Review of a Public History Site – Slave Voyages

Blog Post #4

Throughout our Digital Public History course, we have been talking about various tools that help mesh history and the digital age to engage the public in learning. 

One project that I’ve taken a look at is Slave Voyages. Slave Voyages is a project by scholars all over the world, utilizing data from archives and libraries to document the transatlantic slave trade. The project is sponsored by The National Endowment for the Humanities. It looks like various universities and research teams have taken part in collaborating for this project. 

The first tool that caught my attention was the database. The database documents ships that arrived with slaves, the captain, the vessel’s name, etc. There is a lot of information being thrown at you all at once. But, I still think it is easy to navigate and paints a picture of the transatlantic slave trade in terms of numbers. 

Timelapse Database | Slave Voyages

As far as public engagement, I think Slave Voyages does a decent job. The tools that they use to show the data collected (timeline, timelapse, tables, etc.) can all be used in a classroom setting, depending on the grade level. The variety of tools also allows for those who have different learning styles to benefit. Personally, I found the timelapse more visually engaging versus just seeing the data in a table format. I will say that I wish the lesson plan section was better organized. I am also finding that this site is built with people who may not have any former knowledge of the slave trade in mind. They have a glossary which breaks down terms and their definitions. 

Lesson Plans | Slave Voyages

This is a huge website, with a lot of data. I noticed that on their menu that have three sections (Transatlantic slave trade, Intra-American, and People of the Transatlantic Slave Trade), all with dropdown options. This tells me that not only does this project focus on the voyage across the Atlantic, but also what occurred within North America and most importantly, the people. 

Deborah Boyer writes in her article on NCPH Digital History @ Work, “Digital technology has enabled public historians, cultural heritage professionals, and history students to collaborate with diverse audiences and explore history’s role in civic engagement in ways previously unimagined.”

I wanted to look into if and how they are engaging with communities in the present. From what I can see, their only engagement is online, via the database and tools they offer for public use, as well as their Facebook page. There is no comment option on their blogs, for people who may want to comment on them. I definitely see a gap in how they are engaging with the public, as I feel like middle and high schools could be a great target audience for presentations. Overall, I feel like this project is important, but does lack small community engagement.






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