The Journal Newsletter
Welcome to July 2010! (Yes, I know, it’s almost August. Summer seems to be cruising along, non-stop, forcing me to catch up.)
This month history blogger Laura Donaldson gives us some pointers on how to keep a journal for future historians, and we have a tip about inserting media files in your entries.
Thank you for using The Journal!
TIP: Inserting Media Files into Your Entries
As of The Journal 5, you can insert most types of audio and video files into your entries:
- audio – wma, wav, mp3, mid, midi, ra, ram
- video – wmv, mpg, mpeg, avi, mov, rm
To insert an audio or video file into your entry, click on the Insert menu, and choose “Insert Media File (Audio/Video)…” You can also drag images from Windows Explorer and drop them into your entry.
Inserted media files display an icon in the entry, with the name of the media file. You can click on the icon to rename the media file.
NOTE: Some media files are very large. Media files larger than 10 MB will cause your entries to load and save slower. Media files larger than 50 MB may not perform well when stored in The Journal.
Playing Media Files
To play a media file, doubleclick on its icon. This will start The Journal’s built-in media player.
Also note: The Journal relies on Windows for media file playback. If you are using Windows XP, it’s possible that not all types of media file listed above will play. Windows Vista and Windows 7 support most of the common types of media file.
Journaling for Posterity
By Laura Donaldson
In the future, historians will write about our lives today, and to do so, they will rely on whatever records we leave behind to figure out what we were thinking, saying, and doing. They’ll comb through newspapers, blogs, and any other written sources they can find to that end. Usually, that means what historians know about the past is shaped by those who are favored in the media — those who leave an accessible permanent record behind. Digital files have changed the nature of these resources.
It used to be that only the most literate, those with an eye for history, and those of means were the ones whose imprints were left behind. Now anyone can leave a source for future historians to use. Using The Journal (or any other software, even just a blog), you can record your thoughts on everything from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to the recession to the death of Michael Jackson for future scholars to read — or just for the historians-to-come in your own family (read: grandchildren or genealogists). In essence, your journal can be your own personal time capsule for future generations. You can leave a bit of yourself for them.
Have things to say about things with a large social or cultural impact? Write about that. Historians will want to know what everyday people thought about the big events of the day. There’s always data on what the President and important civic leaders think. What’s often missing is hearing what the “small people” have to say. Journaling can give you the opportunity to tell people in the future what you think about the world you live in. What do you make of global warming? What’s your sense of the debate over the benefits of smaller government? What do you make of the partisan bickering that fills the media? Here’s your chance to give a different perspective for your descendents to consider.
You don’t have to write formal essays on serious political topics, though — unless you want to. Historians who study social trends also want to know little things like what people ate, what they did for entertainment, and details about their daily habits and interests. You can make a record of these things instead. Do you like shoes? Take some pictures and make entries where you write about yours. Like to cook? Write up your menu of the day and favorite recipe with comments. Collections and hobbies are always interesting topics to cover too. You can even make records of household budgets and expenditures. Or, you can write about more personal matters like love, marriage, and parenting. Think of it this way: if it’s something you would be interested to know about the people who came before you (just what did they do without toothbrushes anyway?), then it’s something generations to come will want to know about you. Leaving your journal entries can give them this information.
You can record your ideas through a bunch of informal entries or you can formally organize them by setting up a special folder just for items you want to preserve. Think of it as your own Historical Record. You can categorize your entries on subjects like politics or social issues or whatever you’re interested in passing down. You can organize it by date, topic, or theme. Save the folder(s) to a disc, drive, or whatever other medium you want and pass it on. Bingo! It’s now historical evidence. Leave it to a family member or — even better — donate it to a local historical society, museum, or university for their archives. Historians dig through these for just such useful information. If you and other family members compile your entries, you can donate your family records together. Now, you’re like the Kennedys and other notable families whose papers historians cull for their research.
With or without full family participation, using your journal to be a part of history can be an interesting and rewarding undertaking. It may even cause you to reflect on things you don’t normally think about or those you take for granted. And, it gives you the chance to make your voice heard to our descendents.
Start your own project to create your personal historical archives and be part of what the future knows about today.
About the Author: Laura Donaldson is an independent scholar specializing in American history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Currently, she is working on a book about how we write about history and how the historical profession works. She also writes a regular blog on topics related to history and current events (www.historiophiliac.com) and teaches courses on American history for her local college. The historical character she would most like to slap is Alexander Hamilton.
If you would like to contribute to the “How I Use The Journal”, “Writing Exercises”, or “Tips & Tricks” sections, or would like to submit an article about journaling, writing, or another The Journal-related topic, we would love to hear from you.
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