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History Online:

People, Places, Politics, and Social Movements of the Progressive Era

January 12, 2004

I remember in my first year of graduate school trying to get someone to define “The Progressive Era” for me. I kept reading about it, but no one could agree on when exactly it began or ended. I settled on “1895 to 1925” myself, but many fellow students and professors took issue with even that vague categorization – some arguing it was too broad, others that it was too narrow.—Bradley J. Gills (Reviewer of Native American Documents Project)

While historians may debate the exact boundaries of the Progressive Era, it seems clear that the stream of “New” ideas, innovations, and movements flowing through institutional and cultural landscapes around the turn of the last century reshaped the waterways of culture and society.

In the most general terms, the Progressive Era was characterized by attempts to embrace, accommodate, reach a new balance with, or fight against life in an increasingly urban, industrial, routinized, and multiethnic environment. The vehicles for these attempts ranged from remaking the self via various physical culture movements to conserving or “reopening” the “frontier” via conservation movements and imperialist expansion, from engineering humanity through eugenics to engineering “human flight” through the airplane, from organizing labor and increasing business regulation to remaking the political process, to name but a few. The dramas of these competing approaches and goals often took place on the broadest of public stages—presidential elections and world’s fairs and expositions.

The sites reviewed below, and listed in the additional links of interest, give one a taste of the complexity of history and historical change. No one site or topic can be said to encompass every aspect of the era or to provide its definitive definition. But, the array of topics as a whole functions as a system, pointing towards-- though not entirely capturing-- the dynamics of the period.

We hope you enjoy this, our largest review issue yet.

As a whole, the sites in the original call for reviews were chosen based on the following criteria: 1) the sites should be produced by a variety of institutions; 2) the sites should cover diverse aspects of the Progressive Era. Reviewers chose sites from the list developed by PHRC’s staff or by suggesting a site that was not included in the original call. At the bottom of this page we have featured links to sites included in our original call for reviews. Reviews were developed in conjunction with PHRC’s Rating System and shepherded through an editing process by PHRC’s managing editors. Special thanks goes to Sara Lawrence, PHRC’s first virtual intern, who-- in addition to writing her own review-- assisted in developing the call and providing comments to two of our reviewers.

The reviews below are ordered alphabetically by site name
View in ratings order, from highest to lowest


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1912: Competing Visions of America
http://1912.history.ohio-state.edu/

Jeffrey Smith

1912: Competing Visions of America is a work still being constructed that offers valuable insights into the process of designing and building a public history web site. Topically, the site focuses on the candidates, campaigns, and key issues of the presidential election of 1912. It offers a wide range of cartoons and photographs from the period along with selected writings and speeches from some (but, alas, not all) of the most influential and significant public figures of the age. This site offers great potential when completed.

Full length review available


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Alaska’s Gold
http://www.library.state.ak.us/goldrush/

Mark E. Speltz

As soon as the rush for gold in Alaska and the Yukon got underway, a rich montage of stories began to emerge as miners and others boarded ships and headed up the coast. All types of people attempted to get rich during the rush for gold through all types of schemes. Newspapers reported stories both fanciful and factual. Photographs portrayed a beautiful and often times, threatening landscape and setting. Letters told of triumphs and tragedies. Manuscripts detail the challenges officials and communities faced in the changing frontier. With an exhaustive selection of primary sources, Alaska’s Gold the resources and framework for students and teachers to bring to life gold rush stories and lesser-known tidbits about the era. For example, have you ever wondered how much a bowl of Scotch mutton broth soup or a cold tongue sandwich might have cost a hungry miner? Well, if so (or if not, which is more likely) you can learn that and investigate a whole lot more at Alaska’s Gold.

