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Evaluating Public History Web Sites (essay)

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Evaluating Web Sites

By Debra DeRuyver, Jennifer Evans, James Melzer, and Emma Wilmer
Written & Mounted April 30, 2000

Regular visitors to history oriented Web sites include historians and non-historians; academic and non-academic publics. Oft times, Web sites are used as the sole source of historical information on particular topics, particularly by K-12 and undergraduate students. Therefore, critical analysis of these sites is of the utmost importance. We as public historians have a responsibility to critique and evaluate these online resources, both to help improve the specific sites under review and to raise the bar for the entire field of public history. Site analyses provide benefits to several different groups:

  • The user gains an idea of the strengths and weaknesses of a site and the validity and reliability of the information contained therein.
  • The reviewed site benefits from a constructive outside appraisal.
  • Un-reviewed public history sites benefit from having models of best practices and common pitfalls.
  • Critical site analyses encourage better scholarship and more engaging presentations of public history.
  • Ultimately, the historical record is served by site analyses; site reviews provide traces of presentations of public history on the Web during its first decade of existence.

In order to facilitate Web site analysis and to create a uniform standard for rating sites, PHRC has developed a rating system for evaluating public history Web sites.  Prior to using these criteria, we recommend reading Managing Editor Debra DeRuyver's essay on the major issues involved in evaluating Web sites for their historical value. Additionally, users will want to visit our Web site review section to see PHRC's evaluation criteria in action. This section presents expert reviews of a selection of historically oriented Web sites.  



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