Bertillon Added Value & Search Tools

The following sections describe some enriching aspects of this project. The main purpose of the site is to serve as an online archive. However, there are currently no websites that focus specifically on Alphonse Bertillon and Bertillonage. This site is also an opportunity to reintroduce this innovative thinker to popular culture.

The site has a general introduction on the home page that gives a brief description of Alphonse Bertillon and the Bertillon system. The Bertillon History and Collection sections will both have introductions. The most important introduction will be under “Bertillon Collection”. This page will provide examples of the three main mediums (Bertillon card, article, correspondence). It will explain how to read the Bertillon card and best approach the supporting material. Articles should be self-explanatory. This is also the section in which any of the collection nuances are described. For example, the majority of the articles have the number of the envelope written on them. These phenomena will be explicated, as the clarity of these numbers will not be important in the images.

Search Options
The simple search screen has a single box for keyword search and an option for an advanced search. The advanced search screen will offer another keyword box, a box for names, and five options with drop down menus to limit the search options. Dates will provide specific years, Crimes will offer a list of criminal offenses, Countries will offer options to search by birthplace, Neighborhoods will provide New York City neighborhoods, and Material will narrow by Bertillon card, Article, or Correspondence. Some of these search options, like the name or date, are intended to help researchers looking for someone specific find him or her immediately. The other options are intended to help the researcher gather general information to put toward a hypothesis, like the most frequent crime or birthplace.

One of the most difficult aspects of this project is the nature of criminals and criminal reporting. Though the Bertillon system was intended to identify people despite a false name, sometimes there is more than one name on each card. To make matters even worse, the majority of the time the newspaper spells the criminal’s name incorrectly, creating even further permutations. Each document is tagged to recognize all names associated within an envelope. To supplement this, each document has in text annotations of misspelled or changed names. On all transcribed articles and documents, the title is presented as a heading. The Bertillon information printed on the back of the cards will be represented as a list (See Bertillon-digitization) for make information more accessible. It is not necessary to reproduce this chart exactly as the measurements are not as important as the other information. Footnotes are provided for all introductory and historical research along with a complete bibliography.

Time Line & Map:
In the Bertillon history section there is a chronology and time line of both Bertillon’s life and the life of Bertillonage. Important dates are highlighted so that when the user drags his or her mouse over it, the information is enlarged on the screen. One of the best implementations of Web 2.0 on this site is the Map. This API, or application programming interface, map of New York City will show all the addresses mentioned in any of the material and allow users to explore the city by neighborhood. When a user clicks on a portion of the map, it zooms in and displays a street level view with the specific addresses and crimes that occurred there. A navigation arrow helps the user travel around the city and see the highest concentration and most repetitive crimes. Along with the magnification, transcribed data concerning the crime will appear below the map, making the map information searchable.

There are two different categories of links on this page. The first are to enlarged images. When clicked, an image will open in a separate window, enlarged for easy manipulation. The second set of links is to other Bertillon information. This includes links to Wikipedia, Bertillon related sites, cooperating sponsors, and institutions that have Bertillon card collections.
These links are important, as they will not only provide more information, but, through cooperation, will bring a wide audience to the site. The majority of the audience will be researchers, most likely undergraduates and professionals, and possibly some high school students. Since the site serves as an archive, with few displayed items, it will be used mostly for research. There is a section specifically for students. It offers research suggestions and information on how to search the site. It will also advertise the annual National History Day competition and offer Bertillon topics that relate to the current theme. The section for teachers contains lesson plans and activities that bring Bertillonage into the classroom while fulfilling educational requirements. The information within the envelopes is appropriate for middle school kids, but institutional firewalls will reject the site when it sees words like “rape” and “murder”. If a student is interested, he or she can visit the site from home.

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