Center for History and New Media Examines Cold War Era in New Online Project

Posted: July 11, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

For history scholars, the fall of communism in 1989 has become a fruitful area of research and debate. From the collapse of the Berlin Wall to Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform program to the Bosnian prison camps, the images and events of that year brought about momentous change that scholars are eager to study.

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, researchers at Mason’s Center for History and New Media (CHNM) will create a web site on that fateful year and the fall of communism.

“As rapid as it was unexpected, the collapse of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the period of transition that followed brought the last century and the Cold War to a close in way few expected,” says Kelly Schrum, who directs the project with T. Mills Kelly. Both are faculty members in the Department of History and Art History.

“As the 20th anniversary of 1989 approaches, interest in understanding these events in historical perspective is on the rise.”

The goal of “Making the History of 1989” is to make visible to teachers and students the events of 1989 and the processes by which historians turn those events into sometimes conflicting narratives; thereby providing students with the sources and intellectual tools they need to be history makers rather than passive consumers of the past.

“Making the History of 1989” web site will have three key features:

  • Three hundred primary sources in multiple media formats dealing with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, along with an introductory essay that provides students and teachers with a concise narrative of the central events that led up to the collapse of communism and its aftermath.

  • Four multimedia interviews with scholars discussing important topics such as how they use a range of sources, how interpretations of 1989 changed after the communist era archives opened and how interpretations have been shaped by evolving circumstances.

  • Six teaching modules that provide historical context, teaching tools and strategies for a set of primary sources drawn from the database, as well as 10 case studies by experienced scholars and teachers that model strategies for teaching the history of 1989 with primary sources.

This web site follows the tradition of other CHNM projects, making valuable primary resources available free online to anyone in the world. Since 1994, the center has used digital media and computer technology to democratize history – to incorporate multiple voices, reach diverse audiences and encourage popular participation in presenting and preserving the past.

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