Sunday, September 12, 2010

Review of American Historical Association Website

American Historical Association. http:// American Historical Association. Sept. 10th 2010.

     Today we will review the website for the American Historical Association. To start off, the American Historical Society is “a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1884 and incorporated by Congress in 1889 for the promotion of historical studies, the collection and preservation of historical documents and artifacts, and the dissemination of historical research.” After skimming around at some different historical websites and reading their mission statements, the American Historical Association’s website seemed like the perfect one to review for my Digital History class. Digital History, as defined by wikipedia, (which is NOT a accurate site but they did give a good definition in my opinion) “is the use of digital media and tools for historical practice, presentation, analysis, and research.” The American Historical Association dealt with digital history before history went digital so to speak; what better site would there be out there to judge on having a good historical website.

     Content is one of the major questions when reviewing a website, is their content sound and current? From what I could gather I would say yes to both of these questions. The content that I gathered was very straight forward and in my opinion had no obvious bias to it. On the home page there is a search bar where you can type a subject in and it will take you to related articles and sites. Unlike when you use google or some other search engine, when I looked for William H. Taft, I found things related to William H. Taft, not some random site that may mention the man once as the end of a joke of something of that nature.

     Is the website current; I would have to say yes again. Once you become a member of the website you can gain access to articles that from what I could tell, are as current as can be. The most recent post I saw on the site was from this month so there is activity going on with this site, and there has for several years so that is a good indication that the site is not some “fly by night” site that is here today and out of date tomorrow.

     The site is very easy for the average user to understand. Between the information bar at the top of the page and the search bar there really wasn’t anything I had trouble finding. Now keep in mind that this site isn’t like a online encyclopedia, it will direct you to articles on subjects. A lot of the problems people have with websites is not understanding what they are intended for.

     The intended audience I think is pretty obvious. The audience for this site is people in the field of historical study, the information on this site is geared for students and teachers. It was not intended for the average web surfer even though I guess if one wanted to they could.

     The final question I need to answer is the tough one for me, does it make effective use of new media? I am going to have to say that it does effectively use new media. Does it use new technology; this question is a little tougher. I didn’t see any videos or audio on the site, but then again I don’t feel it was set up for something like that. The site from my perspective is set up to be a digital copy of a magazine, and it does that perfectly well. Does it do something that can’t be done in other media; I will say no. The majority of the website is text and pictures, you can do that on paper.

     In retrospect though, most websites don’t have anything a newspaper or magazine doesn’t have; but there is one thing that the do excel in, efficiency. You can pull up an article from three years ago in seconds on this website, using a paper proxy version, who knows how much longer that would take. I liked the website and I will keep it mind in the future when writing papers.

W. R. Balzer

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