Brave New World or Blind Alley? American History on the World Wide Web

by Michael O'Malley and Roy Rosenzweig

July 1997

Archives, Overviews

This article was originally published in Journal Of American History 84, 1 (June 1997) and is republished here with permission.

In August 1995 Netscape Communications Corporation went public at twenty-eight dollars a share; that fall, it briefly reached a peak of $174–an incredible figure for a company making no real profits and whose best-known product was essentially free. Even at year’s end, when the share price settled around $130, its market capitalization was more than five billion dollars–greater than the combined market value of the New York Times Corporation and United Airlines. Netscape’s skyrocketing stock price reflected the sudden discovery by investors and the general public of the Internet, the global network of connected computers that communicate with each other by following a common set of protocols. In November 1969 the Internet’s predecessor, the Arpanet (named after its funder, the United States Department of Defense’s Advanced Research Projects Agency), consisted of just two specially designed communications computers located in Los Angeles and Palo Alto, California. Its initial users were scientists and technical people, particularly those with Defense Department connections. But in the 1980s and 1990s the Internet rapidly became a broadly accessed medium that began to rival the telephone and post office in importance.1

Even more responsible for the investor gold rush into Netscape stock was the still more recent emergence of the World Wide Web, whose origins go back to the efforts in the late 1980s of Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist at the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva, to find a way for physicists to share information easily. The Web, as it is commonly called, uses the Internet’s global network, but with a more specialized set of protocols. These protocols make it possible for computers connected to the Web to display pictures, sound, and film; for users to move very rapidly from one Web site to another; and for each Web page to have a single, distinct address (called a “Universal Resource Locator” or “url”). The result makes the Web into a global “hypertext”–a dynamically linked set of documents or texts.

With hypertext (and the Web), it is as if while reading a book of history, you could click on a footnote and immediately find yourself reading the book mentioned in the note. If the Internet constitutes all the roads of the global computer world, the World Wide Web encompasses its paved roads. To “read” the resources on the Web, you need a Web “browser.” Indeed, the release in 1993 of Mosaic, an easy-to-use graphical browser developed by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, first brought the Web to public notice. A year later, in the pattern of rapid commercialization that has characterized the computer industry (with initial funding most often provided by the United States Department of Defense) some of the designers of Mosaic created the Netscape Communications Corporation, whose browser, Netscape Navigator, seemed to be emerging as the de facto standard by the fall of 1995–a fact that made the founders instant millionaires.

There were other indications of Web mania in 1995. In June 1993 there were only 130 web sites in the world; by June 1995 there were almost 23,500; by June 1996 more than 200,000 new Web sites had come on line. Soon, entities from multinational corporations to junior high school students were posting their own “home pages,” which can be best understood as the tables of contents or title pages introducing a set of other Web pages. In a prominent front-page article in November 1995, the New York Times (perhaps worried about its own eclipse) announced the Web’s arrival as a major “social, cultural and economic force” comparable to the “print and electronic media that have preceded it.”2

Nothing could live up to the Web’s advance billing. Just a year later even Wall Street investors had lost their Web fever. The stock prices of some Internet firms, skyrocketing six months earlier, dropped dramatically. One of them, Excite, went public in April 1996 at $17 a share; on its first day of trading it went to $21.25, and by late October it was down to $7 a share.3

Skepticism about the Web was not confined to Wall Street. In the same week when Wall Street was decidedly unexcited about Excite, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb offered what she called a “neo-Luddite” dissent. She was, Himmelfarb wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “disturbed by some aspects of . . . the new technology’s impact on learning and scholarship.” “Like postmodernism,” she complained, “the Internet does not distinguish between the true and the false, the important and the trivial, the enduring and the ephemeral.” Internet search engines “will produce a comic strip or advertising slogan as readily as a quotation from the Bible or Shakespeare. Every source appearing on the screen has the same weight and credibility as every other; no authority is ‘privileged’ over any other.”4

Conservative critics such as Himmelfarb are, in some ways, the inverse of the Web’s greatest promoters; what the former fear, the latter welcome. These “techno-enthusiasts” offer, literary critic Randy Bass notes, a new version of the “technological sublime,” in which worldwide connectivity will eradicate physical and political boundaries; . . . the levelling nature of on-line interaction as well as the universalization of information access will foster democratization; . . . the decentered nature of hypertext will further erode the existence of limiting hierarchies; and . . . the engaging power and linking capabilities of multimedia will revolutionize learning and eradicate the need for teachers and schools altogether.

Hypertext novelist Michael Joyce rhapsodizes about “the voracious newness of the webbed electronic age with . . . its succession of brave new worlds generated at twenty-eight thousand baud and recreated at will.” Both cyberenthusiasts such as Joyce and cyberelegiasts such as Himmelfarb put us at the dawn of a new era; the only question is whether it is a utopia or a dystopia.5

Other critics argue that the Web marks no departure at all. They dismiss the Web as “just a bunch of links” or “mostly junk.” More thoughtful critics on the political Left such as Herbert I. Schiller worry that the Internet will foster and reinforce “information inequality.” They argue that inadequate equipment or increasing access fees will shut out the poor. Schiller also warns that the information superhighway may turn out to be “the latest blind alley” if the “tide of commercialism” and its “corporate custodians” engulf the new media and technology as they did radio and television.6

This article offers a preliminary assessment of the possibilities and limitations, the allures and dangers, of the World Wide Web for those interested in presenting, teaching, and learning about American history. The authors are dubious about claims that the Web is a totally new departure. But we also reject the view of skeptics who say that it offers nothing at all; we are impressed–even astonished–by what already exists there for historians. It seems less likely that the Web presents a radically new paradigm or way of thinking; in many ways the Web simply gives us speedy access to existing resources. Yet the very ordinariness of the Web turns out to be interesting; on the Web the past is deeply embedded in the present in ways that escape our notice in the conventional archive or library. Moreover, the power to access information at great distances and great speeds offers the possibility of making new connections–between disparate ideas and between the past and the present–that might otherwise be missed. Finally, the Web offers one key departure–it lets users produce their own versions of history and place them in a public context where no one regulates access, no gatekeeping organizations police content or methodology. We hope to make both the advantages and the disadvantages of this “democratization” more apparent.

This tour of the “history Web” must be brief and highly selective. About sixteen months ago, when we put together a “beginner’s guide,” it seemed like a “walking city,” where users could wander leisurely through and meet all the residents and merchants.7 Today, reviewing the history Web is more like writing a guide to twentieth-century New York; who can know every street and back alley, who might not miss some of the greatest treasures or the worst eyesores? In this article, we introduce some exemplary sites and the names of some good guides, hoping that readers will head off and do their own exploring.

