institution: National Archives
History Hub is a support community, hosted and managed by the National Archives, for researchers, citizen historians, archival professionals, genealogists, and open government advocates. This platform, along with community managers from the National Archives, encourages the public to crowdsource research by giving them direct access to subject matter experts.
History Hub (https://historyhub.archives.gov) is not the first crowdsourcing platform for information sharing, but it is the first to use crowdsourcing technology to enable streamlined access to the agencies and organizations responsible for safeguarding our nation’s cultural heritage. While community forums are frequently used to support customer service in the retail industry, online communities are generally not the first stop for individuals embarking on research projects. This new approach has multiple benefits.
First, History Hub uses a public, intelligent and searchable platform. This approach, as opposed to traditional closed 1-1 communications channels (such as email and phone), results in a system that is constantly improving. Questions, once asked and successfully answered, become part of a larger knowledge base that can be accessed anytime, anywhere and on any device.
Second, individuals looking for information about a historical event, place or individual may only know one element of the issue in question. As such, their research may be unintentionally limited in scope and/ or unintentionally biased from the outset. By taking a crowdsourcing approach to this challenge, there is a much greater likelihood that additional context or information will be discovered at the start of the inquiry. Consequently, History Hub adds value to the research process by potentially broadening the pool from which the research is conducted.
Third, the public can find answers to their questions regardless of where the information or expertise resides, be it the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution, the Library of Congress or even state and local organizations. One of the major challenges that researchers face when looking for primary source material is knowing which agency or organization is responsible for the preservation and access of the information they seek. History Hub takes a unique, customer-centric approach that helps eliminate the need for the public to understand and navigate legacy bureaucracies.
Finally, through making pre-existing questions and answers searchable, History Hub helps reduce the need to answer recurring questions again and again. More effort can be now spent on providing better, more in-depth answers to questions that require greater expertise. Staff are more fulfilled in that they are able to move away from providing rote answers while, simultaneously, the public has a better customer service outcome.