Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts; Carol A. Drost

Civil War 150: National Portrait Gallery. Access:

Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University Vancouver,

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States. Less than six weeks later, the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, beginning the conflict that divided a nation and defined a presidency. In a planned four-year commemoration of the sesquicentennial anniversary of this tumultuous period in U.S. history, the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum and research complex and often called the nation’s attic—has assembled an immense array of primary source materials and documents located throughout its vast collections. Civil War 150 is the National Portrait Gallery’s contribution to the Smithsonian’s combined series of online events and exhibitions scheduled to run until May 2015.

Visitors to this portal site will find a wealth of information and educational material related to the Civil War, as told through the portraiture and photography of the period. Built on a permanent collection of more than 400,000 visual images held in the Smithsonian’s Catalog of American Portraits, the seven planned exhibitions feature representations of both legendary and little-known historical figures. The first of these presentations, titled “The Death of Ellsworth,” recounts the early days of the war. Future exhibits will include Mathew Brady’s photographic series on Union generals; Washington, D.C., during the war; the role of African Americans; and a comparison of Generals Grant and Lee through various paintings, photographs, and documents. The anniversary events conclude with a look at the work of photographer Alexander Gardner, whose iconic cracked plate portrait of Lincoln was taken as the war drew to a close.

Additionally, visitors to the site may search for portraits and other artifacts in both the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian’s Civil War collections, using EDAN, the Smithsonian’s own robust metadata index and digital asset manager. Other resources available from this site are prerecorded lectures, podcasts, video tours, blog postings, lesson plans, and further discussion related to the exhibitions.

Civil War 150 is an attractive and expertly curated site that skillfully delivers the National Portrait Gallery’s collection of Civil War artifacts and related information to a global audience. Recommended.

Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. Access:

Shannon Van Kirk, Blue Mountain Community College,

It is impossible to provide a detailed description of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History in the space allotted for these reviews. Meticulously researched and cited, well-conceived and beautifully realized, this is an art history “textbook” worth reading from “cover to cover.”

Launched in 2000, the Heilbrunn Timeline extends from 8,000 BCE to the present. The museum’s curators, conservators, and educators—authors of the Timeline—continue to expand its scope and depth to “reflect the most up-to-date scholarship.”

There are a variety of approaches to this wealth of content. Under “Works of Art,” each entry includes related timelines, thematic essays, and supporting materials. Users can also search by artist, title, material, and technique, etc. This section is composed of more than 6,000 works (each with a photograph) featured on the Heilbrunn Timeline. Another entry point is the “Timelines” themselves—300 in all, which provide a linear outline of art history.

Users can access the “Thematic Essays” by category, geographic region, time period, artistic movement, archaeological sites, empires, civilizations, themes, and concepts. This is invaluable for any art history teachers or students who want to break free from a chronologically based approach to the subject.

“World Maps” are selected by one of ten regions and are accompanied by regional maps. For example, West Asia is divided into “Anatolia and the Caucasus,” “The Eastern Mediterranean,” “Iraq (Mesopotamia),” “Iran,” and the “Arabian Peninsula.” Each is then defined and described by its present- day political boundaries.

“Indexes” offer access by chronology, geography, theme, and subject. The extensive “Bibliography” of more than 3,000 Metropolitan Museum of Art publications is supplemented by other publications whose primary focus is on Metropolitan Museum works of art.

For a site with so much information, it is surprisingly easy to navigate, thanks to good tabs and descriptive links. The timelines are the centerpiece of the site, but each section provides so much detail that it is impossible to imagine the site without all of its beautifully illustrated components. The enthusiastic art history student will want to bookmark almost every page.

This is an invaluable reference and research tool for students, teachers, artists, and scholars. It is also a rich site for anyone even casually interested in history, art history, and related subjects.

Understanding Evolution. Access:

John Creech, Central Washington University,

Without a basic grasp of evolutionary processes, the university life sciences student cannot successfully advance into upper division courses in biology, ecology, and biochemistry. Understanding Evolution, an outstanding collaborative project of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the National Center for Science Education, will prove invaluable to such students and, in general, may advance objective science instruction. The site provides a conceptual framework for understanding evolution and how it functions in nature, how research is conducted in this field, and how ideas have changed over time.

Understanding Evolution is divided into five key topical areas: “Evolution 101,” “Teaching materials,” “Resource library,” “Evo in the news,” and “Highlights.” The instructional component, “Evolution 101,” would well complement a traditional introductory course in the life sciences and consists of seven sections: a general introduction, history of life, mechanisms, microevolution, speciation, macroevolution, and big issues.

These sections contain extensive visual materials that enhance the user’s understanding of evolutionary biology and present complex concepts and ideas in simple terms. In “History of Life: Looking at the Patterns,” for example, a colorful graphic wheel illustrates the branching pattern of evolutionary relationships and changes among species over time. The following pages then combine graphics with text to help the user understand phylogenies, to explain genetic variation and mechanisms at work in speciation, and to illustrate important events in the history of life.

“Teaching materials” includes excellent topical ideas for K–12 teachers, college life sciences students, and university instructors, including information on correcting misconceptions about evolution and tips on dealing with objections to teaching this most fundamental aspect of the life sciences.

The monthly “Evo in the news” section includes articles written by leading scientists, citations to primary literature on each topic, related news articles, discussion questions, links to complimentary Web sites, and a list of references for the topic.

“Resource library” includes interactive, Web-based modules, tutorials, case studies, more topical explorations, and research profiles of scientists. The “Highlights” section follows the steps of leading scientists in the field and documents their research, from explanations of mass extinctions to the evolution of plants in the Amazonian basin to the evolution of the eye. A glossary of more than 200 terms relevant to evolution studies includes numerous illustrations and photographs.

Highly recommended for university life sciences students and faculty and especially for anyone engaged in science education.

Copyright 2012© American Library Association

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