Obscure Histories Executive Summary
Obscure Histories (OH) is a media and educational enterprise devoted to creating engaging, rigorously sourced, short-form material about interesting events and people in history. We produce quality online history and history resources about unusual people and events in history. Lists, feeds, or links to novelty or odd histories are incredibly popular, but they generally lack historical context and proper references. OH is a provider of high-quality, original, non-fiction content and each history comes front-loaded with prepared Google database searches for continued research for the teacher, student, independent learner, or procrastinator.
Still from the animated video that accompanies the article on The Bottle Conjuror.
Click on the above links to get a feel for the prepared searches. These were prepared for the article on Valentine Greatrakes.
While OH content is for everyone, OH is looking to be particularly useful to primary and secondary teachers, schools, and school districts. OH is an engaging and rigorous tool for primary and secondary school education professionals looking for high-quality, non-fiction material that’s engaging and rigorously sourced. With the key shifts in the English Language Arts curriculum, OH can help educators teach analytical reasoning, reading comprehension, and source analysis grounded in complex texts.
Certainly, OH is a source of credible entertainment, but because of its academic rigor, it is a new, flexible addition to the educational professional's toolkit. Importantly, it solves the problem of locating engaging, but rigorous, non-fiction material for students with linked sources for critical analysis, as well as other, included peripherals. For professional instructors and schools, the OH CLASSROOM and OH PRO will come with prepared questions, guides, and assignment suggestions to facilitate classroom discussion about the material and sources. OH PRO will have more in-depth lesson plans and resources that provide more flexibility in creating your personalized lesson for your class. OH MOBILE will grant access to all of these offerings, making it readily accessible to your students through their phones or tablets.
OH content is currently accessible through a website (www.obscurehistories.com), Twitter, and Tumblr, and soon through as a virtual textbook mobile application. The website also provides entertaining educational videos to accompany some of the OH posts, and each post has prepared search links to Google Scholar, Books, News, and Images. For the casual learner looking to “go down the rabbit hole” of internet procrastination or the teacher looking for engaging, rigorous course material, Obscure Histories seeks to educate about science, medicine, literature, politics, and the arts, and to contextualize interesting facts and unique people in the history of the world.
There are three proposed stages of roll-out:
Stage One: For the initial launch, OH will compile as many of these Obscure Histories as possible (25-50) in concise, 2-3 paragraph form, with 1-2 primary and secondary sources apiece. Prompted searches to Google Books, Google Scholar, Google News, and Google Images will also be linked and included in each history. OH will also create a place for these neglected histories through social and new media, with an iOS and Andriod mobile app as a primary engagement node. OH will also be represented with a website, and on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. For some histories, OH will produce short videos (~2 minutes) that visualize these stories in a brief and entertaining way.
As stories are written, geographical, subject, and time period tags will be applied to each one to make searching easier for specific interests. In order to better serve the community, and to provide a place of community for any who are interested, there will be an appeal to the public to supply their own Obscure Histories about little known events. These histories will be edited and “published” by OH on the website and online media, and the submitting author credited. Hence our tag: “Everyone has a story. | There’s a story for everyone.” New content and resources will be continually added.
This initial launch will be rolling, but ideally we will aim to have the mobile application in place for the beginning of the school term in August 2014, provided funding has been achieved. Stories will be continually added as they are written, referenced, and sourced.
ROLLING COMPLETED (July 2014):
Stage Two: We will seek to release an OH video game, a transmedia website that takes the mobile app to new levels of detail and rich content, and expand the community and source material with a place for people to upload their personal stories to the “Obscure Histories Project.” The OHP would be a spin-off project that collects personal histories (oral and written) with an emphasis on documentation with primary and secondary sources. This is a further understanding of the tag: “Everyone has a story.” Depending on whether new content is deemed a greater priority, this stage will look to be rolled out in early 2015.
Stage Three: We will begin an outreach effort to entertainment and production companies in the effort to bring some of these stories to life on stage and screen through licensing. OH has the additional intent of being educational “filler” in traditional media, such as during wait-times at movie theaters, and on network, public, and cable television. Again, “There’s a story for everyone.” This stage is less of a stage, and more in keeping with an ongoing marketing strategy, and networking.
Educate through engaging, but academically rigorous, material about interesting events and people throughout history.
Create a mobile app and web presence for short-form, curated content with links to additional research material by degreed scholars. (Google or Bing)
Provide a pedagogical tool – a virtual textbook – for teachers looking for a flexible source of original, engaging, and rigorous content to help implement the new Common Core Curriculum Standards. OH Professional would have easy search and select capabilities to fit into any existing lesson plan or proposed lesson arc, and come with the addition of questions, suggested topics, and even lesson plans to teach analytical research, source evaluation, and complex textual analysis.
Supply a location where people could “publish” their personal favorite obscure history, where it would be gently edited for clarity and backed with appropriate sources by an expert historian.
Create a community for telling stories about personal events with an emphasis on providing primary and secondary support sources.
Develop entertaining videos about these obscure histories for potential distribution on television (network, cable), or movie theater previews.
Develop a video game that would teach research skills and resource evaluation as a “treasure hunt” or “Choose Your Own Adventure.”
Compile stories into a searchable database that can be accessed and licensed.
To provide an engaging educational resource about little known events in history that cultivates analytical reasoning and fosters interest in the humanities, sciences, and history.
The timing is right for this venture. The Common Core Curriculum Standards are being adopted across the country, and there are key shifts underfoot in the English Language Arts curriculum. Instructors are looking for new ways to teach thoughtful, engaging, and academically rigorous material. OH would be a ready-made tool for these instructors because they are short, non-fiction pieces grounded in textual evidence, and accompanied by flexible, useful lesson plans. Obscure Histories is entirely unique in its scope, offerings, and vision. Further, there are decidedly few engaging technological applications that deal with history, science, medicine, politics, and the arts in an entertaining but scholarly way, and that have original, rigorous content. OH continues established knowledge making practices, and these historical stories deal with compelling issues that are readily transferrable to current events.