
If you’d like to revisit our process, or explore topics in greater depth, you can go straight to the blog, use the search bar at the bottom of the screen, start with the very first post, or browse these popular tags:
- Baptist General Conference
- Beyond Bethel