Viewing Historical Websites- What Works and What Doesn’t.

I did have some initial thoughts when browsing the Century America site: I thought UNCA’s contribution to the Century America site was well done. It was organized and I did not feel overwhelmed by the amount of information that the site provided. The University of Mary Washington’s site was attractive as well. Eastern Connecticut’s site was nice, but I noticed that there was a loading symbol towards the top of the introduction paragraph that didn’t go away. This confused me a little… was there supposed to be something there that I just wasn’t seeing? I did like how they included the menu at the bottom, though. I had a similar thought as I was immersed in one of our readings that discussed keeping the page neat and tidy. I really liked Massachusetts College’s “Browse the Headlines” section! What a great way to showcase primary sources! A few of the pages were nice but seemed to have a lot of empty space around the text. This made the page seem somewhat empty. Overall, I liked the organization of the site. I thought it had a really nice flow to it.

I thought the Valley of the Shadow website was awesome! I liked how it had a short blurb describing the site’s purpose before one even enters the site. Beyond that, I loved the navigational system for the Before, During, and After the war periods. What a great way to organize all the information! I did not feel like the site for the 1919 Molasses Flood was as intuitive. Perhaps it’s my extreme lack of skills where technology is concerned, but it took me a good deal longer to understand this site. I liked the Mapping the Republic of Letters, but some of the font was very tiny. This made it much harder to read. Navigating through some of the data on the site was a little confusing, but I was able to figure it out relatively quickly. The Emilie Davis Diaries site was interesting. I like how it included an area for comments. As the administrators of the site pointed out (in a response to a visitor who helped decipher a piece of Emilie’s handwriting that the administrators had previously been unsure about), every set of eyes helps. Because of this visitor’s ability to comment on something that they saw when looking through the diaries, potentially more of Emilie’s handwriting has been translated. I thought the ability to comment and start a conversation might be nice on our website as well, as it would allow individuals living in this area during WWII to comment and connect, to share their experiences and memories of this area at that time. The Virtual Paul’s Cross website was amazing! It was very in depth and I could see easily getting lost in it, but the information that was included on the website was phenomenal.

I think for me personally, I felt that simplicity worked the best. I liked the websites that were set up so that menus were out of the way, little blurbs were included on the home page that stated the purpose and contents of the site, and the website itself wasn’t a maze of pages. I also liked the websites that had additional videos and audio. The St. Paul’s Cathedral website had audio of what a typical day in the square would sound like and then what the same square would sound like as it filled up with individuals waiting to hear a sermon. I noticed additions like this on the websites drew me in, made me feel more involved with the topic that was being covered. For our project I thought it would be neat to get a hold of some of the letters written back and forth between individuals from BMC who were drafted and those who remained at the college and to record people reading these letters. Since nearly every (if not all) faculty and students had an official picture on file, I also liked the idea of displaying the picture of the individual who wrote the letter. I am certainly glad I had the opportunity to view so many different historical websites with such a variety of layouts, content, and added media.

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