Introductory Seminar in History

Seeing History: Online Photo Archives in the Age of Instagram

Most people recognize that the internet, smart phones, and social media have changed the very nature of photography.  Photos are made, distributed, and seen in ways that were virtually unimaginable 10 or 15 years ago.  Photos about every conceivable topic, from science and politics to celebrities and kittens, are made and are almost instantly viewed by more people, in more places, than ever before.


Few people understand, however, that the internet, smart phones, and social media have also transformed how photographs -- even very old photographs -- are stored, retrieved, and analyzed.  These photographs open windows on the past.  They allow us to see history and to understand it in new and exciting ways.


Students in Seeing History will use online photo archives to explore topics in twentieth-century history.  Because the archives are both local and international, students will be able to use photography to research subjects almost anywhere, from Charlottesville, Virginia, to Johannesburg, South Africa.


In this course, we will look at photography from all over the world.  We will read about the history of photography and about how photography can be used to understand the past.  And with the guidance of the instructor, each student will carry out an original research project that will lead to a written essay and a web-based presentation.  (The web presentation may be public or private.)

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904


(434) 924-7147
(434) 924-7891
M-F 8am to 4:30pm
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