Upon reviewing one of the recommended online exhibits, I realized that this was another example of how digital tools are changing the way information is both presented and shared. One major advantage I see with these exhibits is how information is organized, specifically, how the exhibit is structured into specialized sections focusing on certain themes, topics or content.[i] These sections allow for viewers to quickly and effectively find the specific information they wish to view without having to page through an entire book, paper, or article in order to find the sought after information. Despite this advantage it is not flawless and I found the essay sections on the Cold War exhibit disjointed and flowed poorly when read back to back. This complaint is completely subjective but because of the independent nature of these sections, the actual content does not read as well as your average journal article or monograph.
Another advantage to these online exhibits is the use of multimedia. I found that the use of movies, pictures and audio files. These additional media resources really make these online exhibits standout from traditional academic sources of a single medium. Obviously, multiple forms of media is not only useful for teaching history, it is also more entertaining for viewers, mixing in interesting visual and audio resources. For example, I found the addition of political posters from eastern European countries during the build up to the fall of the communist bloc, were very interesting to examine alongside the main text.[ii] Sources such as these give viewers another dimension in which to learn and interact with the historic content. Unfortunately, I have discovered that there is an inherent flaw with using such sources. While looking through the Cold War exhibit I found that one of the additional video sources linked within one of the sections was no longer available as the video was hosted on YouTube but has since been taken down.[iii] There is an issue with an exhibit that boasts the availability of videos depicting important historical events and then fails to provide that extra experience. This issue, however, can be fixed through using video not hosted on secondary sites or by ensuring that online exhibits are curated or maintained with some degree of regularity as any other online database would be, making sure that viewers are able to access all of the intended information. Without this constant maintenance, the advantage of being online is nearly rendered useless as the exhibit, as a whole, is incomplete. Personally, I am in favor of these kinds of online resources but only if there is a certain level of quality control that will prevent them from degrading from their original published form. Simply put, I see online exhibits as having great potential in being effective teaching or learning tools but until some of the bugs are worked out, they occasionally fall short in the very area that make them unique and effective.
[i] Making the history of 1989: online exhibit. http://chnm.gmu.edu/1989/exhibits/intro/1989revolutions essay section with different sub sections on particular countries.