- Come Here to Me!Blogging the Stories of Dublin in the Digital Age
In a 2012 lecture on the importance of local history Dr. Jonathan Healey quipped, "I don't think it is too much to say that—up to a point—when you put the word 'local' in the title of something, it gives it a bad name. It conjures up images of parochialism, obscurity, and irrelevance. A 'local celebrity' is inevitably viewed as somewhat laughable; local news always less interesting than national."1 If local history may once have been viewed as a hobby of parochialists, times have certainly changed. Indeed, Healey himself lectures on social and local history at the prestigious Oxford University, indicative of the academic acceptance of local history as a field of study. There is today a belief that localized studies can provide important context to broader studies, both national and transnational. In an Irish context the growing acceptance of local history as an academic endeavor has been well detailed by Kevin C. Kearns, author of several ground-breaking oral histories of Dublin working-class life. To Kearns the founding of such institutions as the Dublin Urban Folklore Project in September 1979, and the publication of a large number of oral histories in the 1980s by mainstream publishers which achieved considerable commercial success, "illuminated the potential of applying oral historical methodology in the urban environment."2 In other words, it was clear that there existed both a popular audience and an academic justification for local history studies of so-called "ordinary" people.
It is now clear that historians have benefited enormously from the digital age, when the emergence of online communities and blogs has made it possible to crowd-source historical content and memories. As [End Page 285] Faye Sayer has noted in her study of public history, the dividing lines between the producers and consumers of history are ever- narrowing.3 James M. Banner has correctly noted that while web blogs are frequently dismissed on the basis that much of what is found online is "tawdry and insubstantial," the "open-ended nature of the web allows the most serious history blogs to take a myriad of forms and concern a wide array of subjects."4 In the popularization of history in Ireland the internet has offered new means of reaching beyond traditional academic borders. Institutions such as the National Library of Ireland are now blogging content from their collections, providing snapshots of their collections to the wider public.
Defining a blog can be difficult, but it is important. The late Ralph E. Luker, in an article for Perspectives on History, succeeded in not alone simply explaining what a blog is, but also in providing an idea of the time when they first emerged:
A blog is a commonplace journal maintained on the internet, where it is accessible to other readers. At the beginning of 1999 there were about two-dozen blogs known to exist. This was an intimate world in which every blogger could be known to all other bloggers, but during that year the first free create-your-own-weblog tools became available and the numbers of bloggers grew into the hundreds.5
In 2009 Come Here to Me!, a group blog dedicated to exploring the rich social history of Dublin city, was launched on the Wordpress.com platform, founded by three young writers who believed that the emergence of a historical blogosphere presented new and exciting opportunities. Today the blog has amassed a following that encompasses more than twenty-thousand people across several social- media platforms, and it has published a collected volume in print.6 The blog has been archived by the National Library of Ireland as part of the Web Archive Project, which seeks to create an "archive of significant Irish [End Page 286] websites" on the basis that the institution "recognise the intrinsic cultural value of born digital materials and the importance of preserving this material for current and future generations."7
The project has demonstrated some of the possibilities opened up by the digital age for historical research, providing an immediate audience and the capacity for dialogue between readers and the blog itself...