TITLE: ORB: The Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies
ORB is a medieval site created and maintained by medieval scholars and intended for use by instructors and students. The publisher and founder of ORB is Lynn Harry Nelson, a professor of history at the University of Kansas. The rest of the editorial board includes 25 highly qualified scholars and academicians in the areas of medieval history, philosophy, religion, music, architecture, and language and literature. Articles are subject to review by at least two peer reviewers.
The major sections of the site are "Encyclopedia," "Textbook Library" (which includes the full text of about a dozen books), " Reference Shelf," "Resources for Teaching," "Of General Interest," and "External Links."
The ORB Encyclopedia is indexed by a timeline followed by a topical index. The user clicks on the topics to view the articles. The articles are written in a clear, easy-to-understand style, and are very informative. The extent of the information varies depending on the topic and the author.
The language and tone of the full text books and encyclopedia articles range from straightforward to highly technical. Access to full text sources, including primary sources, is usually available. There are also links to other medieval studies sites.
Under "Writing a Research Paper," the authors of the site offer suggestions on how to get the most out of the ORB site. If all fails, the user is instructed on the protocol to contact a contributor or editor for additional information.
Some of the texts and articles have no link back to ORB and the user must use the back button repeatedly until a link to ORB appears, which is a little frustrating. Also, the "Reference Shelf" contains a number of inactive links.
Overall, the site is an excellent source of information about the medieval period of history and is easy to use. The vast amount of information is valuable for anyone doing research, and for additional information, the links to other sites are very useful. This site is highly recommended for a wide range of users, from those with a casual interest in the field to serious medieval scholars.
Central Washington University Library