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No 'one truth': history through a Web lens

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All this material serves to add a human context to the historic, and as with the general histories, narratives relate their subjects' background and experiences prior to the raid as well as after.

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The Story Menu brings everything together into a single inclusive interface which follows the saga from the 16th century to the present day. And while there's nothing to prevent the visitor from diving straight into this feature, it's a good idea to at least skim the other sections - to have a better idea of the material available. Once you have a grasp of the site's various resources, though, Story Menu is an exceptionally coherent and comprehensive tool to bring all the disparate elements together into an integrated exhibition.

Especially effective are the artist's renderings of specific events in the Deerfield record. In these cases, an interactive painting links to specific narratives as the mouse pointer rolls over various characters. To the right of the screen, the scene is described in a general context and then from the point of view of each of the five cultures by way of a tabbed interface. (As you choose a specific tab, characters from that group are spotlighted in the artwork.)

Below the paintings are popup menus of related People, Artifacts, Explanations (essays by historians) and Maps, and just in case you think you might be missing something, a "How to Use This Page" link stands by to remind you of all the options available. All of the additional features on these pages open into their own windows -as do the many links embedded in the site's text- so there's no fear of losing your place as you veer off on various tangents.

The last of the four features highlighted on the 1704 Home page, Enter the Conflict is actually one of the ten stages of the Story Menu - so if you've explored the latter, you won't need to revisit the former. On the other hand, if you're not sure whether you want to take the time for a thorough visit, "Conflict" will provide an engaging sample (and probably hook you into exploring deeper into the site).

The variety of interactive features onsite is extensive, but none of them are gimmicks - from rollovers, to audio files of native pronunciations, to interactive transcriptions of handwritten artifacts, each is used in a way that legitimately facilitates the presentation of the material. The webmasters have also included such helpful touches as reminders to activate JavaScript, information about file sizes, and the occasional low-tech alternatives to bandwidth-intensive features.

Apart from its 'edu-tainment' value, this site is an effective reminder that the Web can be used as more than just another place to park existing museum exhibits. (For those interested, a report on the creation of the site is online at Telling an Old Story in a New Way: Raid on Deerfield.) In addition, Raid on Deerfield reminds us that there are as many sides to any story as there are people involved - something worth remembering on a daily basis.

Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704 can be found at http://www.1704.deerfield.history.museum/.

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