Internet Reviews

Joni R. Roberts; Carol A. Drost


Harry Ransom Center: University of Texas-Austin. Access: http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/.

Sarah Goodwin Thiel, University of Kansas Libraries, sgthiel@ku.edu

The website of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas-Austin does what might seem to be impossible. The site reflects virtually the two-fold vision of the Ransom Center: to provide spaces worthy of the collections and to make those spaces easily accessible to a growing public. From the homepage to distinct pages such as “Collections,” “Exhibitions,” “Visit,” and more, the site provides elegant and easily navigable pages, which walk visitors through the collections and resources of this unique cultural center.

Users will quickly recognize the red navigational links found throughout the site. The main menu tabs across the top of each page go from red to black as each page is selected. Similarly, the various red textual links found on every page indicate opportunities to move to additional content. The site is comprehensive in its coverage of the many collections, resources, and special events. However, researchers will find a useful search box located in the top right corner of every page. All search results pages provide a link to the “Research” page, which offers more advanced search tools.

Available from the homepage is the WATCH tool (Writers Artists and Their Copyright Holders). This is a very helpful database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in other creative fields run jointly by the Harry Ransom Center and University of Reading Library. Searching by an author’s or creator’s name yields a short history of the known copyright, as well as copyright permissions contact information.

The “Exhibitions” tab on the main menu is a virtual window to exhibitions past, current, and future. Permanent exhibitions can be found here along with traveling exhibitions and a wide variety of online exhibitions. Each collection is beautifully interpreted and displayed. All images have been digitally captured at a high resolution and their quality allows viewers to see many details. Examples of some of the exhibit subjects include the Gutenberg Bible, Gone with the Wind, and a Samuel Becket Centenary Exhibition.

For those unable to physically visit the Harry Ransom Center or those preparing to go to the center, this Web site offers an opportunity to see in a comprehensive, yet close-up and personal, way the many treasures of this unique cultural treasure.

The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Access: http://www.folklife.si.edu/index.aspx.

Emily Hamstra, University of Michigan, ehamstra@umich.edu

The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage promotes “the understanding and continuity of diverse, contemporary grassroots cultures in the United States and around the world.” The center is made up of many different projects—including Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections—resulting in the production of many exhibits, publications, and educational opportunities. The center’s website provides many opportunities to engage with global cultures and folklife.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is the major event organized by the center each year on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The festival section of the site focuses on upcoming and past festivals. Additionally, this section makes available materials from festival exhibits 2008 to the present; only scattered online exhibits are available for festivals before 2008. These exhibits are a treasure-trove of videos, oral histories, pictures, and essays. The exhibits cover a wide variety of topics—from Mexico to the AIDS quilt. If instructors incorporate these exhibits into their undergraduate course materials, their course will certainly be enriched.

The Smithsonian Folkways “is the nonprofit recording label of the Smithsonian Institute.” The “Tools for Teaching” section provides lesson plans for teachers, recommended resources, interactive websites for K–12 students, and continuing education opportunities for educators. The “Explore Folkways” section of the site provides essays from Folkways Magazine, oral histories, videos, and sound recordings of folk music from around the world. This section also includes a streaming Folkways radio, where you can listen to Folkways recordings for free and enjoy playlists assembled by Folkways staff.

The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections are another draw of the Smithsonian Folklife Center. This collection includes collections from many prominent American folk musicians, including Woody Guthrie, Lee Hayes, and collectors Moses and Frances Asch. Disappointingly, these collections can be only accessed in-person, though finding aids are available online.

The website is well designed and will appeal to those browsing for fascinating online exhibits in the areas of folklife, history, musicology, and anthropology. Through their appealing and interactive site, the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage provides many opportunities to experience global culture and folklife. Additionally, the center’s website provides clear information for students interested in internship opportunities, an invaluable resource for students.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Access: http://www.unctad.org/.

Maureen James-Barnes, mejames@ualr.edu, University of Arkansas-Little Rock

“About UNCTAD” is one of seven tabs listed on the homepage of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Internet site. This section describes the organization that is the arm of the United Nations (UN) “responsible for dealing with development issues, particularly international trade—the main driver of development.” Also found here are the three words—“think, debate, and deliver”—that serve as the organization’s description of its work in regards to global trade and development. A brief history and a list of member nations are also included.

Main tabs lead users to brief project descriptions searchable by country, subject, and donor; descriptions of conferences, meetings, and workshops with links to registration sites; statistics; and publications. As with other UN sites, users may print and or download published and unpublished documents. Publications include book-length statistical reports, such as the 522-page “UNCTAD Handbook of Statistics 2013.”

When a visitor lands on the homepage, five slides appear in rotation. The rotation stops when the last slide displays, and it is not possible to manually recall any of the previous slides. This requires the user to refresh the screen to review the slides.

The search and display feature is somewhat clumsy. Documents display in no particular order in response to a topic search. However, they do include a helpful summary, the date of publication, and the document size. Options to refine a search are less helpful because of the use of the unexplained terms thematic taxonomy and product taxonomy. The “search by publication date” limit includes two options: “any published date” and “earlier.” There is no explanation of what “earlier” means.

The strength of the site is that it provides access to news, primary documents, and statistics relating to global trade and development and ancillary topics. Finding these materials may be challenging, but since they are not available elsewhere, a persistent researcher will find the site useful.

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