Site Review: The Public Archive

 

Note: My apologies for the delay in getting this up. I was extremely confused about what/when details on the assignment. That, and technical difficulties with the site and my own (slow!) computer intervened.

 

For my site review I chose The Public Archive, both for its initial aesthetics as well as content. As someone whose research involves Haiti, and who is embarking on a digital project of some sort (or several sorts) in the next few months, this review seemed like a good opportunity to assay existing material, content, and organization.

 

The Public Archive is organized into five main sections: the blog, or home/landing page, an “About” page, “Maps,” “Interviews,” and a subscription section.

The home page for the site is a list of recent posts, arranged in reverse chronological order. On average, there seems to be one new post per month. Site content ranges wide, from guest posts and interviews (often about timely recent publications or scholarship) to longer, omnibus posts about recent developments in Caribbean studies or news. Time periods also vary, from colonial Haiti to contemporary urban uprisings. Posts are almost always accompanied by a well-chose and aesthetically pleasing photograph. Images are often archival, giving the site an added air of sophistication and scholarliness. The language is also rather academic, suggesting that the audience for this site are equally well-read and/or other researchers and academics studying some aspect of the Caribbean or Haiti.

 

The “About” section of the site reveals that the organizers are not interested in taking authorial credit for the site or its content, eschewing a personal tone for a third-person narrative. Citing that the mainstream media’s reproduction of certain images of Haiti “reinforce every longstanding prejudice about the country and its people,” the site acts as a corrective for images and ideas about, on, and from Haiti. The site may even have been motivated by the earthquake in 2010, as hinted at in “History itself ahs been a casualty of the earthquake.” The Public Archive states: “In light of this obliteration of history, The Public Archive was initiated to serve as an accessible clearinghouse of historical essays, archival sources, and informed contemporary journalism on Haiti. The Public Archive compiles links to documents freely accessible through the digital collections of libraries and repositories as well as open-access online periodicals, academic journals and newspapers.” Thus, the site acts as an intermediary between public collections and scholarly information and the general, googling public. As such, although of relatively little (but still considerable) effort to maintain ( the site does not need to create its own content, articles, photography, etc.), the site performs a crucial academic and public service by making its information more readily available than it would be otherwise on the internet/through a simple search engine search. As we have discussed previously in class, the About blurb reads similarly to a grant or funding description, again suggesting that the site organizers are (more) active on other projects/work.

 

The “Maps” section offers a geographical display of posts by their topic’s site, seductively called “The Cartography of Haitian History.” Using a plugin to represent posts as pins on a google map, the page handily shows the geographic area with which specific posts are concerned. Although centered around Haiti, this feature allows the site to highlight the multiple countries and connections that permeate boundaries and link the Caribbean to itself and its component parts.

 

The “Interviews” page contains, as expected, ten interviews on different aspects of Haitian history and scholarship. It is a nice way to “meet” or see the names of researchers engaged with Haiti and its history. The site states that the interview section began in 2012, and extends the site’s scope beyond Haiti to the Caribbean and “the Black World.”

 

As advertised, you can subscribe for email updates to the blog on the “Subscribe” page. Like many other pages, this one also has a nice photo.

 

Sidebar:

The sidebar of the site is packed with useful information and data about the site, its subject matter, and resources for further reading. The word cloud of tags gives clear insight into what the site is about and the sort of content one might find on it. The Blogroll reads like a (long) list of further reading, which is as useful as it is overwhelming. The archives section is comprehensive, and dates the site back to February 2010, around the time of the earthquake in Haiti.

 

In many of the sites selected for review, maps play a particularly prominent role, such as the cartographic narrative of the Slave Revolt in Jamaica 1760-1761. Maps have great pedagogical and organizational potential, but I wonder, too, about the potential (or at least hope) for the digital map, in particular. The ability to link and display disparate types of information on a map makes the power of place that maps offer that much more potent.

 

The site’s content is very deliberately and carefully curated, especially for something that considers itself a “clearinghouse.” A similar site might also act as a clearinghouse or aggregator through a series of automations using a service like IFTTT. Although the care and effort do slow down the site’s production of posts, I personally think the tailored nature of each post and its timeliness does not go unnoticed. The effort to ensure a diversity of good quality information about Haiti is undoubtedly a lot, so for sporadic but well-researched content about Haiti, head to The Public Archive. The site acts as a mediator, curator, and guide through the din of the internet to help the reader discover something (or many things) new about Haiti and its people.

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