No sex please, we’re historians

Once again, I’m grateful to Karen for suggesting a website worth looking at and which, when I got there, lead me on to today’s topic.

To many, the Internet is seen primarily as a medium for young men with pimples to gaze their fill at women with an acute clothing shortage. That does go on to be sure, but I’m continually surprised at how much else is going on going on in the online world.

Not everyone slaving devotedly over their hot computer is checking for the latest updates on Sabrina’s Naughty Cabaret. The range of things they are doing is incredibly varied and one of the ones that is apparently very popular, is history.

In the past, far more books were written than ever got published and you had to be very determined, or lucky, to get yourself into print. Self-publishing was a pricey option and my guess is that many valuable reminiscences were lost over the years because people didn’t write them down or, if they did, the manuscripts were junked.

The web, with its unlimited storage capacity, has revolutionised the history business because it has made it possible for just about anyone to get online and publish information about the history of their district or their memories of events they were involved in.

The site mentioned by Karen is the History Channel’s Photos for the Future and can be found at thehistorychannel.co.za [The site seems to have been deleted. 15 Jan 2011. Ed.] It is a growing archive of photographs, submitted by site members together with captions saying what is going on the picture, which the History Channel hopes will be a valuable resource for future historians.

The site is comparatively small at present but there is much of interest to look at, with a goodly number of older pictures and, because they are photos for the future, a sprinkling of current ones. Anyone can join in the fun and, after registering, you can upload your own pictures and captions.

There are many other history sites to be found including the BBC history site at bbc.com/history, which has a huge selection of articles including a vast archive of memoirs contributed by people who experienced WWII firsthand.

A site with a good bit of South African history can be found at sahistory.org.za. I think that it’s bit sketchy in parts but I’m sure it would be a good place to start, especially when it comes to events during the struggle.

Lastly, I think I can mention my own effort at preserving the history of the Durban. More than three years ago, I established a website at www.fad.co.za and since then it has grown into a bit of a monster, with dozens of articles and hundreds of pictures contributed by myself and visitors to the site.

For the first time, in January 2007, there were more than 10000 visitors to the site, proving that an interest in Durban’s history is still alive and well among residents, expatriates and people who have visited here over the years. Visitors have sent in hordes of information and pictures including the latest, a picture of the Cuban Hat and Nest restaurants on the beach; do you remember them?

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