We begin with a discussion of how to search for historical information on the Web. Then we offer our own mapping of the Web, organized by types of sites–archives and libraries that have been placed on line; “invented archives” (sites devoted to collecting and making available documents that are scattered in various “real” archives), and narrative presentations of history organized by museums, commercial ventures, and amateur enthusiasts.

What’s on the Web? Searching for the Past in Cyberspace

How do we find the past in “cyberspace”–the “virtual world” where computer communication occurs? We can start with the Web’s many “search engines.” These search engines use “Web crawlers”–computer programs designed to follow Web links. They move from link to link, from Web page to Web page, with a mindless tenacity, reporting back all or some portion of all the text they encounter. At the “interface” end, Web page designers and programmers come up with simple ways for users to “query” that filed information. The user’s query sends out a search across all the text the Web crawler has found, and the results come back to the user in the fairly sphinxlike shape of “hits.” None of the search engines offers anything like the precision, hierarchy, or contextualization historians have come to expect from paper or on-line library catalogs. The openness of the Web means that the job of cataloging and searching is considerably more complex than that faced by librarians. Search engines are the best available tool, but they cannot tell one page from another or rank the number of hits in any but the crudest way. They cannot tell political Left from political Right, freshmen from grad students, professors from plumbers. But with a little creativity and persistence, one can use search engines to turn up a great deal of information, not all of it what we might expect.8

Search engines offer two major approaches–topical and keyword searching. Yahoo! remains the most comprehensive topical directory. If you follow its flow chart from “Arts and Humanities” to “Humanities” to “History” to “U.S. History,” you find 873 sites related to American history, broken down into such subtopics as “Seventeenth Century,” “Museums and Memorials,” and “American Flag.”9

This topical organization lacks any qualitative ratings or guidance beyond occasional brief annotations. On the main Yahoo! U.S. History page, the link to Michael A. Hoffman II’s Campaign for Radical Truth in History (a site devoted to racist and anti-Semitic fantasies about the slave trade and the Holocaust) is just one item away from the National Women’s History Project. The “Great Depression” offers you a site on the Federal Theatre Project consisting of a single student paper as well as one that presents the Library of Congress’s collection of 2,900 life histories from the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA).10 Both share equal prominence at Yahoo! This lack of hierarchy between the traditionally sanctioned and well-funded Library of Congress and the unfunded and unsanctioned undergraduate or lone lunatic is one of the most exciting and most unsettling features of the Web.

Efforts at qualitative filtering have emerged. Some of these–particularly the ubiquitous awards to pages as “the best 5% of the Web” or “the best of the Web awards”–need some filtering and qualitative evaluation themselves, since they offer little basis for their judgments. One rating service, CyberTeddy’s Top 500 Web Sites, includes the History Channel and a site on lynching (African American Holocaust) but omits many conventionally important history sites. CyberTeddy explains neither his identity nor his motives. Sites organized by such academic groups as the American Studies Crossroads Project and our own Center for History and New Media provide limited annotation and guides to recommended sites, but none of them has the large staff of a search engine company, which could develop more comprehensive guides or ratings. Indeed, some Web enthusiasts see evaluation and filtering as antithetical to the Web’s democratic and anarchic tendencies. Nevertheless, as familiarity with the World Wide Web increases among professional historians, more efforts at filtering will probably develop, but new sources of funding will need to be found. Commercial award pages and the search engines have their own revenue source–advertising. The quest for advertising explains why there are currently several competing search engines; each aspires to become the Yellow Pages of the Web with the lucrative advertising that would presumably go with that status. The Web site for the McKinley Magellan Directory, for example, describes a “picky editorial staff” that awards ratings and then adds the urls of rated sites to the directory, but it says nothing about what the staff picks and why. Magellan includes useful, brief reviews and ratings of 400 history sites; yet its sixty-five “four star” sites in history include a page devoted to the musical Miss Saigon but not the much more impressive sites from the Library of Congress and the University of Virginia discussed below.11 The staffs of such commercially oriented projects have little incentive to rate sites with any historical rigor, and so they remain a blunt instrument.

Keyword searches are an even blunter, but also more powerful, instrument, as some sample searches reveal. Some topics, events, and people appear more often than others. A search for the Battle of Gettysburg using the AltaVista search engine comes up with about 600 hits; a search for the Homestead Strike yields only about sixty. Some antielitist figures fare well on the Web. AltaVista gives us about 700 hits on the radical Emma Goldman but only 64 for the conservative William Graham Sumner and 200 for the Civil War General George B. McClellan.12

The search engines combine stunning comprehensiveness with stunning inefficiency. The AltaVista search for Goldman will lead you to the valuable and authoritative Emma Goldman Papers Web site, but it appears as item 122, after you have checked out a newsgroup posting about programming in the computer language C (from a person who includes a quotation from Goldman in his signature line) and a pointer to the home page for the film Sunset Park (because one of the stars played the part of Goldman in a workshop production of Ragtime). You can find the Emma Goldman Papers site right away if you know that is what you are looking for, but a student or a person simply interested in Goldman might not know it exists. Even if you search for “Emma Goldman Papers” as a phrase combined with Berkeley (where the project is housed), you get fifty-five hits. “Emma Goldman Papers Project” brings it down to eighteen and puts what you want at the top of the list.13

Such eclecticism is typical. The 300 pages that turn up in an AltaVista search on Eugene Debs include an Encyclopedia Americana entry; rare book catalogs (with books by and about Debs cited); high school and college course syllabi; the home page of a political button collector; a Web site on “noteworthy Hoosiers”; historian Roger Fagge’s article “Eugene V. Debs in West Virginia, 1913” in West Virginia History; a detailed guide to the Debs papers at Indiana State University; and a request from someone looking for information on the Eugene Debs Sunday Schools that her grandmother attended.14

These results are enormously valuable and also incredibly limited. Web readers of Debs’s life would come away with some of the basic narrative as well as leads to important resources. They would not read Nick Salvatore’s prizewinning biography of Debs; indeed, only if they looked very carefully would they discover its existence. But the students who spent twelve hours exploring Debs’s life on the Web would learn something that they could not get (or get as well) from reading Salvatore’s fine biography–namely how Debs fits into contemporary American life.15

The Web offers an instant education on the uses of the past in the present. Students who explored Debs on the Web would learn that many groups (including some with different agendas and views) claim his legacy–the Democratic Socialists of America, the neoconservative Social Democrats, usa; the Industrial Workers of the World; the Socialist Party usa; and the National Child Rights Alliance–and that they offer different narratives of Debs’s life and legacy. They would also learn that Debs is important to individuals from Dominic Chan, who declares himself “an activist and a troublemaker in the proud tradition of Eugene Debs, Mother Jones, Joe Hill and Martin Luther King” and Bernie, who describes himself as “a semi-retired drug dealer,” to Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, and Cornel West. For anyone interested in how the past is used in the present, the Web is a unique resource. It can allow fascinating assignments that illustrate to students that the past is not dead and forgotten but actively and diversely used.

