(part five in a series)
Before I could finish this series, I was sidelined by a tooth extraction that didn’t go so smoothly, and then the monument stuff started to blow up, so my attention has been on that the past few days. However, before I wrap the series up, I wanted to highlight the Zoom work of two other historians. Today, I want to call attention to Rich Condon, who manages two Civil War sites, Civil War Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania in the Civil War, both of which produce some really cool scholarship.
CM: What inspired you to start doing Zoom videos on your Facebook page?
RC: With the nationwide shutdown and necessary social distancing phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom discussions seemed like the best route to pursue for both Civil War Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania in the Civil War page. The Zoom sessions seemed like the best route to take because we couldn’t physically meet with our fellow historians in the field due to shutdowns and social distancing restrictions. It forced us to see distance learning in a new light and created new opportunities to collaborate with friends and scholars in a way we’d not thought of previously. A whole new level of accessibility was realized through the pandemic, and I think it will change the face of public history moving forward.
CM: What do you think that might look like?
RC: I really think a lot of organizations and historians will continue using Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, etc. to connect with the public, and each other well after this pandemic is over. I know that Pennsylvania in the Civil War plans on continuing these discussions via Zoom moving forward. What has been born out of necessity will continue out of convenience.
CM: Have you tried to take a particular angle with the content you’ve created?
RC: Much of the content created for Civil War Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania in the Civil War typically aims for the lesser-known stories associated with Pennsylvania’s role during the Civil War, as well as during the post-war period. Maintaining relevance with historical content is a goal we strive for in all articles and videos. We try to incorporate a healthy mix of local historical sites and organizations, as well as those beyond our state’s borders.
CM: Have there been any particular challenges?
RC: The accessibility to information via Zoom discussions and otherwise has been a great asset to the historical community. However, in some cases, there have been issues with time constraints. We aim to keep our talks to under an hour, which can be potentially difficult to accomplish with more than four speakers present. A poor internet connection can also pose issues, typically leading to frozen faces in the group chat.
CM: How have the Zoom sessions helped the overall visibility of your blog and/or social media presence?
RC: Zoom has opened many doors, whether it be increased page visitation or opportunities to work with other organizations and historians. Aside from conducting several interviews and chats through Civil War Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania in the Civil War, I’ve had the pleasure of joining discussions sponsored by other institutions such as the American Battlefield Trust, which has exposed our content to a broader audience.
We’ve had, on average, anywhere from 2,500 to 4,000 views per video, although Civil War Pittsburgh has some that have reached upward of 6,000 views. In real time, the average audience is around 40-60 viewers. [Most viewers watch the videos after they’ve been archived on Facebook.]
The on-site videos we’ve done have definitely had a better virtual turnout than the zoom sessions, but the audience is always very interactive. I’m excited to start doing this stuff for Reconstruction Era NHP! [Rich began working there as a ranger this month.]
CM: There’s a lot of content out there now. Is there anything you do in particular that makes yours stand apart from the others?
RC: We’ve produced various types of content, whether it be written articles, Zoom interviews, or live discussions with multiple historians. Pursuing a laid-back approach to history, paired with some primary source accounts and obscure human interest stories, has been a major factor in our mission on social media. History should be made palatable for the general public, but also exciting for researchers, historians, and Civil War buffs alike!