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Adventures in Digital History Spring 2020

Reviewing Digital History Projects

One of the main things I noticed in my review of different digital history projects was that it is important to include just the right amount of information and context. Sites can have either too much information or too little. The Emilie Davis Diaries project, https://davisdiaries.villanova.edu/, is an example of the latter. It featured a collection of chronologically organized transcriptions and high-resolution scans of the pages from Emilie Davis’s diaries. There was not much contextual information or ways of searching through the diary entries on the site. Including context would have given the reader a better sense of the era in which Davis was writing her diary entries.

The Valley of the Shadow project, http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/, had the opposite issue. The site featured so much information and so many documents that it was difficult to synthesize all of it into one cohesive story, or even a set of stories. The large amount of information combined with awkward navigation made for a site that was somewhat difficult to use for the average browser.

Because my group wants to make the information included in our project accessible, easy to use, and useful for the general public, we will have to be aware of the amount of information we put onto our site. Too little information will be little help to people trying to conduct research. Too much information will have casual browsers swimming in irrelevant facts and figures.

Another site that I looked at was the Eugenic Rubicon project, https://scalar.usc.edu/works/eugenic-rubicon-/index. It featured documents and stories from people who had been sterilized due to eugenics laws. There were guided paths that the reader could take through the site that presented related information. There were multiple of these paths, and they were not necessarily chronological. These guided paths worked well for the type of documents and information that the site housed, but I do not think that this strategy would work well with the documents that my group has to work with. The Civil War letters will be organized chronologically, so there will only be one logical path to take through them. Using any other method of progression might conflict with the chronological narrative that we hope to develop.

The last digital history project I looked at was the Virtual Angkor project, https://www.virtualangkor.com/. One of the main features of the site were its simulations, some interactive, of the city of Angkor Wat. Its 360 simulations allowed users to view a panorama of certain parts of the city. While these simulations were remarkable, they required very advanced technological skills to build. Not only would including simulations such as these be unrealistic, but it might not complement the sources we have. Our focus will likely be on the content of the letters, as well as a their chronology and place of origin. These aspects do not have a use for simulations such as the ones featured on the Virtual Angkor project site.

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