April 11-14, 2007
San Francisco, California

Demonstrations: Description

All-on-one-page: linking maps, timelines and social bookmarking to build historical context and visitor engagement

Ian Johnson, University of Sydney, Australia

Effective geographic and historical contextualisation is the key to many successful museum displays and visitor centres, yet it is a costly and technically demanding exercise to move from physical displays to interactive maps or timelines. The bar is raised even further if one wishes to integrate these alternative modes of visualization as linked views of a shared database and introduce Web 2.0 concepts – collaborative content creation, annotation, social bookmarking and ‘publishing’ of personal collections. Yet these are key to developing visitor engagement, whether on-site or on the web.

In this presentation I will demonstrate a new historical events browser, which integrates web mapping (TimeMap), an interactive timeline (Simile), and social bookmarking (Heurist) components in a single web application. The browser allows visitors to visualise related historical events in three panels – a list, a map and a timeline. All three panels are interactive and linked, so that the same events are displayed on all three panels, eg. selecting or browsing to a new set of events updates both map and timeline.

The core of the system is Heurist, our generic social bookmarking database. Heurist handles more than 50 types of digital entity, ranging from bibliographic references and internet bookmarks, through encyclopaedia entries, seminars and grant programs, to C14 dates and, of course, historical events. It allows users to attach multimedia resources and annotations to each entity in the database, using private, public, and group-restricted wiki entries. Some entries can be locked off as authoritative content, others can be left open to all comers.

Heurist’s novel features include the ability to digitize and attach geographic data to any of the 50+ entitiy types it recognizes and its ability to store annotated, date-stamped relationships between entities. These are the key to building, browsing and visualizing a network of historical events. Visitors can self-register and add and describe historical events, tag, annotate or provide commentary on events, define relationships between them, and publish their projects to the web. A module is being developed to support management of student groups. The software is cross-platform, built in MySQL, PHP and Java, easily customised for look and feel, and is available for deployment. The service at is available free of charge.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - 2 [Close-Up]