Full length review available


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Anti-Saloon League 1893-1933
http://www.wpl.lib.oh.us/AntiSaloon/

David G. Schwartz

From 1893 to 1933, the Anti-Saloon League sought in influence American politics and culture by disseminating anti-alcohol information through a variety of media, including an encyclopedia, moralistic short stories, songs, and opinion pieces. The Westerville, Ohio Public Library created a website that displays a wealth of printed materials bequeathed to the library. The website offers a workable guide to the collection’s scope and content and a fascinating window into an often obscured, but once powerful, movement in American life.

Full length review available


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Chicago Historical Society’s: The History Files
http://www.chicagohs.org/history/index.html

Alan Bloom

The Chicago Historical Society’s History Files site attempts to recapture such intriguing historical events and characters as Al Capone and the Chicago Fire. Because CHS has such a wonderful collection including a broad array of images and artifacts, the History Files have great potential. Nevertheless, the web site is in need of a complete overhaul, including the addition of an introduction, the reworking of its various exhibits, and the updating of the site’s antiquated technology.

Full length review available


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City Sites
http://artsweb.bham.ac.uk/citysites

William E. Doody

Part of a larger project hosted through the Universities of Birmingham and Nottingham in England, the City Sites website is an effort to develop a better understanding of diverse representations of the urban landscape in the modern era, 1870 to 1930. To do this, the authors and contributors have focused on New York City and Chicago as case studies. Combining primary and secondary sources and a wealth of visual images, the creators of the City Sites site have documented the rise of two of America’s greatest and most diverse urban areas. Interactive maps and brief historical descriptions of significant locations will appeal to casual visitors to the site. At the same time, sophisticated and complex essays will meet the needs of scholars. “Pathways” essays adopt a comparative approach to explore key themes as they developed in both locations. Throughout the site, visual images and multimedia sources are used as examples and illustrations to enhance the narrative of the essays. This is an excellent internet resource for scholars and non-academic audiences alike. Teachers at the secondary and post-secondary levels should explore ways to incorporate the site into their lessons.

Full length review available


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Clash of Cultures in the 1910s and 1920s
http://www.history.ohio-state.edu/projects/clash/

Sara Lawrence

Progressive Era America was a society in transition. A producer economy was giving way to a consumer economy. Large cities began to overshadow small towns. Relaxed, modern values challenged strict, traditional ones. The quick economic, political and social change that occurred during the last half of the nineteenth century set the stage for opposing value systems to come to a head during the first few decades of the twentieth century. Clash of Cultures in the 1910s and 1920s, a website of the Ohio State University’s Harvey Goldberg Program for Excellence in Teaching, explores some of the most significant points of conflict during the two decades. Touching on issues of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and local control, the site covers its bases. The site is rich in content and well-supported with primary and secondary sources. Its weaknesses lie in its technical difficulties, and its failure to fully embrace the interactive potential of the web.

Full length review available


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Coney Island: The Ups and Downs of America’s First Amusement Park
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/coney/

Donna M. DeBlasio

For many of us, just the name, “Coney Island” conjures up memories of hours happily spent at a local amusement park. The thrills and chills of the roller coaster, the beauty of the carrousel, the whirling dizziness of the tilt-a-whirl were a part of the amusement park scene no matter where in America one came to maturity. Coney Island is the parent of the hundreds of old fashioned amusement parks that once dotted the American landscape. WGBH, Boston’s PBS affiliate, designed the web site, Coney Island: The Ups and Downs of America’s First Amusement Park as a companion to the Ric Burns film, Coney Island, which aired on PBS. The site is a combination of text, still images, and video clips to present not only the history of the amusement resort, but also to put it into historical context—not merely provide a nostalgia trip down memory lane.

Full length review available


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Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together
http://www.icp.org/exhibitions/dear_friends/index.html

Danna Bell-Russel

Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together provides viewers with the opportunity to see images from the late 19th and early 20th centuries when it was more acceptable for men to show their feelings toward other men and share intimate moments together. Guest curator David Deitcher provides a sampling of the images found in the exhibit catalog of the same name as well as excellent essays which provide an idea of the social mores of the time and the changes that took place during and after World War I that lead to the criminalization of same sex behavior and a move toward less expression of emotions between male friends. Though this is an excellent exhibit, it is very limited in scope and could go much further in providing more information to education the public about emotional relationships between men.

