Digital Tools and Sites

Zotero: WOW! I was extremely impressed with how easily Zotero captured information about sources and translated it into comprehensible resources, like citations and a virtual library. I could definitely see myself using Zotero to create a library of virtual library of my own–keeping track of all of the books that I own, having notes about them, keep track of where they actually are,  etc. I have so many books that I can’t even remember where I keep them all and which ones I actually own, so creating a virtual library with Zotero could be a great use for it.

Omeka: Piggy-backing off of my virtual library idea for Zotero, I think Omeka would be a great tool for making a virtual library accessible on the internet, if (for whatever reason) you wanted people to be able to view the contents of your personal library. Omeka would also be useful in creating online exhibitions for museums (or digital history class projects!). Its versatility and customization options provide great opportunities for creating unique, interactive exhibitions (or websites in general).

WordPress: I have enjoyed using WP so far, and it is definitely a great tool for keeping a personal/class blog. I could see it being useful as a sort of image gallery, with little blurbs of information about each image; a virtual scrapbook of sorts. Several WP themes (especially the minimalist ones) like “Polaroids” would be absolutely perfect for creating an online image gallery/scrapbook. WP could also be useful as a discussion forum.

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 (, 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  The main font appears out of date and the images look pixellated on the edges.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 third 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.

The last site I visited was Virtual Paul’s Cross Project, and I was extremely impressed. Aesthetically, the site did not set high expectations for the content, but this site is one of the cases in which the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover” definitely applies. The content in VPCP is so rich–it takes a singular event in history, and turns it into an immersive experience for the visitor. It details the weather, acoustics, general environment, and so many other small details that surrounded the sermon. This site is one that–to use a cliche that I am not particularly fond of–makes history come to life. After exploring the different parts of the site, I also gained insight into why it was not as aesthetically appealing as I would generally expect websites to be. The gray, muted tones of the site reflect part of the sermon’s atmosphere, particularly the weather–it was gloomy, most likely raining, and London in general has a bleak atmosphere. The site’s color scheme add to what it brings to life by helping recreate the atmosphere of the Gunpowder Day sermon. I think an immersive experience like this would be very cool to try and create on our own ADH site, especially given that we are studying the WWI homefront experience at UMW. It would be a great way to give visitors a close look at that experience.

One thought on “Digital Tools and Sites”

  1. Zotero…where have you been all my life?? Agreed about the Virtual Paul’s Cross project- I know we “talked” about it in the skype class, but it truly is an impressive project in scale and execution.

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