April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Demonstrations: Description

Sites from New York City's African American history

Vivian Ducat, Columbia University, USA

Two websites launched since the last Museums and the Web conference in March 2006, address often-overlooked stories in New York's African American history. The two sites, use different techniques, but both allow users to browse primary documents and images, and to read interpretive content about the history, (and in the case of the murals site, to watch interpretative video) and to serve as the key form of display currently for the content.

The first site, Examination Days: The New York African Free School Collection, provides rich contextual material as well as an elegant flash mechanism to view the contents of a fifty-five page volume of drawings, math problems, and other writing by students and teachers at a school that served the children of freed slaves in New York City from 1787-1835. These documents, which were part of annual presentations to the School's white funders called "examination days," are part of the New-York Historical Society's Library but have not been readily accessible to the public before this site.

A second site, Harlem Hospital WPA Murals, explores through short videos, still photography click-throughs and documents, a collection of murals commissioned during the Great Depression, and currently under conservation (the murals having long weathered neglect on the walls of Harlem Hospital in New York City). The web presentation brings attention to the murals themselves, the artists and the context in which they worked and the controversies that surrounded the murals as executed and allows for study of these images in an environment that is conducive to their study than the walls of the non-public wings of a public hospital. (The murals are also currently in the process of being removed from the hospitals walls and will be reinstalled when a new building is completed.)

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 1 [Close-Up]

Keywords: black, African, history, New York City, wpa, web site