Searching for Debs’s contemporary Andrew Carnegie also offers lessons about the uses of the past in the present. The more than 2,000 sites that a comprehensive HotBot keyword search produced ranged from a site on copyright giving only the dates of his birth and death to an elaborate tribute page with sound clips of Carnegie reading from his essay “The Gospel of Wealth.” This page, part of an on-line exhibit sponsored by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, showcases some of the Web’s strengths. It includes primary source photographs, newspaper articles, editorials by Carnegie, and links to other information. Students would find the primary sources very useful in assessing Carnegie’s philosophy, but the Web site itself is unvaryingly hagiographic, and it does not link the user to any sites that are not equally delighted with Carnegie and his legacy. The rest of the hits tend toward the same. For example, HotBot offers users a connection to the Carnegie Club, a golf club operating in Skibo Castle, once Carnegie’s home. The people at Skibo, not surprisingly, have only good things to say about Andrew Carnegie.16

The majority of the sites come from the many institutions Carnegie’s money made possible–libraries, the famous concert hall, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Shadyside Bed and Breakfast. They too do not bite the hand that fed them. On at least half a dozen sites, individuals have posted one or more of Carnegie’s inspirational essays on success, mostly in connection with free-market ideology. Students will find little balance, little historical depth, and little more than laudatory bromides, and they will learn that Carnegie’s money seems to have enabled him to control his representation in history, at least on the Web.

Such fatuous reproduction of received cliché is exactly what some theorists hoped the Web would avoid. Yet, so far at least, the Web–for better and worse–seems most interesting precisely for the way it reproduces in digital media crucial features of the “real world.” What is better is the easy access and fast searching that digital media allow, which instantly highlight connections between the past and the present that historians do not always fully develop in their work. In the same fashion, when libraries and archives come on line, the same access and speed can highlight intellectual connections students and scholars might otherwise miss.

Libraries and Archives On-Line

For more than three decades, Ted Nelson, who coined the term hypertext, has promoted what he calls his Xanadu project–an effort to build a “docuverse” in which all the world’s literature is tied into a “universal instantaneous hypertext publishing network.” Nelson’s vision has been widely derided. Yet in the past two years it has come to seem that the Web is close to fulfilling it. In a few years, the most important bodies of knowledge for some fields of study will probably be available on line and in hypertext through the World Wide Web. But for historians and other scholars who care deeply about information generated before, say, 1990, this vision of a totalizing docuverse will probably never materialize. The chances that the Worcester City Directory or issues of Sound Currency monthly–sources crucial to our own historical research–will become available on line seem remote. Even with vast technological improvements, the costs of digitizing and storing electronically the 110 million items in the Library of Congress are staggering.17

However, tens of thousands of those items have already come on line through the library’s National Digital Library Program (NDL Program), also known as American Memory, which began in 1989 and now includes seventeen major Web-based collections.18 The depth, range, and diversity of these on-line collections dwarf anything else available for American historians on the Web. The NDL Program collections include multiple media (books, manuscripts, films, and sound recordings), but especially photographs; they contain about 70,000 images in eight different collections, from nineteenth-century daguerreotypes to color photos taken by the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information in the 1930s and 1940s. They also include multiple perspectives–dissidents are well represented in the Woman Suffrage and African American pamphlet collections, whereas such establishment figures as John D. Rockefeller literally have their say in the Nation’s Forum sound collections. The Founding Fathers make their appearance in 274 broadsides from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, while hundreds of unfamous Americans tell their stories in the WPA life histories. The Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman notebooks offers insights into a now-canonical writer; the American Variety Stage collection, which includes 390 English-language and eighty Yiddish-language playscripts, provides a window into the nation’s popular culture.

Despite these riches, the seventeen collections represent a tiny fraction of the Library of Congress’s vast holdings. A search for Mother Jones, for instance, turns up just one passing mention in the WPA life histories. But if you are prepared to fit your research agenda to the available collections, you are in much better shape. Students–even graduate students–could write first-rate research papers on such topics as popular photography, conservation, and vaudeville based solely on these collections.

When it decides what to digitize, the Library of Congress considers the material’s usefulness to the nation’s schools, uniqueness, and appropriateness for Internet formats (maps, for example, are much harder to put on line than photos). Copyright status heads this list; documents still under copyright cost too much to publish. American Memory’s coverage of the last seventy-five years sticks to either government documents (such as the WPA life histories and the Farm Security Administration photos) or private collections donated to the library with few restrictions, such as the Carl Van Vechten photographs. In the end, financial concerns will most sharply limit what goes on line. Reaching even the current goal of 5 million items by the year 2000 will be enormously expensive. In this era of privatization, the NDL Program promises to raise $3 in private funds for each $1 in federal money. Reuters America recently donated $1 million for digitization of the papers of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Will private funders be as willing to digitize the Emma Goldman Papers as the George Washington Papers?19

Still, the advantages of this virtual library stand out. High school students in Florida, college students in Oklahoma, and graduate students in Buenos Aires now have access to an incredible research resource. To be sure, a private high school in a wealthy suburb such as Grosse Pointe, Michigan, is much more likely than a public high school in south Chicago to have functioning Internet access and computers capable of displaying Web pages. Similarly, Internet connections are more plentiful in Western Europe than in Africa and Latin America. Still, the costs of providing adequate access to the Internet and the Web continue to drop. In the United States, a $1,200 computer, a phone line, and a $20-per-month Internet access charge can bring the Web to a high school classroom. We need to remain vigilant lest the Web reinforce the gap between information haves and have-nots. But a Web connection costs less than a good library, and it offers much more than a bad one, an important advantage in an era of declining public funds.

