During the past decade, the massive worldwide conversion of learning content from print and other older media on to digital networks has created gatekeepers who limit access to their digital content or require online users to pay for it.
A variety of gatekeepers have made a third choice:
August 17, 2006
Madison, Wisconsin Sesquicentennial
A rich, growing, and potentially endlessly fruitful source for open content for learning is local and regional historical society. The Wisconsin Historical Society if an outstanding model for this kind of source.
Historical societies are usually operated by enthusiastic amateurs with the assistance of professional historians who have an interest in the area the society covers. Often these organizations have drawers full of memorabilia given to the society over the years by local families and other concerned keepers of treasures from the past. The advent of the Internet has provided a brand new way for historical societies to publish collections and generate new commentary.
The Madison, Wisconsin Sesquicentennial is an example of how local historians have added a permanent exhibit of Wisconsin history to the open content available for learning about their area's past. The exhibit begins with this history of Madison, in a nutshell:
In 2006—the year of the Madison Sesquicentennial—new ideas about how the Internet can and will be used were sweeping across cyberspace. The buzz words were participatory media, DoItYourself ("DIY") and folksonomy. The placing of historical information and artifacts on to the Internet by the Wisconsin Historical Society includes local participation, including amateurs serving as cyber historians and local folks setting the terms.
For thinking about sources for open educational resources in the unfolding future, the historical societies show the potential of local people in preserving the history closest to them by making records of it online. Any nugget of knowledge like the Madison Sesquincentinnial web pages is a node of authenticity that enriches the learning potential of the open Internet.