JC 1910 General

Jersey City 1910 Project Overview and Selection Criteria

If history is about change over time, it may seem strange to create a digital history project focused on a single year. Such a project would not translate well into more traditional media for the presentation of history. Yet, the web is uniquely suited to the kind of intensive, interactive exploration invited by the concentration of primary source material related to a single year in the life of a city. Jersey City 1910 will aim to bring together the vast array of available print, image and possibly recorded media related to that particular year in the city's history. Context and legibility will also be paramount in the creation of the site, so supporting material related to preceding and proceeding years may be included if necessary. The site's intended audience will be elementary and middle school students, but it will aim to provide material of interest to local historians and Progressive Era historians as well.

Diversity will be the driving criterion for the selection of materials for digitization, as will illustration of particular important themes in the growth and development of the city including ethnicity, industrialization and environmental impact and social stratification. Special attention will be paid to dailies and periodicals that served smaller communities within the larger city community. Visual media will also be privileged. Contemporary maps will provide the substrate for locating landmarks visible on postcards and significant events described in newspapers, magazines and pamphlets.

Jersey City 1910 will aim to take advantage of the unique opportunities for categorization, linking and visualization offered by digital technology. Thus, schemes for tagging materials will be paramount as well as site structure for organization of data on the level of the user interface. A student should be able to trace the experience of someone like herself living in Jersey City in 1910. The site will raise awareness of the complex relationships among visual, print and audio (if possible) sources for telling the story of a person or a community in a given moment in history. After exploring the site, students should have a better understanding of the kinds of sources needed to recreate the past of any person in any place in any time.

I envision this project as a kind of template for similar projects that could serve dual roles as educational tools for students, and models for information display and legibility. The site will also aim to raise questions about the changing usefulness of certain kinds of sources and the need for awareness of modes for preserving our own history in an age of rapid change, overabundance of minutia and under-abundance of sound information preservation rationales.

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