Another advantage of digitization is full-text searching, which allows comprehensive research in on-line collections. Take the topic of Central Park, a subject on which one of us had spent years doing research at the Library of Congress. In twenty-three seconds of searching in the Library of Congress’s American Memory collections, we found 253 references, including some we might never have encountered except by pure chance.20

Full-text searching also allows novel methods of intellectual and cultural history research. In this way, the Web’s “quantitative” advantages of speed and access can have a “qualitative” (or intellectual) effect on research and teaching by permitting scholars and students to make new intellectual connections between the past and the present and among disparate bodies of material. Suppose you were interested in how Americans in the 1930s used concepts of class, race, ethnicity, or nationalism. The WPA life history collection makes it possible to search for such words as “class,” “nation,” “American,” “black,” “Negro,” and “Italian,” and then to read the interviews in which they appear and see the contexts in which they are used. One of the authors asked his students to pick a subject, enter it into the life history search page, and see how differently people treated that subject in the 1930s. This simple exercise exposed them to some of historians’ most familiar problems–that people used different subject categories in the past, or that things that matter a great deal to us or that seem like common sense appear very differently. One student found fourteen documents containing the words “gas station” and produced a paper concluding that unlike gas stations today, a small-town gas station in the 1930s functioned as a combination of informal town hall and poor man’s social club.

With few exceptions, the quality of presentation for the American Memory materials is high. The project has tried to represent faithfully the original documents, sometimes at the expense of legibility.21 The visual quality of some photographs (for example, the 25,000 Detroit Publishing Company photos) is disappointing, but the Civil War photos and the daguerreotypes come at much higher resolutions, and in all cases, the viewer first sees a smaller thumbnail version of the photograph, with the option of waiting (under a minute to download over a 28.8 modem, the fastest now commonly used by home computers) for a more detailed view. Some of the American Variety Stage section of American Memory inexplicably comes to the user in an extremely awkward form. For example, users interested in the English Language playscripts will be enticed by titles like “A Maid, a Mick, and a Ford”, but like the other playscripts and most of the Houdini collection, this 1914 “farce comedy” reaches them in the form of “page images.” This format requires finding, downloading, and paying for a separate program called an image browser. This cumbersome procedure violates both the norms of the Internet and the library’s public mission, and it limits the usefulness of these documents.

The speed of copper phone lines proves a more serious barrier for American Memory’s film collections. Over a 28.8 modem, you will have to wait from thirty-five to fifty minutes to see a one-minute clip of President William McKinley’s funeral train arriving in Canton, Ohio. Even with a much faster connection, you may wait from five to fifteen minutes for the train to arrive at your desktop. Technological limitations and glitches still hinder the user, but on the whole American Memory has provided a matchless and innovative set of resources for embedding the past in the present.22

Although the NDL Program is the nine hundred-pound gorilla of digital library projects, it is not alone. The Making of America (MOA) Project, currently centered at Cornell University and the University of Michigan and funded by the Mellon Foundation, seeks to put on line materials on the history of the United States, especially journals and books published in the second half of the nineteenth century. So far it offers only three (Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 1889-1896; Manufacturer & Builder, 1869-1894; and Scientific American, 1846-1850), but project representatives promise to put up 1.5 million pages relatively soon. Disappointingly, the user gets these journals only as pictures of pages, which makes them slow to download over a modem and prevents searching by word–a key advantage of most on-line texts.23

Many other libraries and archives are busy scanning documents and books for on-line presentation. For example, the University of North Carolina’s site Documenting the American South has already digitized and posted about thirty very important and useful slave narratives, autobiographies, diaries, and memoirs from the nineteenth century. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has also put up forty-six slave narratives. Wake Forest University has posted its Confederate Broadside Poetry Collection, which includes more than 250 poems written by Southerners and Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War. With support from Ameritech, the Library of Congress is offering grants to libraries, archives, and museums to enable them to create digital materials that will complement and enhance the library’s American Memory collections.24

Creating On-Line Archives

The Web offers not just digital versions of existing archives but also entirely new archives designed specifically for the Web. Standing somewhere between a personal narrative and an archive, such an “invented archive” may highlight its subject in intriguing ways. Many historians have seen the pioneering Anti-Imperialism in the United States, 1898-1935, maintained by Jim Zwick.25 A Ph.D. candidate at Syracuse University, Zwick began in 1994 by placing materials from his dissertation and related primary sources on the Internet; the collection has since grown to hundreds of documents, mostly primary sources. A monument to Zwick’s passionate interest and his ability to work on a low budget, the site is impeccably maintained. It includes editorial cartoons and links to valuable photographs of the Philippine conflict and Mark Twain’s anti-imperialist writings. Historians interested in cultural studies will especially appreciate the text of Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” presented along with 45 responses and parodies by contemporaries. Although you cannot search the entire site for specific words–and you thus miss the chance to use one of the Web’s best tools–Zwick has provided historians with a wonderful, diverse collection on an understudied subject. By putting this material on the Web–in a version of “if you build it, they will come”–he has placed the subject of anti-imperialism squarely in the eyes of Web-conscious historians.

The University of Virginia’s equally impressive but far more ambitious Valley of the Shadow site lets users explore two communities on either side of the Mason-Dixon line during the Civil War–although, at this point, only material for 1857-1861 has been placed on the Web.26 Directed by Edward Ayers and based on a book idea of his, the project collects documents pertaining to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and Staunton, Virginia, allowing users to compare the two towns from the ground up. It includes the searchable contents of four newspapers, census data, records of the Union and Confederate armies, personal diaries, and miscellaneous documents, including maps and photographs. Aside from the Library of Congress, no single site offers a more eclectic and complete range of material on line.

Valley of the Shadow is perhaps best understood as an ambitious new social history book on the Civil War, with all its primary sources available on line. It allows students to construct their own narratives of life in both towns in the years before the war, but it seems to encourage narratives that follow the framework of Ayers’s planned book. More than other sites, it seems clearly designed for teaching in a specific framework rather than for general reference.

The census data allow users to search for a specific name, occupation, gender, or level of wealth in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, and Augusta County, Virginia. A search for the last name “Stevens” in Franklin County produced four entries; a search for the occupation “seamstress” turned up 111 names, including those of two men. In an outstanding introduction to social history methods, students can investigate general categories in Franklin or Augusta counties or track individuals through the years before and during the war–including any service in the army and any mention of them or their families in local newspapers.

The project summary describes the newspapers as the “meat” of the archive, and you can search them extensively. If you search for a word from a particular newspaper, you are first taken to a summary of the relevant articles; you then have the option of downloading an image of a single newspaper page, which looks very much like a page of microfilm. The steps to reach this page may seem a bit awkward, but the richness of the sources available–the full text of four newspapers–more than compensates. Recognizing the awkwardness of the searches and the long download times, the project staff has begun to transcribe hundreds of the articles. These can now be searched through familiar topics (for example, African Americans, Churches/Religious Activities, and Military/War News). Clicking on “Women” in the section on newspapers from Augusta County, Virginia, produces a series of summaries, each of which links to the full text of the article. A feature of the page encourages comparisons; students can scroll to the bottom of the Augusta “women’s page” and toggle to articles on women in Franklin County.

