#HATM: "Historians at the Movies" Builds Community One Screening at a TimeHistorians in the News
tags: popular culture, Historians at the Movies
It all started with Nicolas Cage.
In July 2018, Jason Herbert, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Minnesota, wanted to watch the 2004 film National Treasure with some friends—online. He tweeted from his account @HerbertHistory, “National Treasure is on Netflix again. I feel like we as historians owe it to America to jointly watch this film and live tweet it together.”
Little did Herbert know that this tweet would start a phenomenon. To make it easy for the historians tweeting along while watching National Treasure, Herbert created the hashtag #HATM, short for “Historians at the Movies.” At the appointed time, historians tuned in to watch Cage steal the Declaration of Independence while laughing at and bemoaning the movie’s antics together on Twitter. As Joanne Freeman (Yale Univ.) put it at the time, “THEY PUT FRICKIN’ LEMON JUICE ON THE DOI.”
The HATM community had so much fun that July evening that they asked Herbert to continue selecting films and gathering historians to live-tweet from their couches. The next week, historians tuned in for Lincoln. Then Marie Antoinette. Then Trading Places. With that, Herbert told Perspectives, “we were off to the races.”
Three years, hundreds of films, and tens of thousands of tweets later, the HATM community is still going strong. To Herbert’s knowledge, HATM has become the longest-running community watch party on social media. Every Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. ET, this community logs on to Twitter, starts the film selected by Herbert, and enjoys the chatter. Many participants watch with their partners, and some turn it into a family movie night with their kids. Historians have also started offshoots in Australia (#HATMAus) and the United Kingdom (#HATMUK).
HATM is a passion project for Herbert, who is currently putting the final touches on his dissertation. The weekly event has offered Herbert some unique opportunities. Although he is a scholar researching the intersection of Indigenous history and environmental history, Netflix asked him to provide Twitter commentary on The King, a film about medieval knights. He gave himself a crash course on the subject and, though the topic was far outside his specialty, found the event rewarding. Thanks to his HATM experiences, Herbert has come to realize that he is, at heart, a public historian.
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