The Local History Twitter Account (@DulwichHistory)

Social media gets a lot of criticism, much of it justified, but it can also be a tool for good: a way for likeminded people to connect and share common interests. In March this year the local history group started a Twitter account, to complement the main Society account and the Gardens account. As you would expect, we post images and facts about our rich local history, anything from an Edward Alleyn anniversary, ‘then-and-now’ images of a road, to a clip from an old film that used a Dulwich location, e.g. Mona Lisa, which was filmed in East Dulwich in 1986.

We now have 600 followers around the world and receive up to 100,000 ‘impressions’ per month. This does not mean 100,000 people are interacting with us but it is an indicator of how many people we are reaching. In turn, we follow local accounts such as local schools and other amenity groups like the Herne Hill Society, and we retweet if they are publicising things of interest to our followers. We also regularly direct people to the Society’s website where they can find our journal articles and other information.

Many of our followers are happy to simply read a tweet, others contribute further information or ask us questions. For example, a photo of a Dulwich boundary stone prompted questions about the number and location of other boundary markers; an engraving of the Chapel led to questions about why the tower looks so different now (it was rebuilt in 1866 by Charles Barry). Tweets about the history of the Parkhall Business Centre led to them hanging vintage photos in their offices. Tweets about WW2, particularly the Society’s plaques commemorating Dulwich’s civilian deaths, always generate a lot of interest and compliments. Here is an example of another enquiriy we have received.

When we posted a photo of the Crystal Palace taken from Woodland Hill, it generated discussion about how big the Palace was compared to the surrounding houses. Sue Badman, Society Secretary, contributed a ‘now’ photo for comparison.

Our Twitter feed of local history snippets connects people with widely disparate interests, some of which occasionally intersect with Dulwich: the man in Texas who is interested in WW2 and is a big fan of our WW2 plaques; the woman whose family emigrated to Australia but who is still interested in the corner of East Dulwich where she was born; and the tram enthusiast who has helped us date photos due to his encyclopaedic knowledge of trams. Twitter encourages an enjoyably rambling discussion about Dulwich that, frankly, is a welcome distraction from everyday life at the moment. Come and join the conversation: @DulwichHistory

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