Students can search other topics. From the table of contents, clicking on “Lincoln’s Election” brings up a page with the voting breakdown and some political summary. It contains links to responses in local and national newspapers and to their treatment of Abraham Lincoln before and during the election. Clicking on “Race Relations” brings up links to articles about race relations in both regions.

The introductory page allows users to read the project staff’s “first take” on the story to help orient students toward the best ways of seeing the archive, and it urges them to “construct their own narratives, coming up with ideas that eluded us.” Students can use the data to come up with new narratives about individuals or institutions in the region. It seems harder to come up with alternative “metanarratives” of the war and its cause and meaning. The site appears more open-ended than it is–it tends to encourage users to follow the narrative framework and assumptions established by the comparative methodology. A more flexible structure might encourage other forms of comparison–of elite with non-elite, political with social, one political interest with another, or one race or gender position with another. Although it offers useful links to related Web sites where other resources can be explored, Valley of the Shadow is less a superficially neutral topical archive, like the Library of Congress’s Conservation collection, and more a set of data organized around a specific historical thesis and methodology. But this organizational scheme has the powerful advantage that, as in a good book, there is drama and an easy-to-understand framework embodied in the story of two communities grappling with the war.

The clarity and drama of the story line make Valley of the Shadow particularly useful in the classroom. The site provides excellent examples of how teachers have used the site in their courses. It is probably the most sophisticated historical site on the Web, though it suffers from an inelegant and sometimes confusing interface. For example, the first page offers users three somewhat enigmatic categories: “The Impending Crisis,” “The Communities,” and “Sources.” We should note, however, that Valley of the Shadow is now undergoing a redesign aimed at improving its speed, accessibility, and appearance. As with other Web sites (and unlike a book or article), one exciting feature of Valley of the Shadow is that it is a work in progress rather than a fixed and final product. Valley of the Shadow will eventually be accessible through a commercial cd-rom, which will link to the database on the Web and reduce download times. Even a quick perusal of this site should help answer critics who say that the Web cannot be used for serious historical teaching. Indeed, sites like Valley of the Shadow and American Memory demonstrate that, at the present time, the most powerful uses of the Web for professional historians are in teaching, rather than in researching, the past.

Presenting the Past on Line: Museums, Commercial Sites, and Personal Histories

If such projects as NDL Program and Valley of the Shadow show the potential for creating at least a portion of Nelson’s docuverse, they are still uses of the Web as a resource–a place to go to find specific information. Are there ways that the Web improves on well-established methods of turning historical facts into narratives, such as books, films, and museum exhibitions? Some promising experiments have emerged in the past year.

The Web site for the Computer Museum Network showcases the interactive possibilities of an on-line museum. The visitor registers before entering the site, and the look of the site is (lightly) customized based on the visitor’s age and background. It offers such interesting features as the ability to send messages to other visitors (although our own attempts to do so failed), to participate in group solving of an on-line puzzle, to contact staff members and offer feedback, to propose donations of artifacts to the museum, and even to send a personally designed postcard.

The historical content of the Computer Museum Network site does not match its polished professional design. The historical exhibits are organized around a computer time line covering 1945-1979, which focuses narrowly on the nuts and bolts of computing and traditional history of technology (a chronology of firsts). Important developments are ignored: 1945 and 1946 include the development of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the first working and general purpose electronic computer, although nothing is said on its larger context, but the display ignores the publication of Vannevar Bush’s article “As We May Think” in Atlantic Monthly, which set out basic premises of hypertext around which the Web itself is organized.27

Another limitation is that the designers of the site decided to keep it self-enclosed. You are never offered the opportunity to explore related resources on the Web, presumably one of its great advantages as a globally linked medium. The visitor has no way of knowing that the University of Pennsylvannia has an extensive on-line exhibit on the development of the ENIAC and that the Smithsonian Institution has posted on line a long interview with J. Presper Eckert, its codeveloper. This effort to erect a wall around the site means that, at least for historical information and understanding, the Computer Museum Network offers little more than a good, illustrated encyclopedia article. In general, there seem to be two impulses–whether conscious or unconscious–at war on the Web. One considers a site merely a piece of a larger network of information that the site’s creators do not control; at one extreme, some sites are simply links to other sites. The other strategy–particularly strong for some institutions and for commercial operations–is more proprietary and attempts to capture the attention of the Web browser for its particular site.28

The greatest virtue of the Computer Museum Network and most on-line exhibits is simply remote access; the virtual museum brings objects and images (albeit often in less than fully satisfactory formats) to the person who cannot actually visit them. For example, if you missed the fine exhibit on the Ashcan School mounted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art at one of its stops, you can see a nicely designed on-line alternative. The paintings are better seen in person, but on the Web site they arrive with historical material from the catalog–and this museum never closes. The Museum of the City of New York, “a museum for a new century,” has placed a few exhibits on line, including an excellent exhibit on Currier and Ives with sample prints and explanatory text. On the West Coast, the Museum of the City of San Francisco’s on-line exhibit about the 1906 earthquake includes dozens of oral histories along with newspaper clippings and the official reports of relief agencies and public utilities–an outstanding resource. Thus on-line exhibits can become hypertexts that allow visitors to explore topics that interest them in much greater depth–a virtue appreciated by curators, who are continually told by designers to limit the amount of text they put on the wall.29

Aspects of Web technology hint that the “virtual museum” may eventually do some things better than its real counterparts. Interactive possibilities are tentatively explored by the Computer Museum (you may talk to visitors from Tokyo as well as to members of your own family). Another possibility lies in re-creating experiences or even sites that no longer exist. At a Web site devoted to Chetro Ketl Great Kiva (a subterranean sanctuary constructed by the Chaco Anasazi around a.d. 1000) developed by John Kantner, an anthropology student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, users with a properly configured browser can take a “virtual reality” tour of the kiva, descending a ladder into the smoky chamber.30 Looking 360 degrees around a rendering of the kiva’s interior, they can zoom in on particular objects while they listen to recordings of music by Plains Indians. A text accompaniment explains what they are seeing. Though not aimed specifically at historians, this site suggests the extraordinary ways the Web’s multimedia potential might be used to re-create lost historical spaces.

