After six years as a co-editor with Active History, a website that I helped build with a group of great colleagues back in 2009, the time has come to take a back seat there. Given the amount of time I’ve put into the site, it seemed fitting to close my time there off with a quick post.
Active History meant different things to each of us, but for me it became the provision of a publishing platform for people who wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable spreading their thoughts on the Web. I’ve jokingly called it a Medium for historians, before Medium existed: people who wanted to blog, but not frequently enough to have their own webpage.* While it grew out of an initial impetus to reach a general audience during the 2008-09 financial crisis, it’s turned into a diverse and extensive group blog. In a few years, it’ll be neat to look back, and wonder how many sites we spawned out of the site – there’s certainly a trend that I’ve seen where somebody blogs with us, and then begins cross-posting to their own site, until they happily part ways to their own site.
Why leave now? First, it’s best to leave things when they’re on top, which Active History certainly is based on our initial goals: every day hundreds, occasionally thousands, of people come visit the new post. Most of our visits now come to our extensive collection of old posts, papers, podcasts, and reviews. Second, six years is a long time. That’s the length of the European Second World War! I’m a different person, with different interests, than I was six years ago. As I go into my first sabbatical, I’ve begun to seriously consider where my energies are best spent (right now it’s trying to lower the bar for working with web archives, which I think will be my generation’s moon landing)**.
Thinking back to our first meeting at York University, where we set up this website, I can’t be more happy about the experience. It took me to a THATCamp, introduced me to the digital humanities, let me think more about the profession, informed me about scholarly dissemination, and gave me something to be proud of whenever I was able to explain the project. I certainly didn’t agree with every post we ran, and at times wished we could have attracted a more diverse range of political perspectives, but I think we provided a great representation of mainstream thought within the Canadian historical profession.
Thanks, Active History. It’s been a heck of a run!