Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts; Carol A. Drost


Mapping Gothic France. Access: http://mappinggothic.org/.

Jeremy Donald, Trinity University, jdonald@trinity.edu

Mapping Gothic France offers users a rich and immersive opportunity to study Gothic architecture in France. By presenting the histories, designs, and spaces of Gothic churches via photographs, plans, maps, timelines, essays, and stories, the site lets users experience Gothic cathedrals by moving seamlessly from one mode of representation to another. Maps and timelines lead to floor plans, which lead to multiple perspectival photographs, panoramas, and high-resolution details of interior ornamentation. Accompanying these are concise research dossiers on each structure. As these dossiers include selected bibliographies, they make excellent starting points for researchers wishing to go beyond the vast amount of visual and historical information presented here.

Central to the user experience is a suite of innovative Web applications that emphasize spatial, temporal, and cultural contexts. Some examples: cathedral interiors are viewable through both customary photo galleries and via clickable icons overlaid on floor plans, each in the shape of either an arrow (indicating the direction of perspective) or a circle (indicating a panoramic view).

A map of France showing church locations is controlled by an interactive time-line, and the points on the map and the entries in the timeline are linked to each other and to the images and descriptions elsewhere on the site. Particularly interesting is a “comparisons” feature that allows users to visually juxtapose and even superimpose sketches, plans, and photos of church exteriors and interiors.

Created by two professors of art history with help from a team of designers and developers and numerous contributing scholars, Mapping Gothic France was funded with a grant from the Mellon Foundation. The creators have made this an open source project, and the code is available on github.org and licensed with an Open Source Initiative Educational Community License, meaning that all of the functionalities of the site can be re-used and adapted by others per the generous terms of the license.

Scholars, undergraduates, librarians, and technologists will find this site to be rich and versatile as both a resource and as a teaching and learning tool. Mapping Gothic France represents an exciting synthesis of scholarship, primary sources, information design, and technology. Those curious about the rise of the digital humanities will find a positive example here of the potential of new media to invigorate inquiry and support formerly resource-intensive methods of analysis.

The Tax History Project. Access: http://www.taxhistory.org/www/website.nsf/Web/TaxHistoryMuseum?OpenDocument.

Brad Matthies, Casper College, bmatthies@caspercollege.edu

The Tax History Project is the brainchild of tax analysts and strives to provide Internet access to America’s tax history. The project is managed by Joseph J. Thorndike and Dennis J. Ventry Jr., who are both scholars specializing in tax history. The repository contains original articles, as well as historical artifacts including images, documents, and original interviews.

The site’s content is organized via eight primary categories. Notable coverage includes America’s tax history from 1660 to 1932, an image gallery of historical tax cartoons and posters, as well as archives containing presidential tax returns and Form 1040s from 1910 to the present. Much of the site’s document and image content is of good quality and comes from sources like the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and various presidential libraries. With relative ease, the user is able to peruse Richard Nixon’s tax returns, view color scans of World War II war bond posters, and also read an opinion article concerning the proposed elimination of the Sixteenth Amendment.

While overall coverage is good, some sections of the site seem incomplete or only contain minimal amounts of content. For example, the 20th Century section of the Tax Museum lacks documents and only contains short sound clips and a handful of images. Moreover, “The Price of Civilization” section boasts “6,500 pages of text” that purports to capture the history of U.S. federal taxation between 1932 and 1945. However, after reviewing this section, I found less than 50 documents and images. This could be due to poor site layout and organization or an inaccuracy concerning the number of hosted documents.

Although there are other online sites with similar content, this resource is distinguished by its tax-themed selection and organization of content. Overall, the site is fascinating and is recommended for the access it provides to historical tax documents and images.

U.S. Department of State. Access: http://www.state.gov.

Krista Godfrey, Memorial University of Newfoundland, kgodfrey@mun.ca

The U.S. Department of State Web site has adopted the tagline “Diplomacy in Action” and highlights the actions of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the department in this regard. They demonstrate their accomplishments by providing free and easy access to current information, including daily press briefings, videos, reports, country profiles, and more.

The site provides a wide range of information organized into broad topics such as Clinton’s information, department information, “Policy Issues,” “Countries & Regions,” “Economics, Energy & Environment,” “Arms Control & International Security,” “Civilian Security & Democracy,” “Public Diplomacy & Public Affairs,” “and “Assistance & Development.” Header menu navigation appears to divide information into two general types: department information (policy, reports) and personal interest (media center, travel, careers).

The vast amount of information that the site provides may be the biggest issue for researchers. Steps have been taken to alleviate this, as the site offers both keyword searching and a browse function. Users can also access popular information via the double menu in the header, while a footer menu offers access to additional information.

Although the State Department deals with international affairs, the Web site is not translated into other languages. They do offer translations of some foreign policy releases.

The State Department has embraced social media as few other government departments have, displaying their tweets on the main page as well as access to eight other social media channels. They also provide a mobile version of their site, allowing researchers to access information anywhere.

The site also offers MyStateDepartment, a personalized portal to their Web site. Users can customize information for their own State Department homepage via widgets, such as Top Stories or Reports, and change the look and feel of their site through provided themes. This feature may be of particular use to researchers who frequent the site regularly, as it offers easy access to their most needed information.

Researchers will find a wealth of information on this site, particularly those in Political Science, International Affairs, and related fields. The site is user-friendly and does its best to provide easy access to a wide range of information that will be useful to researchers at all levels.

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