Category Archives: Digital History

Digital History Sites: Ideas and Discouragements

The first DH site I checked out was the French Revolution site, and it was NOT at all what I was expecting. I noticed that the url has the same beginning as the links for our Digital History text (chnm.gmu.edu), and after reading the chapters for today, I was quite shocked at the appearance.  The page immediately overwhelmed me with its garish red background, and the content of the page itself is quite small–on my computer, it exists in the top, left-hand portion of the page, while the rest is the overwhelming red.  Nor is it particularly clear what the casual viewer is supposed to do with this site–there is almost no text on the homepage to guide visitors, and it looks like the links were dropped haphazardly onto the page.  The main font appears out of date and the images look pixellated on the edges.  The pop-up menus under “Explore” and “Browse” are visually disturbing.  However, the search feature is streamlined and straightforward, a definite asset to the site and for its users.  The “Imaging the French Revolution” portion of the site seems more modern and is definitely more informative and aesthetically appealing.  From this site, I can say I definitely want to avoid jarring colors and appearances, and I would like our site to be more informative and intuitive than this one.  (I would also like it to take up adequate space on a page–but I don’t know if it appears this way for anyone else.)

The second site I visited was the Great Molasses Flood site, mainly because I wanted to see what an Omeka site was like.  (And I was curious about what a Molasses flood is.)  I found this site even more difficult than the first one–the newspaper is intriguing, but I wasn’t quite sure what to make of all the randomly highlighted elements of it.  When clicking on an element, a sidebar on the left AND right side of the page popped up, confusing me as to which one I was supposed to be looking at.  On the left sidebar, I think the text needs some differentiation between the categories and information (for example, underline categories like “title” and “description” so that the actual title and description stand out from the categories).  However, I really enjoy the interactivity of the site and how many of the highlighted elements connect to the extra media that the page brings up.  I would love for our WWI site to have some comparable interactive features for users, but I think it would be wise for our navigation to be more intuitive.

The last site I visited was Mapping the Republic of Letters, because I have occupational ties to letters (I transcribe for the Papers of James Monroe), and this site is by far the most impressive of the three.  The color scheme is simple and appealing, and the home page gives a nice introduction to the site/project.  The site also includes other multimedia like videos and images.  The navigation links remain accessible at the top of the page and are appropriate to the contents of each.  (Unfortunately, the “Blog” and “Contact” links do not work.)  My only serious complaint about the site is that on the main “Case Studies” page, the images are all different sizes, so the page is a bit visually jarring.  Each individual case study has wonderful graphics and maps that help viewers to better understand the Republic of Letters.  I hope that our site will be visually appealing and intuitive like this one, with media that enhances our written information.  However, I am a stickler for consistency, so I hope our thumbnail images (or anything similar) will all be the same size.

Exploring the Digital World

Even though I’m a history major, as well as a geography major who has received her certificate in GIS, I am still one of the most technologically/digitally challenged people in the world.  So why am I taking a class on digital history?  To learn more about it, of course!  Dr. McClurken had mentioned a project working with students from other universities to create websites about our colleges during World War I, and I jumped at the chance to join in.  I am super excited to be working with Candice, Leah, and Jack on this project, and to see the progress made by the other groups in our class.  I am also really excited to learn more about the tools that we will be using- like I said before, I’m pretty technologically challenged so even setting up this blog was a struggle.  But I know I’ll get better as I get more accustomed to using the tools and that these skills will help me beyond this class.  I can’t wait to see what this semester holds!