Full length review available


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Dime Novels and Penny Dreadfuls
http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/dp/pennies/home.html

Cheryl Lemus

Stanford’s Dime Novel and Penny Dreadful collection web site is a wonderful array of the dime novel series published during the mid nineteenth to the early twentieth century. As many archives are increasingly using the Internet to exhibit their collections, Stanford’s addition to the plethora of collections on the web, is welcomed. Although websites cannot replace the feel of conducting research in an archive or the need for an archive’s preservation work, this website demonstrates that access to a collection via the Internet can save interested users time and money. For the most, the website is a solid foundation for what a collection web site can be. Most importantly it is user friendly and will be useful to secondary and post secondary students who want a brief overview of the topic as well as scholars, particularly those researching the cover art and imagery of the Dime Novel and Penny Dreadful. Scholars who need to view the complete texts of this material will, at this time, still have to see the collection in person.

Full length review available


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'Doing the Pan': A Review of the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo
http://panam1901.bfn.org

Laura A. Macaluso

“Doing the Pan” is a beginner’s website on the Pan American Exposition held in Buffalo, New York in 1901. Rich in historic photographs and documents, this website is especially pertinent for those interested in turn-of-the-last-century social history, art and architecture, and also in details about how ordinary citizens would experience the exposition, or “Do the Pan,” as was the catch phrase of the time. Little is said though of the relationship between the two “host” continents, North and South America, giving one pause after viewing the website. The legacy of this Exposition in celebrating or even bettering political and cultural relations needs to be addressed, though the site proves it usefulness in its concentration of materials about everyday life at the Expo, from how visitors traveled to Buffalo, to what they ate, where they slept, and what they bought.

Full length review available


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The Early Moderns
http://www.pitt.edu/AFShome/g/i/gillis/public/html/dance/disp.html

Nancy Brown

“The Early Moderns” Web site is an excerpt from "The Early Moderns" CD-ROM tutorial consisting of five short biographical pieces and a glossary of modern dance terms. The objective of the site is to be informational and to educate its audience on the lives of significant contributors to modern dance in a historical context. The site is easily understood due to its high quality of writing and simplistic design, however; its one-dimensional presentation gives it a dull and uninteresting appearance. The brevity of the site and the lack of interactive features, which are clearly available on the CD-ROM tutorial, make the site little more than an advertisement for the CD-ROM tutorial.

Full length review available


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Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920
http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/eaa/index.html

Greg Pabst

EAA is a database of advertising images from the John W. Hartman Center For Sales, Advertising and Marketing History - a subsection of the Rare Book, Manuscript and Special Collections Library at Duke University. The 9,000+ images - only part of the Hartman collection - are organized into eleven categories of advertising. The site offers the user a compact essay on each of the categories and provides an historical timeline as background, encouraging critical thought about the role of advertising within American culture and business history.

Full length review available


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The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amrvhtml/conshome.html

Phil Birge-Liberman

This is a review of the Library of Congress' website, The Evolution of the Conservation Movement, 1850-1920. The site is part of the Library's American Memory project and explores the history of conservation and shows how it became the dominant environmental ethic in America. While the number and variety of primary source documents included on the site are a great strength, the lack of materials about Native Americans is problematic, and while there are some curriculum materials, there is nothing to promote a community of interest.

Full length review available


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The Feather Trade and American Conservation
http://americanhistory.si.edu/feather/

Gregory Dehler

“The Feather Trade and American Conservation” is a virtual exhibition from the United States National Museum of American History. The actual exhibition ran from February to August 1999. Not surprisingly, scrolling through the website feels very much like strolling through a museum exhibition in the manner in which the material is presented. Short descriptions are provided for the illustrations, and the text is broken into sections with images running along the sides. The strength of the site is in its presentation of an important, but little known topic. Unfortunately, the site is fairly small, and the lack of educational tools and interactive, community-building components further limit the site.

