Poor Boys Online: Engaging New Audiences
I’m working on an article about the experience of collaborating with a local festival that celebrates the New Orleans version of the submarine sandwich, so I thought I’d take advantage of this new venue to build upon some of the public history trends already posted; I’m especially interested in how the online component of the Po-Boy Fest website has inspired various creative responses to and appropriation of local history.
My involvement with the Po-Boy Fest provided an opportunity for historians to capitalize on the post-Katrina nostalgia for all things connected to New Orleans culture and reach new audiences. The value of posting vetted information online is plainly apparent, but I am especially enthused about how some people are appropriating poor boy history in various ways.
In my favorite example, a 20-year-old built upon the festival’s sandwich focus and posted a video tour of an abandoned bread bakery in a part of the city that once held many family-run French bread bakeries and poor boy shops. The first of two video clips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm9yZBHGk9Q begins with a synopsis of our festival website’s sandwich history as the title card before the camera navigates the abandoned rooms, brick ovens, and other parts of the bakery that 79 years ago originated the extra-long French bread loaf tailored for serving poor boy sandwiches. New Orleans’ small bakeries are beyond endangered--nearly extinct, one could say. The city once boasted several dozen family-run bread bakeries; less than a handful remain. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m also fascinated by the fact that this person, nineteen when the video was originally posted, would be so focused upon what many would consider to be an arcane topic. (I have not yet received a response to the question I posted to his or her youtube account.)
I’m interested in finding out about any similarly indirect, creative responses other public historians may find regarding their work in online settings. We’re all accustomed to fielding questions directly from the public, and the top-down invitation to “Tell-your-story” via a website is now ubiquitous; however, the new media revolution seems to have encouraged more assertive responses. This video artist did not feel inclined to notify the festival organizers about his work. I stumbled upon it after viewing a more traditional video response posted by another attendee. I apologize for narrowing the focus and moving away from the “big picture’ topics to address a highly specific situation. However, I think this scenario illustrates one of the benefits of online connections with audiences.
Michael Mizell, "Poor Boys Online: Engaging New Audiences." Forward Capture: Imagine the Future of Public History, Item #14 (accessed May 24 2013, 9:24 pm)