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Video History Today - a personal look

By Maurice Savage, Founder

The origins of Video History Today can be traced to a realisation during a personal visit to the former German Death camp at Auschwitz-Birkeneau in Oswiecim, Poland.  It was quite literally ‘people must see this’.

I was released (down-sized, laid off) from a long time job working for a retail bank in London, England and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to visit several places that had always been on my ‘to see list’.  The full list of trips, in order, took place over just 7 weeks in the summer of 2006: Amsterdam, Krakow (in particular Auschwitz-Birkenau), Prague, New York and finally to see the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland.

While chatting to a school teacher friend prior to my trips, I realised that it might be fun to video a mascot in all these places and show the video to her class (of 5 year olds).  After naming him Ozzie, I deprted on my travels and the seed behind Video History Today was planted.

Seeing Auschwitz for the first time made a real and lasting impact on me.  I was fortunate enough to spend two days in the two camps (the Museum is located on two site, formerly Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II Birkenau) allowed me to see more then the average day tripper on a guided tour.  Upon my return to England I discovered YouTube, the video sharing web site, and began to upload my experiences of the camps and the museum.

Original Auschwitz Part One

Over the coming weeks, and in particular on a series of hikes in the mountains of Switzerland, the basic idea behind Video History Today came together (creating an affordable, usable source of video clips for young people).  The key idea was to have the clips used BY THE STUDENTS.  Students could create historical video essays using my material, their own video material, archive material, music and finally topped with their own commentary: The Video Essay.

Did such a product exist already?  I used the internet to see what was available.  The primary video sharing site YouTube was an eye-opener and further reinforced my thinking:  young people are already using video, unlike their adult teachers and parents, and so maybe this could be a usable tool in the future.   

The one problem with YouTube is that it allows people to watch videos uploaded by other people video but did not allow me to make my own video essays using their material (at least not in a practical, non-techie, reasonable quality fashion).  I could not find any such source of modern video online (beyond the professional television-quality video stock libraries where 6 second clips cost $200) which schools, colleges and universities could practically afford.  

Video History Today was born and was launched as an online downloadable subscription service in March 2007.

Ozzie in Prague

I started by adding the low-quality video (from a compact still camera with video option) I had obtained in the summer of 2006 and after purchasing a mini-dv camera, began the slow process of visiting locations and editing & packaging the video.  

Over the next 18 months, nearly 20GB of compressed video files were uploaded to the site, with articles, photographs and other useful material created to provide the planned end users (students) with the basic raw material they needed to create their own historical video essays.

This video was one of my first YouTube mini-documentaries, (to see more from this first visit to Auschwitz, see the Video History Today YouTube channel).

Unfortunately this business plan did not succeed at the first attempt, and you are now looking at the 2.0 version.


Video History Today:  The Future

The download service depended on teachers accessing the site and having the vision about how to use the video material and knowing what to search for in the first place.  I believe now the approach is to provide more specific packages in a  user-friendly way.  

Maurice Savage                                                       

Founder                                                   What is the future of video in education?

Video History Today YouTube Channel

Video History Today has also uploaded many additional video clips with commentary showing many of the locations visited:

click here to visit the Video History Today YouTube Channel.

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