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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

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Telling An Old Story in a New Way: Raid on Deerfield - The Many Stories of 1704
Lynne Spichiger, Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, USA
Juliet Jacobson, Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations - Session 2

Memorial Hall Museum, in collaboration with Native and French Canadian cultural organizations, and with funding support from both NEH and IMLS, is developing a website that focuses on the 1704 raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts. The website brings together historical scenes, stories of real and composite characters' lives, historical artifacts and documents, historical maps, and a timeline, to illuminate broad and competing perspectives on this dramatic event. Using innovative technology, the website will demonstrate a model approach for depicting and voicing diverse perspectives of history in a way that is engaging and compelling to the general public.

The Changing Mission of the Museum

Over the past 10-15 years, there have been concerted and well-publicized efforts by museums to reinterpret their exhibits, and add new ones that include diverse perspectives. History museums throughout the country continue to seek effective ways to provide a fuller understanding of the many groups of people who are part of our nationís history. Although many exhibits do an excellent job of educating audiences about different cultural views, too many exhibits awkwardly try to retrofit multicultural history into pre-existing narratives which place Euro-American history at their center. One of the critical, though infrequently achieved, factors in the inclusion of diverse perspectives, is for the museum to work closely with representatives of the diverse groups whose history is being depicted. Nevertheless, even in the best exhibits, the medium of a physical museum exhibit limits the degree to which diverse perspectives can be presented and easily compared by the viewer. Comparisons among perspectives are best understood when a viewer can rapidly and effortlessly move from one to the other, appreciating the points of similarity and difference without being required to remember one before learning the next.


PVMA proposes to explore the issue of how a museum website exhibit can accurately, and fairly, represent competing perspectives surrounding a controversial event, and at the same time engage its audience, and ensure an equitable and sophisticated interpretation of the material. Presentation will focus on:

Design Issues for Multiple Perspectives

  • A 'tab' design for historical scenes using interactive flash files allows users to move easily among different perspectives, facilitating comparison of the perspectives and enabling us to tell the story from conflicting points of view, without losing the coherence of the narrative.
  • A pyramidal content structure enables us to tell the stories in small, understandable, compelling segments, supported by fuller context. This allows us to capture the casual user's attention and then provide a rich context to satisfy his/her deeper interest.

Collaborative Approach

We have built a collaborative process which features a team website, review process, policy statements, and communication methods that ensure that all viewpoints are voiced and taken into consideration.

Programming Innovation

Programming innovation, which supports the pioneering design as well as the content creation process, includes the use of XML (extensible mock-up language) to streamline the content authoring and delivery process for web material. Administrative tools called "trackers" list key information for each content element.