I met Dr. J. Fred MacDonald at Northeastern Illinois University . I was a grad student in history; he was teaching
The Dilemma of the Intellectual in the 20th Century. Dr. MacDonald grew intrigued by an area ignored by most historians: popular culture. He recognized that with its vernacular voice, popular culture is a rich source of historical material.
He found insights into the 20th Century in radio shows, popular magazines, films, etc. And not only films as in Hollywood , but as in film ephemera—the industrial film, the military training film, government propaganda film, or educational film. The makers of these films meant them to exist only in that moment in time, and as such, give the historian the closest thing to a time machine.
Gradually, Dr. MacDonald's personal archive transformed itself into a business, MacDonald and Associates (http://www.macfilms.com). Today, filmmakers routinely call upon MacDonald and Associates when they need a 1950s automobile commercial, or a film clip of an historical figure or event.
One Nation Under Television, Don't Touch That Dial!, Blacks and White TV, Television and the Red Menace Who Shot the Sheriff?, Richard Durham's Destination Freedom, and
The History Shoppe are all books written by Dr. MacDonald. The last, The History Shoppe, novelizes his ideas about learning the historical method. It was also first published on the web, which allowed him to illustrate points with audio and video clips:
Writing his other—conventionally published—books was a little like describing a basketball to flatlanders, who understand in only two dimensions. While words are powerful, both the author and the audience yearn for more dimensions to enrich the reading experience.
The WWW adds those dimensions. It enables readers so that they can see pictures, hear audio clips, and view films. Web-based text is searchable and hyperlinks allow readers to pursue topics of interest in depth. Readers can also contact the author or share ideas with the reader community.
Dr. MacDonald is engaged in a major project—to publish each of his books on the web, leveraging its features such as fully realized pictures, audio, and video clips. Join him at
http://www.jfredmacdonald.com where you can monitor his progress and share his journey.