A single (albeit energetic) graduate student produced the kiva site, with no budget to speak of. Neither a film nor an exhibition nor a static text, the site combines elements of all three. Will such nonprofit projects–from dedicated individuals or museums and historical societies relying on government and foundation support–be able to compete with those from private corporations?

To consider that question and to find out if the Web can improve on existing forms of popular history–films, books, and magazines–we point our Web browser to the HistoryNet, which bills itself as “the most extensive and content-rich site devoted to history on the Internet.”31 The core of the site is materials from the Web site’s owner, “the History Group of Cowles Enthusiast Media,” which publishes twelve historical magazines from Aviation History to Civil War Times Illustrated to Wild West. Not surprisingly given its origins and resource base, the site emphasizes topics of interest to history enthusiasts. On a typical week in November 1996, the six stories featured on the site’s first page included Confederate Generals J. E. B. Stuart and John Hunt Morgan, Captain Kidd’s last voyage, and the blitz bombing of London. Enthusiasts who visit this site will probably find their preferences confirmed rather than challenged or broadened. The site’s useful search engine yields twenty references to General George McClellan but none to Eugene Debs or Marcus Garvey. There is nothing exciting or surprising about the HistoryNet’s presentation of historical narratives. The stories, taken directly from the pages of the Cowles magazines, appear on-screen with a single illustration, a less attractive option than browsing the magazines.

Other parts of the site, however–a daily quiz and a useful “guide to exhibits and events”–make more use of the Web’s interactive possibilities. Most interesting are the five on-line forums. They are not extremely active (fewer than 200 responses logged in the site’s first six weeks), but the editors had started things off with thoughtful questions, such as “What drives your exceptional interest in the Civil War?” The questions provoked some revealing responses that would interest a professional historian who wants to know more about history enthusiasts or, better yet, to engage in discussion with them. Nevertheless, like many commercial sites, the HistoryNet is somewhat self-enclosed. The articles do not lead you to related materials elsewhere on the Web; even the guide to events and exhibits does not take you to pages maintained by the organizers of those exhibits.32

The financial basis of the HistoryNet is unclear; perhaps Cowles plans to include advertisements or to maintain the site as a useful advertisement for its own magazines and products from its on-line store, which sells everything from books to “Old Western Train” humidors. A more direct attempt to use the history Web to capture advertising dollars waits at the Discovery Channel on-line. This Web site, which cost $10 million to set up and initially maintain, organizes its fare into six categories. History leads this group, and on one recent day users could find stories on the women pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read and their brief careers with Calico Jack Rackham, Charles Lindbergh, and football broadcasting. The story on the female pirates includes short biographies of the major figures and sidebars on whether privateers were pirates and on the “pirate’s code.” Though it lacks historical citations, the site refers users to relevant books. The section on Lindbergh describes his fame and its eclipse in the late 1930s, when he appeared pro-German in his sympathies. Written by H. J. Fortunato, a “writer and business consultant,” the story is lavishly illustrated and opinionated, a tasty historical “snack” rather than a serious work.33

Some Discovery Channel stories, on the other hand, have contained nuggets of useful and interesting information, obviously influenced by recent historiography. An earlier feature on “muscular Christians,” for example, presents the familiar story of American religion’s confrontation with modernity in colorful, informative ways. It conflates Father Charles Coughlin, Anthony Comstock, Carry Nation, and Father Divine–theologically suspect at the very least–but the organizational conception, spiced with audio and striking images, makes for entertaining and useful browsing. Another story, on the Dust Bowl, takes users hour by hour through a dust storm in Kansas in 1935. Richly and cleverly illustrated, it includes fifteen oral histories of the dust storms and their aftermath. Users can click to hear Thelma Warner remember how the dust “seemed to come right through the walls” or to hear Harley “Doc” Holladay tell a joke about farmers in hell. This page offers novel primary sources, framed with professional polish and skill.

Sites like this reinforce the criticism that well-funded corporate media could dominate the Web. One of the authors has established his own course-related Web page on the Dust Bowl, with no funding, little assistance, and no professional design or computer training. A comparison of the two sites reveals just how heavily the deck is stacked against academic historians and independent enthusiasts. Our site has few images, two audio clips, both from Woody Guthrie, a brief introduction, and a few excursions into other primary sources. The Discovery Channel feature on the Dust Bowl, written by Lori Ann Wark, does an excellent job of presenting the prevailing interpretation of the Dust Bowl’s cause in a simple way, enlivened by oral histories and pictures. It includes bibliographic references to standard works and Web links to other related sites. Like the site as a whole, it reflects the impact of recent historiography in subject matter and treatment. The combination of good history and good production values is unusual; most commercial sites have only the latter. Is the Dust Bowl feature better than a book or a T.V. show? Yes and no—it has less substance than a typical book, but through oral histories it conveys more of the flavor of the people and their culture. Less passively entertaining than T.V., the site offers twenty-four hour access, and computer-savvy students could easily incorporate quotations from the material it offers in papers or other forms of presentation.34

Will heavily funded, professionally designed sites like this push politically controversial and independent history off the Web? It remains to be seen—the Discovery Channel has yet to recoup its investment. In the first half of 1996, the Discovery site generated only $573,000 in advertising revenue. But sites like this and the HistoryNet command huge resources and threaten to outshine the amateur and educational sites lovingly crafted largely by volunteer labor. Ironically, Cowles, as the champion of the history enthusiast on the Web, could crowd out the voice of the real amateur. The danger is the one that Herbert Schiller cites—that as the Web goes down the well-worn road of radio, tv, and cable, in which large “infotainment” conglomerates come to dominate the wires, “choice” becomes narrowly defined as the competition between two or three very similar “products.” In this narrowcast vision of the Web, you will get history at the Discovery Channel, the History Channel, or the HistoryNet, but nowhere else.35

The potential for commercial versions of the past to crowd out nonprofit and amateur efforts on the Web comes not, as with T.V., because there is limited “bandwidth” (only a certain number of channels) or because it is enormously expensive to own a television station. At least for the foreseeable future, everyone will be able to mount a personal Web page. But as the Web becomes more dominated by multimedia glitz, amateur and professional historians will find it increasingly difficult to compete with commercial operations. Where will they get the money to pay for permission to use a swing tune or a radio program from the 1930s in a site on New Deal culture? Who will provide the design and programming skills for flashy pages with interactive features? Self-made home pages will not disappear, but they might wither away in the face of competition from professionally developed and mounted sites. Like low-budget documentary filmmakers in an era of Hollywood blockbusters, they would find it hard to get anyone’s notice and sustained attention.

