◊ How does what we did change your understanding of how communications worked during 19th century wars? – I did this exact activity back in high school in my history class so there wasn’t a change in my understanding. However, when I did the exercise the first time around, I remember being shocked by how much my hand hurt and I couldn’t stop thinking about how many people must have gotten carpal tunnel. On a more collegiate train of thought, it made me consider what factors affected communication then in addition to everything being handwritten. Wars weren’t exactly conducive for efficient mail routes and led to letters being lost or delayed. Travel routes for mail people were constantly changing to accommodate new battle grounds or invasions. Due to all these factors, I am impressed that there was any communication at all.
◊ How does it connect to the way information travels today? – Information today travels in a way that was completely unimaginable in the 19th century. The rapid development has allowed us to immediately contact anyone we want whenever we want, provided we have internet access and an internet capable communication device. This is in stark contrast to the relatively unreliable mail system during the 19th century wars. We never have to fear that our message hasn’t been delivered to a person, as most apps have a feature that tell you when a message has been delivered. By having a significantly greater accessibility to immediate communication, we struggle to imagine what it was like to live in a different time, something that this activity gave us a brief glimpse of.
◊ How does it relate to modern ideas about preservation and access to materials? – Due to the many problems that communication faced in the 19th century, physical materials of these interactions are relatively scarce. Therefore, all documents that are found to have any historical importance are preserved. I spent a semester interning at my school’s archive and was privy to some of the strange things we chose to preserve. For example, a large painting of a cowboy. I’m from Vermont, we didn’t have cowboys. But historical materials are such a rarity, we kept it in our archives. Archives are often inaccessible to the general public and require special authorization. This is not done to hide these materials from the public as pdf’s are published of most protected documents, but to keep them safe from anyone who may steal such items. This mentality of protection can definitely be partially attributed to the scarcity of these documents.
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