Media and Public History

Yesterday I saw on facebook that a kitsch-y video about Nefertiti had been posted by my friend Rachel.   I immediately fell in love with its bizarreness and the ridiculous revamping of an old pop song and had to investigate further.

What I found was the YouTube page of the historyteachers. From what I can gather, this group of history teachers has taken several popular songs, from the Beatles to Lady Gaga, and changed the lyrics to relate to a certain historical figure or historic event.  Basically, these are pretty epic.  There are almost 50 videos, and I was up until about 2am watching them.   They are ridiculous and funny and kitschy and actually quite informative.

In my Ancient Egypt course this morning, Dr. McCormack showed the class the Nefertiti video, and then I was able to lead a discussion about Public History and the Ancient people, mostly revolving around the discussions in my last post.  The class enjoyed the video (because let’s face it… Nefertiti had style), and we discussed that while the video is kinda silly with the graphic ankhs floating around, there are some good bits of information in it.   Also, good job casting Akhenaten… he looks pretty much like I would expect him to in real life.  The video scratches the surface of the historic person and her importance, with mention of Nefertiti’s elevated status as a queen who was sometimes depicted, like her husband, with a crow.  The change in religion with the Aten is also mentioned.  While the video does not talk about all the important parts of the history, it is definitely a good jumping-off point for a lecture on the subject, and one that the audience may remember easier because of the media.

What are your thoughts on some of these videos?  Yes, they are kinda silly… but don’t they have some good information??  What are some of the benefits and consequences of clips such as these?

I will admit, after watching these, the William the Conqueror/Sexyback video stuck with me… I will never forget the year of the Norman Invasion again.   You should check these out, history buff or not.  They are, at the least, mildly entertaining. My personal favorites are:

The French Revolution/Bad Romance

Constantine/Come On Eileen


I leave you with this gem:  Cleopatra, Pharaohlicious

6 thoughts on “Media and Public History

  1. On a more adult and slightly more controversial note, this kinda reminds me of “Drunk History” on Youtube also. If you haven’t seen those, they get famous actors to reenact historical events, as told by drunk historians. Perhaps the best is starring Will Ferrell as Abe Lincoln and Don Cheadle as Frederick Douglass… check it out at (language warning.. and drunken people warning… but good information included) “Da, da, da!! Abraham Lincoln, let me introduce you to Frederick Douglass.”

    Not something I would show to high schoolers, or even probably undergraduates.. But I definitely circulate them among my friends.

  2. These are amazing! Just posted the Bad Romance video to my facebook. I’ll have to come back to look at more of these later, when I’m not so busy… maybe over Thanksgiving break. 😉

  3. Hi! I am Mrs. B of the HistoryTeachers videos- (lyricist, singer, and sort-of actress)…thank you for posting this…I discuss the benefits and drawbacks of sharing history this way with my students as well. Three minute songs are definitely meant to be a springboard for or in depth discussion – not the be all and end all.
    Glad you love them…more to come…any suggestions?
    -Mrs. B

    1. Hey Mrs. B!!
      Thank you so much for your comment!! I would love to see one about Native Americans/Archaeology, but I’ll have to think of a song to go along with it. I really do love how you’ve incorporated my four favorite things: history, music, public history and videos!
      I appreciate your way of thinking and innovative ideas to share history with young people!
      Thanks again,

  4. Ok – conceptually, I think this is very cool. But what if they get it wrong? – like I watched the Olmec video and they were showing having them live where they didn’t and showing images of sites that were not of their culture.

    So, I watched two, and could probably have sat and gone through a ton more, but I gotta get ready for class – it’s Project Show Time in Museum Practices!!

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