Start-up costs for mounting sophisticated Web pages may become much more formidable. Most universities now provide faculty and students with access to equipment that is close to the technical cutting edge, which makes possible innovative sites like the Chetro Ketl Great Kiva. But there is no guarantee that such support will continue. Just as independent filmmakers now lack the equipment that offers the best special effects, independent Web page makers may come to lack access to the best computers, best software, best programmers, or fastest Web connections.

At the moment, however, literally hundreds of homemade sites densely populate the Web. Many explore topics that have traditionally attracted history amateurs and enthusiasts—the Civil War, military history, the West, and collectibles. The scale of this amateur effort can be glimpsed on the American Civil War Homepage, itself a volunteer effort, which contains links to almost 300 sites related to the Civil War (including forty-one just for reenactors)—many created by unpaid enthusiasts. Larry Stevens, a phone company worker from Newark, Ohio, maintains ten Civil War Web sites, mostly concerning Ohio in the Civil War. The sites combined his two hobbies of history and computers, and, he explains, he “decided to carve a niche into the net before the big boys, aka Ohio Historical Society, Ohio State University, etc., entered the field.”36

There are also many historical pages on which amateur historians treat such diverse subjects as the pioneering cartoonist and animator Winsor McCay, the landscape photographer William Henry Jackson, the history and future of money, and the magician Harry Houdini.37 In these cases, people have taken materials gathered through personal passions and made them available to a much broader public. Sometimes these sites suffer from outdated links, since unpaid enthusiasts may lack the resources for active maintenance of their sites, which can become, in the new catchphrase, “cobwebs.”

Sites started for one purpose can take on a larger life. John Yu, now a Microsoft employee, started his Web site on Japanese American internment for an undergraduate history class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), but it has now grown into a large site with primary documents, pictures, and a clear timeline. Yu’s Web site is less informative than most good secondary sources on the internment, but it differentiates itself from its print cousins by using the hypertextual features of the Web. You can click on most of the names and key terms in his documents and get a glossary or a biographical entry. More important (and unlike some other sites), it opens itself to a literal web of other resources on the internment and Japanese Americans generally. Thus, visitors to Yu’s the Japanese American Internment might quickly find themselves stopping by the Unofficial Nikkei Home Page, created by a junior high school social studies teacher in Washington State; an on-line exhibit on the internment of a Japanese American from the Santa Clara Valley organized by Erin Kamura and the Japanese-American Resource Center in San José, California; a site on the Manzanar internment camp developed by two California high school students; or the University of Arizona’s on-line exhibit, War Relocation Authority Camps in Arizona, 1942-1946. If you are lucky, you might wander into Scott Hopkins’s “Web art site,” which features a stunning presentation linking the Poston, Arizona, camps and the game go. Hopkins uses photographs of the camps in the 1940s and the present, which he has beautifully transformed into color picture postcards, to reflect on the relationship of the past and the present.38 Since little remains of many of the original internment camps, these virtual re-creations may be the most important historic sites connected to the internment experience.

Hopkins’s site makes the intersection of personal interest and professional history vivid and intriguing. It shows us how dialogue about the past’s meaning proceeds among professionals, enthusiasts, artists, educators, politicians, in casual hobbies and obsessive interests, from communities to university classrooms. More important, it comes to us in a format that stresses the multiple meanings of the past and the multiple sources of information to make sense of it. The Web clearly demonstrates that meaning emerges in dialogue and that culture has no stable center, but rather proceeds from multiple “nodes.” It also suggests the force of history in American life. Arguments that Americans are an “ahistorical people” or allow their history to languish collapse in the face of the range of historical material the Web contains. Like American society, the Web moves from slick, light commercial histories to stodgily responsible academic narratives, from irresponsible rant to thoughtful critique. The size and brute power of the Web—the ability to link quickly sites created in very different places and by very different people, to access distant material from your home or office, to search out specific words in unfamiliar contexts—makes it an extraordinary tool for making new connections, whether those are between the past and the present or between different concepts and bodies of knowledge.

The Web’s very openness brings with it the threat that commercial operations will come to dominate and squeeze out the enthusiasts, cranks, and academics. In December 1996, the extraordinarily powerful Microsoft Corporation announced an overhaul that would make its Microsoft Network “look and feel a lot more like television.”39 Although we are loathe to underestimate the power of global infotainment conglomerates, which have taken control of other media (such as cable) once seen as conduits for democratizing cultural life, we do not think the future is predetermined. Like television stations, commercial Web sites use visual dazzle to hold your attention and limit “surfing.” But unlike television, the Web allows alternative or contrarian viewpoints to flower, and it encourages users to compose their own narratives of the past. Academic historians, like other citizens, should insist on a role in this new “public space,” should demand that it remain open and accessible to all, and should resist the tendency of television to wash political content toward the center. Universities, with their subsidized spaces for students, faculty, and staff, remain one of the best sources of experiment, of alternative viewpoint and serious content. The Web may not be the brave new world or the postmodern inferno, but it is an arena with which everyone concerned about the uses of the past in the present should be engaged.


Thanks to Steve Brier, Susan Armeny, David Thelen, and Julie Plaut for helpful comments on this article.


1 Washington Post, Jan. 14, 1996, p. H1; Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Dec. 8, 1995, p. D1. On the origins of the Internet, see Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon, Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet (New York, 1996); and Peter H. Salus, Casting the Net: From Arpanet to Internet and Beyond . . . (Reading, Mass., 1995).

2 Matthew Gray, “Web Growth Summary” New York Times, Nov. 20, 1995, p. 1.

3 New York Times, Oct. 28, 1996, p. D10.

4 Gertrude Himmelfarb, “A Neo-Luddite Reflects on the Internet,” Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 1, 1996, p. A56.

5 Randy Bass, “The Garden in the Machine: The Impact of American Studies on New Technologies”; Michael Joyce, “The Lingering Errantness of Place (In Memory of Sherman Paul),” paper delivered at the Association of College and Research Libraries/Library and Information Technology Association Joint Presidents Program at the annual conference of the American Library Association, Chicago, June 26, 1995.

6 Herbert I. Schiller, Information Inequality: The Deepening Social Crisis in America (New York, 1996), 86, 75.

7 Important history sites not discussed here include those organized around teaching courses. For example, see the New Media Classroom; and the American Studies Crossroads Project. Andrew McMichael, Michael O’Malley, and Roy Rosenzweig, “Historians and the Web: A Guide,” Perspectives, 34 (Jan. 1996), 11-15.

