Hosted by George Mason University, the Center for History and New Media (CHNM) combines electronic multimedia, digital archives and new technologies with historical scholarship to advance research, instruction and public awareness. A recipient of several national awards and major grants, the CHNM site contains numerous features that students, teachers and scholars will find worthwhile.
The Center's list of current web-based projects covers a wide range of subjects, interests and time periods. "History Matters" and "World History Matters" provide high school students and teachers with curricular materials, primary source documents and threaded discussion groups. "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution" is comprised of essays, images, documents, songs, maps and explanatory articles, including a short chapter on how to develop and use visual literacy skills. "The September 11 Digital Archive" and "The Blackout History Project" chronicle e-mail, audio and video files, photos, leaflets and other ephemera while also providing a model for using new technologies to record and preserve current history. "The Lost Museum," based on P.T. Barnum's American Museum, and "ECHO-Exploring and Collecting the History of Science and Technology Online" are additional examples of the Center's activities.
More than a virtual library or memory bank, the site serves as a gateway to academic directories, journal articles, databases, and annotated hyperlinks of related resources. In keeping with the Center's goal to encourage the use of technology in the study and use of history, the site provides access to several free software tools to assist historians and instructors in individual efforts.
The entire site is well designed and organized, visually appealing, and easy to navigate, as are the individual project sites. Given the Center's focus on the use of electronic media within the discipline of history, it is not surprising that full access to riches of this site requires a robust computer and high speed Internet connection that can handle Flash-generated movies and fairly large audio files.
While it would be interesting to have a little more information on how the individual projects were chosen for development, the finished product is informative, interesting and unique. Serving as a prototype for other electronic history projects and, at the same time, providing tools and resources that other teachers, students and researchers can use, the Center for History and New Media is a dynamic example of ways that theory and application can be used to enliven the discipline.
Washington State University, Vancouver