Thursday, August 13, 2009

John Quincy Adams = the Coolest Cat on Twitter

For my inaugural post I thought I would discuss one of the strangest/ most clever ways I have witnessed American history link up with modern social networking. On August 5th the Massachusetts Historical Society started posting short diary entries of President John Quincy Adams online. This might not be anything of great note as the Massachusetts Historical Society is a well- known archive of many Adams’ family documents and manuscripts, including diaries. What is remarkable is that the society posted John Quincy Adams’ diary from 1809 under the auspices of a twitter account, with each day’s brief entry constituting a daily “tweet”.

By becoming a “follower” of John Quincy Adams, history lovers and nerds everywhere can follow Adams as he journeys across the Atlantic to serve as Minister to Russia during James Madison’s administration. While limited to 150 characters per entry, the diary entries are brief but telling. Adams frequently notes the navigational coordinates of the ship and what he is reading during the journey (Massillon’s Careme Sermons 2 & 3 anyone?) There are scant references to his wife who accompanied him on the trip. An article providing background for the diary gives insight into his wife’s perspective of the trip. Apparently, she was not overly thrilled to be leaving two of her children behind to accompany her husband on a tumultuous six thousand mile journey to Russia. The background information includes an excerpt from her memoir written many years later.

Follow John Quincy Adams on Twitter here:

See his wife’s memories of the trip here:

While the blog is an interesting intersection of history and social networking, it makes me wonder how historians will write our history in the years to come. How many people keep such detailed diaries and journals anymore? John Quincy Adams’ diaries total fifty -one volumes over a period of sixty-nine years. Does anyone keep such a detailed account of his or her life these days? If the number of diaries and letters being written has dwindled, will historians look to recorded emails and blogs (not this one) to write our history? I wonder how it will change the way our stories are written…

[Image via DrMyers]

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