In my last post, I wrote about the KU_WWI Twitter Project (“KU_WWI Twitter Project: Commemorating the #FirstWorldWar through Social Media,” September 29, 2016), a social media project led by the KU Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES) that tweetenacted the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand 100 years after his death. In this post, I wanted to share a little bit more about the project’s origins and the key elements that made this project unique.
While still relatively new, the idea of reenacting historical events on Twitter has become a fairly common way of using social media as a tool for entertainment as well as education. Since its primary purpose is for real-time reporting of events, its a logical and an even obvious jump to use Twitter for “real-time” reporting of historical events. From Robert Falcon Scott‘s doomed final expedition to Antarctica to the ever popular RealTimeWWII, that “live-tweets” the Second World War, there are hundreds maybe even thousands of tweetenactments to follow on Twitter.
With all these different models to choose from, it might surprise you that the real origins for the #KU_WWI Twitter Project lay much closer to home with our own Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Association and Watkins Museum of History. During the August 2013 sesquicentennial of Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence, Kansas, I was one of the many who avidly followed the fifty-one historical, first-person accounts of raiders, survivors, and victims of Quantrill’s Raid as they unfolded on Twitter through the hashtag #QR1863.
What so inspired me about the #QR1863 project was its shift away from the more traditional, dry chronology of events to integration of community volunteers in creating multiple, authentic perspectives. The end result was pure genius — a big jumbled mess of “virtual theatre” that scrambled the cold, hard facts of primary resources with the unbridled creativity of local Kansans. This project wasn’t just historical, it harnessed the essence of what makes history so interesting.
In its final construct, the #KU_WWI Twitter Project ended up being very different than #QR1863. But the creative story-telling component, the multi-perspective narrative, and the integration of local talent and resources — these were the elements inspired by the Quantrill’s Raid tweetenactment that were crucial to #KU_WWI’s success.
In my next post, I’ll go into the details of how the #KU_WWI Twitter Project was integrated into KU classrooms and our use of language and literature in creating multiple, humanities-driven perspectives.
#KU_WWI Project’s Co-Sponsors: Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center, European Studies Program, the departments of Germanic Languages & Literatures, History and Slavic Languages & Literatures, University Honors Program, Global Awareness Program, Hall Center for the Humanities, KU Libraries, KU Memorial Unions and Spencer Museum of Art. Last but not least, thank you to the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City.
This project was part of the University of Kansas centennial commemoration of World War I, coordinated by the European Studies Program. Learn more about participating units and upcoming programs at www.kuwwi.com.