Full length review available


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FirstWorldWar.Com: The War to End All Wars
http://www.firstworldwar.com

Shara Forrister

The tangled origins of the international conflict dubbed alternately “The Great War,” “The War to End All Wars,” and now best known as “The First World War” or “World War I,” can be difficult to unravel. FirstWorldWar.Com offers over 3900 web pages of articles, biographies, photographs, posters, audio files, and first-hand accounts to assist the curious and the scholarly in understanding how World War I came about and the global repercussions that still echo today. A personal labor of love by site owner Michael Duffy, FirstWorldWar.Com is a well-designed and informational website, hampered only by a lack of source citations in areas.

Full length review available


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Image Archive on the American Eugenics Movement
http://www.eugenicsarchive.org/

Michael Rembis

Eugenics, or the science of breeding better humans, played an important and complex role in Progressive Era history and reform. The Dolan DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (New York), with a grant from the National Institutes of Health, has constructed a fascinating and informative website that enables one to explore the history of eugenics in the United States through its image archive, which consists of photographs, flyers, charts, graphs, journal and book excerpts, and other primary source material that has been gathered from several of the country’s leading eugenics collections, as well as a series of short essays written by prominent scholars in the field that explore the social and scientific origins of eugenics and some of the key issues addressed by eugenicists.

Full length review available


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In Flanders Fields Museum
http://www.inflandersfields.be/

Delia C. Gillis

There are some aspects of the site that are excellent while some areas are lacking. In Flanders Fields Museums uses some of the most important technology including music and sound, macromedia flash, and a virtual museum tour. While In Flanders Fields Museum provides significant information about World War I, it also leaves the viewer with a strong desire to actually visit the museum. I believe this the most important “unstated” mission of the site hence a “popup window” that immediately thanks you for visiting the website with an invitation: “We hope to see you in our museum.” This is essentially a “bridge site,” an introduction to the museum you should visit. The greatest asset of In Flanders Fields Museum is the potential it has to become a premier venue for public history on World War I. Will I go to Flanders? Yes, because the website really leaves me wanting to see and know more.

Full length review available


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Influenza 1918
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/influenza

Pamela Carter

The PBS site on Influenza 1918 is tied to the one-volume video from PBS’s series, “The American Experience.” It provides an overview of the epidemic and the social context of World War I, as well as immigration and the science and practice of public health. The site also highlights the question of whether or not such a pandemic could happen again, offering present-day (1997-1998) perspectives on the development and spread of new influenza viruses, with interviews of several medical, public health, and history professionals. It contains limited source material and a few instructional units for teachers but does not contain material explicitly for kids.

Full length review available


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Labor-Management Conflict in American History
http://www.history.ohio-state.edu/projects/laborconflict/

Evan Daniel

Labor-Management Conflict in American History is an Internet project of the Ohio State University Department of History. The collection includes a variety of documents including magazine articles, photographs, political cartoons, and a chronology. While the site attempts to be comprehensive, it suffers from aesthetic and content-based deficiencies.

Full length review available


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Learning Curve: The Great War
http://www.learningcurve.gov.uk/archivedgreatwar

John F. Lyons

[Editor's Note, January 17, 2005: This site was originally reviewed when it was located at: http://learningcurve.pro.gov.uk/greatwar/default.htm. It has since been archived at the URL listed above. According to Deborah Goodbody, the Learning Curve Project Manager at the National Archives, the site was recently redeveloped with a redesign of the pages and many new source documents and activities. The URL of the newly designed site is: www.learningcurve.gov.uk/greatwar.]

