Digital archivist Trevor Owens, part of the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP), makes a claim in his article, Tripadvisor rates Einstein, that Tripadvisor and other social media user-based review websites are valuable tools for public historians to evaluate in interpreting how visitors react to different historic sites. In this, historians and prospective visitors can look at pictures, comments and stories uploaded by travelers and reviewers to mold together an overall experience, and greater understand the historic and cultural significance of these places. In his article, he decides to look into perceptions of the Albert Einstein memorial in downtown Washington DC. Interestingly, as he notes, prior and during its construction art critics, and even Washington Post writers scorned the memorial for being too expensive and immodest. However, as Owens acknowledges in his synthesis, these opinions can scarcely be found in Yelp and Tripadvisor reviews of the exhibit.
I decided to look into Tripadvisor and Yelp reviews of a frequent school field trip destination during my elementary school years, the Daniel Boone home in Defiance, Missouri. The reviews are eclectic, and paint an image of how the home and surrounding village have been interpreted over the years. The majority are positive, and remark on the improvement of the experience since nearby Lindenwood University acquired the property. However, many still illustrate a common concern, that Daniel Boone only lived there during his dying years, so this can hardly be considered his “Home.” Pictures uploaded to Tripadvisor provide an overview of the experience, and allow potential visitors to see what a visit would entail.
These review sites are now becoming a more important part of the visiting experience, even though they are not a part of the actual “visit.” Now more than ever before, prospective visitors are checking into these sites to gauge if a visit is even worth it. This makes the experience and people’s reviews even more important for historic sites in the age of pervasive social media. In turn, for public historians, these user-generated review sites offer primary content of everyday interactions with historical sites, valuable material that needs to be preserved so historians can document their cultural significance.
Daniel Boone Home- Tripadvisor.com