8 For a review of the comparative merits of the different search engines (which rates Excite as the best “general-purpose Web search site”), see Amarendra Singh and David Lidsky, “All-Out Search,” PC Magazine, Dec. 3, 1996, pp. 213 ff. For a discussion of the basic principles of search engines, see Steve G. Steinberg, “Seek and Ye Shall Find (Maybe),” Wired, 4 (May 1996), 108 ff.

9 See . To review the Web is to comment on a moving target. Statements about numbers of sites were true for the fall of 1996 when we wrote this article; the specific numbers surely have changed by the time you are reading this.

10 Michael A. Hoffman II, “The Campaign for Radical Truth in History”; National Women’s History Project ; John Stanley, “One-Third of a Nation: Overview of a Living Newspaper” ; Life History Manuscripts from the Folklore Project, Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Writers Project, 1936-1940 . In February 1997 the John Stanley link was no longer active.

11; ; ; Ron San Juan, “Welcome to the Miss Saigon Page” ; Welcome to Magellan! .

12 AltaVista Technology Inc. .

13 . The enterprise of searching can take on a slightly frightening “big brother” quality; a search for our own names comes up with references not only to our work in on-line syllabi but also to long-forgotten postings to on-line bulletin boards. In effect, every casual utterance on the Web is instantly archived and indexed for posterity.

14 Grolier on-line: The American Presidency ; Hoosiers–Individuals with Significant Ties to Indiana ; Eugene V. Debs in West Virginia, 1913 ; Debs Collection Debs .

15 The Web-based Encyclopedia Americana article, for example, was written more than thirty years ago by Ray Ginger (who died in 1975), although the copyright is given as 1996; see Grolier on-line. Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist (Urbana, 1982).

16 Carnegie, Andrew ; Bridging the Urban Landscape: Andrew Carnegie, a Tribute ; Carnegie Club: The Carnegie Story .

17 On Ted Nelson, see Gary Wolf, “The Curse of Xanadu,” Wired, 3 (June 1995), 137 ff. For the 110 million figure, see Linton Weeks, “Brave New Library,” Washington Post Magazine, May 26, 1991, pp. 11 ff.

18 For general background on the National Digital Library Program (NDL Program), see Caroline R. Arms, “Historical Collections for the National Digital Library: Lessons and Challenges at the Library of Congress,” D-Lib Magazine (April, May 1996) .

19 “Periodic Report from the National Digital Library Program, the Library of Congress” (June 1996), 1. The quest to get collections digitized as inexpensively as possible raises thorny ethical and political problems. The Library of Congress has already faced criticism for subcontracting the digitization to prison labor and to electronic sweatshops in the Philippines and Jamaica. See Marcia Gelbart, “Hill Library Turns Back on ‘Buy America,’” Hill, Sept. 11, 1996, p. 1.

20 Search times will vary according to the time of day. In addition, one must contend with technological failure; the second time we tried this search we got the message “This collection is temporarily unavailable. Please try later.” The Central Park references include some excellent, but obscure, photos of the park, and three WPA life history interviews that talk about the park as a space for sexual encounters–a topic difficult to research in other sources.

21 Here are a few lines, as displayed, from one WPA life history: “{Begin deleted text} to {Enddeleted text} {Begin inserted text} {Begin handwritten} ta {End handwritten} {End inserted text} get back {Begin deleted text} but {End deleted text} {Begin inserted text} {Begin handwritten} and {End handwritten} {End inserted text} I’d go under tryin. It’d be like life that way, {Begin deleted text} you {End deleted text} {Begin inserted text} ya {End inserted text} wanna live but ya gotta die. . . {Begin deleted text} ? ? ? ? {End deleted text} {Begin deleted text} ? ? ? {End deleted text}” The alternative to attempting to read this is to download an actual image of the original document. This takes a few minutes but reads more easily. It is a boon to have both alternatives available. The lower quality of the images is due to earlier, automated digital transfers from film, which are presumably too expensive to redo.

22 In a single day of remote research in the National Digital Library, we had probably a dozen different technical problems–crashes in trying to use “RealAudio” from the Nation’s Forum or cryptic messages like “Temporary file open error. Display failed” or “inquiry failed.” But regular users of the Library of Congress know other sorts of technical problems well (slips marked “not on shelf” when the book is there, for example), and the Web, after all, offers a library that never closes and from which the books are never checked out to a congressman.

23 Making of America Project .

24 Documenting the American South: The Southern Experience in the 19th Century ; Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History ; Confederate Broadside Poetry Collection ; Library of Congress-Ameritech NDL Program Competition .

25 Anti-Imperialism in the United States, 1898-1935 .

26 Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War .

27 Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” Atlantic Monthly, 76 (July 1945) http:// . Computer Museum Network .

28 On the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) and J. Presper Eckert, see Birth of the Information Age ; and Presper Eckert Interview http:// .

29 Metropolitan Lives: The Ashcan Artists and Their New York ; Museum of the City of New York ; Museum of the City of San Francisco . The University of California’s Museum of Paleontology’s useful “Subway system” guide to the Web lists more than eighty history museums and forty libraries with Web sites and on-line exhibits. Art, History, Culture, and Science Museums .

30 Chetro Ketl Great Kiva 3-D Model Home Page .

31 HistoryNet .

32 There is one page of links to “History On-Line,” but it is a somewhat limited and eclectic list of history Web sites rather than a comprehensive guide.

33 Discovery Channel ; Rajiv Chandrasekaran, “A Top-Dollar Web Service Awaits Return,” Washington Post Business, Nov. 4, 1996, p. 19. The story of Anne Bonny and Mary Read was written by Shay McNeal, an independent historical writer and publisher with her own Web site on colonial America. “Wild Women and Salty Dogs” . McNeal and Poullin Historical Publishing ; H. J. Fortunato, “From Here to Obscurity”

34 Lori Ann Wark, “The Day of the Black Blizzard” History409: “The Dust Bowl” .

35 For the term “infotainment,” see Benjamin R. Barber, Jihad vs. McWorld (New York, 1995). History Channel .

36 Winsor McCay Page! ; “Time Exposure: The On-Line Bibliography of Web-based Information About William Henry Jackson.”

37 ; Money–Past, Present, & Future ; Houdini! .

38 John Yu to Roy Rosenzweig, e-mail, Oct. 25, 1996; Japanese American Internment ; Unofficial Nikkei Home Page ; Japanese American Internment, Santa Clara Valley: On-Line Exhibit ; Manzanar Project by: Mark Leck and Doug Lockett ; War Relocation Authority Camps in Arizona, 1942-1946 ; Poston, Arizona, 1942-1996

39 New York Times, Dec. 10, 1996, p. D4.


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