Chapter 8 of Doing Digital History: A Guide to Presenting, Preserving, and Gathering the Past on the Web by Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig (University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming, 2005), please do not circulate or reproduce.
Chapter Eight: Preserving Digital History: What We Can Do Today to Help Tomorrow’s Historians At the end of 2002, My History is America’s History, an ambitious website aimed at promoting personal history among a popular audience and storing these narratives for others to read and reflect upon online, disappeared from the web with little fanfare. In the place of its hundreds of contributed stories, an essay contest on “The Idea of America,” an interview with David McCullough about “the importance of history,” and a guide to “saving your family’s treasures,” appeared a terse note informing visitors that “My History is America’s History has closed its operations.” Although well-funded by the Internet company PSINet and Genealogy.com, and created and managed by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the funding was for a limited time, and that period had drawn to close. The dot-com bust (which brought down PSINet, among others, and led to ownership changes at Genealogy.com) hurt NEH’s ability to raise private funds. In addition, My History was a “millennium project,” established by Bill Clinton’s White House Millennium Council in November 1999 to “honor the past” as the year 2000 approached. That year, of course, saw a heated election, and the new president installed a new regime at NEH that may have found the populist design of the project less appealing than had the previous director, the folklorist William Ferris. Sadly, the Internet Archive only has copies of four of the stories from My History, and those are from featured famous names, such as B.B. King. Stories from the other, lesser-known contributors were gated behind a search form, and thus could not be archived by IA’s computers.