History 696: WebReview Essay
Web Review Essay

Due: 7 October

Choose a historical topic (e.g., Alexander Graham Bell, the Armenian Genocide, or the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire) OR a historical Web site genre (e.g., local historical society, interactive syllabi, genealogical Web site, history of technology museum exhibit, etc.) that interests you. Write a review essay that discusses the presentation of that topic on at least five web sites and talks about at least three of these in depth OR talks about at least five examples of that genre, at least three in depth. You should also use this essay to comment more broadly on what it means to do history in electronic spaces. What are the gains (and losses?) in moving history to a digital format? (To do that, you should discuss at least one non-digital example of the topic or genre.) In what ways (particularly those that go beyond the obvious) does the new media change the way that history is presented or received? What topics or interpretations seem to receive particular emphasis? In the process, you will want to make use of insights you have gained from exploring other sites and from your other course readings. Your on-line essay should contain links to relevant portions of the web sites. To the extent possible, you want to also make use of the Web as a presentational medium for your essay. (Is there, for example, anything you can do in the Web version of your essay that you couldn't do in a conventional paper?)

As a rough guideline, your essay should be around 2,000 words. By 23 September, you need to make a brief proposal (one paragraph proposal) of what you plan on covering in your essay. This should include the historical topic that you want to cover and at least two sites you plan on including. I am open to a variety of different historical topics for these essays, but you should avoid topics or genres that are too broad (the entire Civil War perhaps or all archival web sites) to be discussed adequately in a 2,000 word essay or too narrow (perhaps populism in Kansas or labor history museums) to find adequate material.

You must also be prepared to briefly present your conclusions to other members of the class on 7 October. We should have enough time for a five-minute presentation and five minutes of discussion for each student. You should be prepared to show your web-based essay and some exemplary or problematic Web sites. Practice your presentation in advance so that it only takes five minutes.

Keep in mind that you have the option of doing this in a group, as noted on the syllabus. In addition, your final project for the course will be a detailed proposal for a digital history project. It is not required, but you might want to select a review essay topic that will lead into that project. For example, if you wanted to make a proposal for a web site for a historic house museum, you might want to do a review essay on historic house museum Web sites.