Learning Curve: The Great War designed by the Public Record Office, the National Archives in Great Britain, is one of a series of websites based on topics in the History National Curriculum and are designed for classroom use. The site is organized into seven galleries. Each gallery is an investigation into a theme using primary and secondary sources linked to an overall question: “why did people say that the Great War had to be ‘The war to end wars’?” Although effective, the site is limited in its historical focus and in its design.

Full length review available


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Native American Documents Project
http://www.csusm.edu/nadp/index.html

Bradley J. Gills

The Native American Documents Project is a Web site geared toward researchers of Indian history. It is a collection of federal Indian Affairs documents including various Annual Reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and an array of documents relating to allotment, the Rogue River War of 1854, and the Siletz Reservation in Oregon. Comprised of almost entirely text-based presentations of these documents, the site does include a few maps along with interpretive essays. As a research tool, this site effectively provides a tantalizing set of documents that begs for expansion. As a public history resource, however, it does little to serve any community interests or otherwise appeal to anyone but scholars of the topics covered in the primary documents.

Full length review available


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An On-Line History of the United States: The Age of Imperialism
http://www.smplanet.com/imperialism/toc.html

Nikki Mandell

This is the web site students are most likely to find if they do a basic internet search on the topic of imperialism. Although the table of contents promises a broad examination of the United States' "aggressive policy of expansion" in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, The Age of Imperialism fails to deliver. Formatted much like a standard textbook the narrative is shallow and fails to provide the context, multiple perspectives and varieties of historical evidence that are essential to building historical understanding. Annotated sidebar links, when not broken, are frequently a-historical or unfocused.

Full length review available


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Panama-California Exposition ~ San Diego ~ 1915-1916
http://www.sandiegohistory.org/pancal/index.htm

J.D. Bowers

The San Diego Historical Society (SDHS) presents a site on the Panama-California Exposition ~ San Diego ~ 1915-1916 though an historical essay, collection of post-card images, map, stereo-card images, and three short films taken at the exposition. The site is the single best primary source collection available to the internet audience on this particular fair. Despite its unmatched collection of sources, the historical and educational scope of the Panama-California Exposition site is rather limited, and the site falls far short when it comes to educational, historical, and public history standards for usefulness and context.

Full length review available


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PBS' American Experience: Woodrow Wilson
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/wilson/

Mark Benbow

The PBS site on Woodrow Wilson is tied to the two-volume video from PBS’s series, “The American Experience.” It provides an overview of the Woodrow Wilson Administration (1913-1921) while highlighting many of the issues that are commonly discussed in relation to his Presidency, including women’s suffrage, World War I, and the League of Nations. The site contains some original source material, such as copies of major speeches, and several instructional units for teachers. In addition, it features a helpful interactive unit that allows a student to simulate running for president in the 1912 election by picking positions on some of the major issues of the time. While it has useful information for students and teachers, this site is not complete and should not stand on its own as a comprehensive source for information on Wilson.

Full length review available


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The Presidential Campaign: 1896 - Cartoons and Commentary
http://projects.vassar.edu/1896/1896home.html

Murney Gerlach

While it appears that this website has not been updated since 1999-2000, it is apparent that Professor Edwards managed this student project in a very capable fashion. It thus remains a pedagogical model for other classes. In addition, the popular culture, newspaper articles, political cartoons do rescue from the archives the nature of political commentary about the age. Students picked fairly traditional cartoon images to display, but it also seems that it would have been beneficial for there to be greater discussion and interpretations presented on the cartoons themselves - the images, events and themes which are represented in the cartoons. Captions that identified all of the people in the cartoons, for example, would go a long way in helping a visitor to the site understand what the cartoon was trying to convey. But in the final analysis, this website has been a success, even given some of its above-noted technical shortcomings and inactive links or broken links. Late Gilded Age leaders like William McKinley, Grover Cleveland, and William Jennings Bryan; the Populist tone of the age, the urgency and struggling debate over gold and silver, the currency issue, are all well represented and discussed in this website.

