When I was about six years old, my dad gave me an outdated book of jokes. One of the sections was titled “poems” and I’ll never forget reading the lines, “History is a dreadful subject, as dead as dead can be. Once it killed the Romans, and now it’s killing me.”
When I got older, it became apparent to me that this is a fairly general view of history — sure, it’s important, but is it interesting? The answer to that is a resounding “yes” from the moment that the front page loads on the website Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761: A Cartographic Narrative. The colors and the fonts used on the front page immediately align with the idea of delving into the past, with a painting of ships on the water at the header and sepia-toned pictures under each lower subheading. What draws me in immediately is that it’s a cartographic narrative. While many webpages designated to history often make good use of maps, you don’t often see one based in “the spatial history”, as the front page calls it, and the uniqueness and level of interest multiplies since it is specifically dedicated to “the greatest slave insurrection in the eighteenth century British Empire”.
In general, the site is very easy to navigate and the layout, as stated, meshes very well with the topic. More or less everything is laid out in a way that, as long as you make the effort to read what is on the homepage, you can find everything the site has to offer without any trouble. The principle investigator and curator of the site, Harvard-based professor of both History and African & African-American Studies Vincent Brown, is proudly displayed, giving the already very visually impressive site it’s fair share of scholastic backing.
My favorite, and, perhaps, the most exciting part of the website is the interactive map. Accessed via the bold “View Map” button on the top left of the homepage (or by the “Multi-layered Interactive Map” subheader or, again, by the much less noticeable “map” hyperlink under the header), you are immediately met by a sepia-toned rendering of the island of Jamaica made to look like an old map. You are free to zoom in and out and click around, but, by hitting the “Play” button, you can watch the events that took place between April of 1760 and October of 1761 unfold on the map, complete with an in-screen pop-up legend as your additional guide.
While I find the site very beautiful, easily accessible, and both entertaining and informative, I would have loved to have the option of listening to someone read the text that describes the events when in “play” mode on the map. This would’ve allowed for even fuller immersion, the ability to keep my eyes on the map while listening to what had taken place at each critical date and area. Besides that, however, I don’t think I could have asked for a better site to prove that history is only dead as dead can be when you refuse to let it live and breathe the way it can and should.
Featured map image taken from the “Slave Revolt in Jamaica, 1760-1761: A Cartographic Narrative” website
Naia, I would have also liked to listen to the text while watching the interactive map. I think that if you are going to use an interactive map, the text or just the information regarding the event should be spoken. I think that would allow you to become more connected to the material.
I actually really like the layout of this site. I can kind of agree that the gray is slightly drab. Maybe a more beige tone would’ve been a better choice, but regardless, I think that the color choices bring the whole page together as a historical site. Definitely gives it an “old” feel.
Margaret, I think the drab grey is a representation of the historical nature of the site. The colorful Jamaica that we no today is not the one the curator is reporting on, his Jamaica one of slavery, revolt and suppression.
I am glad that we can agree that the website is not only very informative but also interesting and engaging. I have to disagree with Margaret above. Before visiting the site, I did not think that it would have been a “Jamaican” website. Based on the name, my first impression was that it would be a website with content on the history of Jamaica and not the aforementioned.
I’m glad that I waited until after reading your review to actually take a look at the site. I could hear your excitement and that informed the experience that I was about to have. I have to disagree with your opinion on the color and fonts though. The drab grey is not what i would have expected for a “Jamaican” site. I do agree with your description of the website host. It is refreshing to have the “wizard” up front and center.