CHNM Assistant Director Tom Scheinfeldt discusses the September 11 Digital Archive on Chicago’s WGN Radio 720 “Nick at Night” show.
Archive for 2004
From September 11, 2002 to July 6, 2003, more than 1 million people from around the world visited “September 11: Bearing Witness to History,” an exhibit at the National Museum of American History. In addition to displays of photographs, television footage, artifacts from ground zero, and voicemail recordings from the morning of the attacks, the exhibit included a section with pencils and cards inviting visitors to share their reflections and memories of September 11, 2001.
More than 20,000 of those cards – representing the thoughts of people from 50 states and more than 40 countries – are now available online for public browsing as part of the September 11 Digital Archive. Some cards contain several paragraphs of recollections and reactions, others only a few words, and others children’s drawings. The cards can be viewed at http://www.911digitalarchive.org/smithsoniancards.
These handwritten responses offer unique glimpses into the lives and perspectives of people whose stories might not otherwise be told:
A 13-year-old girl living in Georgia began, “As I sit here and write this using the same pencil as I don’t know how many other Americans, I feel a great unity with everyone in this room. For the moment I spend in here, time is suspended.”
A 60-year-old man living in Illinois wrote, “I was born on Sept. 11. I was watching television, but I was overcome with emotion and had to turn it off. I have had very mixed feelings on my birthday since then.”
A 39-year-old woman living in New Jersey wrote, “I was watching the south tower collapse on TV – while at the same time listening to my brother in law on his cell phone screaming and running away from the collapse of the tower. His chilling screams while running for safety will forever be in my mind.”
And a 34-year-old woman living in Florida wrote only: “I have learned that history is real.”
The physical cards will be archived by the National Museum of American History; the scanned images of the cards, as part of the September 11 Digital Archive, will be permanently preserved by the Library of Congress, which formally accepted the Archive into its collections on September 10, 2003.
Here Is New York, the online gallery of images depicting the September 11 attacks and their aftermath, will not go the way of most website content, vanishing forever into the cyber-ether: Rather, this extensive and unique collection of photographs, taken by both amateurs and professionals, has a secure spot in the historical record.
Here Is New York is the latest acquisition of the September 11 Digital Archive. In addition to the nearly 7,000 professional and amateur images in the Here Is New York online gallery, the Archive contains more than 130,000 written accounts, e-mails, audio recordings, video clips, photographs, Web sites and other materials that document the attacks. These items will provide researchers with a major source of information about the attacks.
Here Is New York, created in response to the World Trade Center tragedy, began as a storefront exhibit in SOHO that, in addition to displaying professional photographs, invited amateurs to submit images. In accordance with the exhibit’s subtitle, “A Democracy of Photographs,” many of the amateur photographs were digitally scanned, printed and displayed on the walls alongside the work of professional photographers. All the displayed prints were sold for $25, regardless of their provenance. The net proceeds from the sale of these prints went to the Children’s Aid Society WTC Relief Fund.
The physical gallery no longer exists, and the project’s livelihood relies on its Web presence. The Internet is hardly an insurance policy for preservation and legacy, but now, as the Archive’s newest acquisition, Here Is New York will be available to future generations of historians and researchers.
Co-sponsored by the Center for History & New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University and the Center for New Designs in Learning & Scholarship (CNDLS) at Georgetown, these periodic forums will explore important issues in humanities computing and provide an opportunity for DC area scholars interested in the uses of new technology in the humanities to meet and get acquainted.
Our forum, the fourth in the series, will consider “Do the Humanities need a Cyberinfrastructure: A Conversation with John Unsworth,” Chair of the ACLS Commission on Cyberinfrastructure for the Humanities and Social Sciences and Dean, Graduate School of Library and Information Science University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
The American Library Association’s Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) committee included History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web on its sixth annual list of Best Free Reference Web Sites. The annual series recognizes “outstanding reference sites” that meet a list of criteria including quality, depth and usefulness of content; “ready” reference; availability; ease of use; currency of content; authority of producer; uniqueness of content; and the appropriate use of the web as a medium.
On the 25th anniversary of the home pregnancy test kit, the National Institutes of Health and CHNM launched A Thin Blue Line, a new web exhibit that explores the history of the pregnancy test kit from the NIH laboratory to the digital age, and encourages women to add their own stories to the history of the pregnancy test through an online survey.
A Thin Blue Line includes a historical timeline of pregnancy testing, portrayals of the pregnancy test in popular culture, and scientific background on the research that led to the development of the test. Personal narratives submitted anonymously are part of the exhibit, and all responses will be permanently archived by the ECHO project for future students and scholars.
In partnership with the George Mason University’s National Center for Technology & Law, CHNM has launched a three-year project to document the evolution of U.S. critical infrastructure protection policy in the years leading up to September 11, 2001. Through face-to-face and telephone interviews with members of the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection and other key policy makers, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Oral History Project seeks to provide insights into the lively debates that have shaped the national response to new threats and a valuable tool for charting a course for the future. A well-attended reception to mark the project’s launch was held on February 4, 2004 at the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, where CHNM staff member Tom Scheinfeldt presented the project to members of the President’s Commission, industry executives, national security personnel, and other interview subjects. For more information on the project and its aims, see http://echo.gmu.edu/CIPP/.
NEH has selected Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution for inclusion on EDSITEment (http://edsitement.neh.gov) as “one of the best online resources for education in the humanities.”
Liberty, Equality, Fraternity was nominated for inclusion in the EDSITEment project in response to an open call for nominations posted on its website and on several humanities listservs. The site was then reviewed by both a peer review panel and a Blue Ribbon panel composed of educators and administrators in education organizations and higher education institutions. Both panels determined that the site met the EDSITEment criteria for intellectual quality, content, design, and most importantly, classroom impact.
One year after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, the NASA History Office has partnered with ECHO’s Shuttle Archive to collect personal reflections on space exploration as part of an online exhibit about Columbia’s mission and crew. The exhibit includes NASA photos, documents, and reports of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board. A link to the ECHO Shuttle Archive allows visitors to submit their thoughts on the loss of the Columbia and view additional materials including government reports, scientific research abstracts, and media coverage of the event.