April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Demonstrations: Description

The Presidential Timeline

Kenneth Tothero, The University of Texas at Austin, USA

The Presidential Timeline project brings together the Learning Technology Center at The University of Texas at Austin and The National Archives' twelve Presidential Libraries to create a web-based resource providing access to the continually growing store of digitized assets from the Libraries' collections. The goal of this project is to make these primary and secondary source materials readily and freely available to students, educators, and adult learners throughout the world via a single unified and intuitive interface.

The timeline itself is deployed within a dynamic and visually engaging Flash-based interface that provides access to timelines of each President's life before, during, and after their time in office. These timelines, in turn, provide direct access to assets, exhibits, and educational activities associated with specific events.

At the time of its initial release, the timeline was populated with over six hundred individual assets ranging from videos of significant Presidential addresses, to audio recordings of telephone calls, to photographs, to hand-written internal White House memos. The infrastructure, however, was architected in such a way as to support the ongoing addition of assets as they become available. The number of assets that the timeline can hold is essentially unlimited and an effort is currently underway to more than double the number of assets in the system over the next few months.

In addition to individual assets, the timeline is populated by "Curated Exhibits". These consist of a series of about five to ten screens that tell the story of a timeline event, illustrating it with selected individual assets. As with the individual assets, the architecture of the timeline is such that it will support the ongoing addition of exhibits as they are authored by the Libraries.

Finally, a select team of educators - among them K-12 teachers, university faculty members, and education specialists from the Presidential Libraries - have collaborated in the development of educational activities that utilize the timeline and its resources. These activities are designed so as to require that students engage in the analysis and synthesis of primary source documents and present their findings in a coherent and logical manner. All of the activities are structured in such a way as to require collaborative decision-making on the part of the students. Most can lead to the creation of a wide variety of technology- and non-technology-based student deliverables that fulfill a broad range of state and national standards. A central theme underlying many of these activities is a focus on major historical decision points faced by each administration.

Other features of the project include a set of comparative timelines that can be co-viewed with any Presidential timeline and which chronicle such themes as the civil rights movement, Presidential approval ratings, etc. The system also supports powerful searching capabilities built on each object's extensive metadata description.

The Presidential Timeline is funded by The National Endowment for the Humanities, with additional support from the LBJ Foundation and The University of Texas Digital Library Services Division.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 2 [Close-Up]

Keywords: president, archives, timeline, digital, documents, primary sources, education, K-12