Monday, September 24, 2007

The Web and History

Last week, I attended a meeting hosted by a local young adult / young professionals organization. The organization discusses news and events of concern to the neighborhood and often schedules movie nights that focus on a particular theme. It's great for socializing and learning a new thing or two about our world.

On this evening the movie scheduled was called "Beyond the Gates," a film about a teacher and a Catholic priest caught in the middle of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where Hutu killers massacred Tutsis by the hundreds of thousands. Based on a true story, the movie was rough and gut-wrenching.

The movie--and the entire Rwandan genocide--reminded me of one courageous Canadian solider, Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire, a commander on a United Nations mission in the troubled African country.

The tragedy remains raw for anyone taking a casual glance at the story: Lt. Gen. Dallaire's losing battle with U.N. bureaucracy and subsequent inability to act against the chaos unfolding around him and his eventual struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are well chronicled in a book he penned.

Dallaire warns that if we fail to learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.


I believe Web technology offers a chance to keep history alive to everyone from a university professor to a student to everyone else in between.

National Public Radio (NPR), the U.S. equivalent of the CBC in Canada, had an interview with Dallaire when his book was published. NPR recorded the interview with Dallaire and now offers it over the Web. Streaming audio technology has been around for several years now, but this is still a remarkable use of the technology. It's live and alive.

Meanwhile, the United States Marine Corps University Archives is actively recording the stories of veteran marines. I recently contacted Dr. Jim Ginther, Archives Team Leader in the Library of the Marine Corps, and asked if he planned on making these recordings available over the Web.

"The long range plan is to make these available on-line," Dr. Ginther explained, adding that "no firm timeline has been set for specific interviews or groups of interviews." The real issue at the moment revolves less around content, but more around hardware and software. "We are in the process of upgrading our systems to allow us to do just what you suggest," he said.

With that, I wished him and his project the best of luck.

The Web remains undoubtedly an exciting place, and an excellent place to share with others stories from the past.

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about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.