Full length review available


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The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures: A Review
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/sawhtml/

Shawn Wedel

The Spanish-American War in Motion Pictures narrates the conflict and the subsequent Philippine Revolution through 68 films produced between 1898 and 1901, the first time the motion picture camera recorded U.S. armed conflict. While the website navigates with ease and provides access to remarkable primary sources, it fails to facilitate crucial dialogue with the communities of educators and students drawn to this contested and volatile era in American history.

Full length review available


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Theodore Roosevelt.org
http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org

Rich Hephner

Theodoreroosevelt.org tries to be the definitive internet source on the 26th President, but doesn't quite fill the role. The site serves both members of the Theodore Roosevelt Association and the general public interested in Theodore Roosevelt. It has a nice aesthetic appeal to it and a variety of content, but fails to provide good primary sources, multiple historical interpretations, or adequate site navigation. Theodoreroosevelt.org needs work to meet its goal of promoting knowledge of Theodore Roosevelt.

Full length review available


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This Shall Be the Land For Women: The Struggle for Western Women’s Suffrage, 1860-1922
http://www.autry-museum.org/explore/exhibits/suffrage/index.html

Lee Ann Ghajar

This Shall Be the Land For Women: The Struggle for Western Women’s Suffrage, 1860-1922, is a small, tightly-focused exhibit from the Museum of Women in the West displayed on the website of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage. A series of essays introduces the chronology, diversity, and principal players of the women’s suffrage movement in ten western states, highlighting the political, cultural and social character of western suffrage campaigns.

Full length review available


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Welcome to the Crystal City: 1890s in Bowling Green, Ohio
http://www.bgsu.edu/departments/acs/1890s/index.html

Susan Mangus

“Welcome to the Crystal City: 1890s in Bowling Green, Ohio,” is a product of the American Culture Studies Program at Bowling Green State University. According to the site’s introduction, students enrolled in the program’s classes have developed various components of the site as an introduction to the basic elements of website construction. In addition to material that has already been posted on the site, the homepage promises new elements will be added by future classes. As a result of this stated purpose, “Welcome to the Crystal City” is as much focused on the technical aspects of website design as on the history of the city that it is attempting to portray. Unfortunately, both aspects of the website have significant weaknesses.

Full length review available


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Women of Valor: Emma Goldman, 1869-1940
http://www.jwa.org/exhibits/wov/goldman/

Lauren Kata

Those searching the web for information about 20th-century anarchist and feminist Emma Goldman have much to choose from. From individuals’ personal tribute sites, to the comprehensive Emma Goldman Papers project powered by the Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE—the life, history, legacy and impressions of Goldman are well documented. Depending on one’s motivation for learning more about the woman popularly known as “Red Emma,” it is safe to say that meaningful and credible research can be done using the Internet to study her. While Women of Valor: Emma Goldman, 1869-1940 may not be the comprehensive and definitive digital archive of Emma Goldman’s life and legacy, this online exhibit and educational tool is first rate, and indeed, can be seen as a model for doing public history on the web.

Full length review available


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Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company: A Virtual Museum of Pioneer Aviation
http://www.first-to-fly.com/

John S. Olszowka

The Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company is a site dedicated to chronicling the brothers’ exploits in their quest to be first in flight. The site is an extensive undertaking, tracing the brothers’ early history growing up in Dayton, to their eventual success at Kitty Hawk. In between it seemingly covers all the personal, scientific, and technical achievements behind the brothers’ endeavor to invent the airplane. It provides a litany of photographs, mixed with a spattering of newspaper articles, personal reflections, letters, and other primary and secondary information, geared towards retelling the Wrights’ story.

Full length review available


Additional Links of Interest

Disclaimer: PHRC has not reviewed the quality of information at these sources. Although some of these links are to well known sites others are to unknown organizations whose authority, bias, etc. are unknown. All of these sites initially caught the attention of one or more of PHRC's managing editors as we perused sites on the Web for this call; we decided to list them at the bottom of this review section as a public service.

 
  

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