American Textbooks Site Index

Homepage:

Title of the project, with images of the various textbook covers below in random order, possibly moving images; the viewer could mouse over an image for quick biblio info. In this age of internet, I would like the main page to reflect the fact that these materials are physical books, showing the wear and tear, even though I plan to transcribe all the excerpts (see below). Below the images, a concise "about the project" paragraph. Running along the bottom, tabs for "contact and author information," a shortcut to the New York Public Library mainpage, a longer mission statement about the project, and a link to outside references, explained below. The left hand side of the page would have the main menu, with the following categories (explained in more detail below): Search; Textbooks; Events; Groups; Discussion Questions; Textbooks Today; and something I am calling "Clipboard."

Search:

This page would allow viewers to search categories already listed under events and groups, but also specific historical figures, dates, and places. They could limit the search to a particular text, publisher, or time period under search options; otherwise the default would be to search all. As I am not scanning the entire text, but hope to transcribe portions, viewers would be able to search within the text itself, not just keywords. Because I am hoping to reach high school students, I would like to have a few "example searches" below the search box to guide them toward a more specific and helpful search than just searching, for instance, "civil war" or "slavery." It might also be useful to display synonyms for the same/related events or people, this could be internalized, but it might help illuminate the process for them to see how terminology has changed. Perhaps "recent popular searches" could display along the bottom.

Textbooks:

Under this would be an "All" tab, taking the viewer to a list of clickable textbook names in order of chronology that would take the viewer to that textbook's main page, which would first include of course date, author, publication information, basically any info needed for bibliographic citation (I would like to include an author bio, as well as one of the publishing house if it proves interesting), as well as an image of the cover and a few page samples; below that would be a clickable list of transcribed excerpts from that book. Going back to the Textbooks page, below "All" would be a list of the decades covered. Breaking it up this way emphasizes the nature of the project, how the texts have (or have not) changed over time. Each clickable year ("1900") would take the viewer to a list of all the textbooks published within that decade included on the site that would then allow the viewer to click on an individual textbook page, with info listed above. For the decade page, I think a brief summary of "notable events during this time" would be helpful. Below that, I would again like to include some data on what the typical high school was like during that period - curriculum, movements in education, demographics, etc, because high school was different than it is today.

Events:

This tab lists all the main events excerpted (which probably reveals some creator bias, but at the same time, surely most of the choices are important enough that one can argue for their inclusion). This is not yet a comprehensive list, but I would like to include topics like "Civil War," "Reconstruction," "Indian Wars/Indian Removal," "Industrialization," and "Immigration." This obviously leaves out major events like the Revolutionary War (including the Founding Fathers and Constitution), which might be added later but are not my focus at the moment. Also, though not strictly "events," a tab for "Supreme Court cases" might be interesting. Each tab would take the viewer to that main event page, with the briefest description of the event (dates and some very basic information, I do not want my own interpretation coming through) where each textbook discussing that event would be listed; by clicking on the text name, the viewer would be taken to that text's excerpt(s) of that event.

Groups:

would look similar to "Events," although again, this one gets tricky in indicating creator bias. Groups I would like to include would be "Indians/Native Americans," "Slaves," "African Americans," "Workers," "Women," and "Immigrants." Each group page would include a brief description of how I define that group. Perhaps "notable members of that group" would also help with illustrative purposes (or for searching capability). Again, I am leaving out obvious groups like presidents and legislators, military leaders, etc, even though their portrayals too could have changed over time.

Discussion questions:

One tab "For Students," another "For Teachers." Crafting these without being too leading is difficult and will require more time.

Textbooks today:

Would like to have statements from the major textbook publishers (McGraw-Hill, Harper Collins, etc.) on how they describe their latest incarnation of the American History textbook. I don't think interviews need to be sought for this, but can lift the description of the product from their website (or link to their website) - just to keep the context of what these books are supposed to be putting forth. Obviously this part would need to be updated as new editions come out frequently. In fact, if there is a description of how the newest edition differs from the one immediately preceding it, that would be great to include as well.

Clipboard:

This would be a page where the viewer could "paste" and compare two different excerpts side by side (Under each excerpt I would have a "send to Clipboard" option). Perhaps a specific search function on this page, that highlighted each time a particular word or phrase was used, would be helpful.

Outside links:

would include links to other comprehensive American history sources, as well as some criticism of the methods of writing American history over the years - for instance, Peter Hoffer has some excellent criticism, but I do not want the students to access that before they have (hopefully) read some of the primary materials, so I am keeping it in a more subtle position at the bottom of the page

The Excerpts Themselves

As stated above, I think it is more important to transcribe the excerpts so they are searchable within text. I think the nature of these particular documents is not how they look, but what they say, so scanning the page, while it would be easily readable, is not a priority. (Perhaps someone with an interest in fonts and lay-outs would have a different approach). Thus, there would be a transcribed excerpt, with information below listing author, title, chapter and page numbers from which it was lifted. Obviously this could look a bit dry, so I think dynamic search capability would be key. Any scanned images on the site would be cover and title page of the book, just to lend to that feeling that it is from an actual, tactile book, and perhaps some of the original pictures within the books, as they are (at least for the earlier books) almost always illustrations as opposed to photographs. If an illustration was shown in the book along with the excerpt being used, I will include it, because obviously that is another choice the author/publisher made to provide information to the reader.

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