What Did You Do in the War, Grandma?

Redesigning What Did You Do in the War, Grandma?

David M. Reville
Brown University Scholarly Technology Group

What Did You Do in the War, Grandma? was developed and produced at South Kingston High School by Linda Wood, an oral historian, and the school's librarian. The interviews were conducted and recorded in the Spring of 1989 with the support of a grant from the Rhode Island Committee for the Humanities.

In 1995, with a grant from RICH and H-NET (Michigan State University), the text of the project's printed component was digitized and made available over the World Wide Web by Brown University assistant professor John Saillant,(now of Western Michigan University) with the assistance of Laurion Burchall and Arlene Kim. At that time the goal was to provide a model for the digitization and the electronic publication of projects and publications supported by state humanities councils such as RICH. The project was a remarkable success; the What Did You Do in the War, Grandma project pages have been used by thousands of teachers and students throughout the United States and the world.

In the Spring of 1997 Linda Wood approached the Brown University Scholarly Technology Group to discuss updating the site giving it a new look and perhaps adding material from the original project that was not originally published either in print or on the Web. In the meantime, digital technologies had evolved that make it possible to present "streaming" audio content via the Web. STG has been using Progressive Networks Real Audio server to disseminate presentations and instructional material, and we were excited about the possiblilty of letting people hear the voices of the participants in the What Did You Do in the War, Grandma? project. In April we began to explore the possibilities of creating a new and improved site.

Experienced users of the site will find that all of the material they have previously used is still available, and at exactly the same address (i.e. all URLs have remained stable). We have been very careful to maintain the straightforward design that the original site exhibited.

That said, there are several additional elements that we believe enhance the site's value and usablility as an educational resource:

  1. We have modified the appearance of the site, and made some changes to the minimal existing navigational structure -- making it easier to find the various sections of the site, and making the individual pages more readable.
  2. We have revised and expanded the timeline.
  3. We have made available in its entirety one of the original interviews, with Naomi Craig, using the Real Audio server. This included not only digitizing the original tape, but creating a sequence of pages that situate and support the interview in a regional, national and international context. These pages are presented as html files synchronized with portions of the Craig interview.

Whether you are a new user of the site or a veteran, please explore its new features and let us know what you think of the resource. We hope it will be a valuable one.

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