Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Texas Treasures Online

Texas Treasures is a site run by the Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission and purports to be "an online exhibit of historical artifacts and documents." This is more or less an apt description as the collection does contain historical pictures and documents in digital form. Furthermore, these objects are themed around a number of different exhibits such as "Indian Relations in Texas" or "Rangers and Outlaws." However, the site is far from comprehensive and seems to be merely offering highlights of Texas history instead of a whole lot of real historical value.

I will say that the site had pretty clear collection principles. They are clearly going for historical highlights of general interest. Also, they chose objects to correspond to coherent topical exhibits also of general interest. The site makes it easy to get from one topic to another and related topics and subtopics (e.g. The Comanche War under Texas Indian Relations) are grouped together in a logical way that corresponds to a natural work flow. The collection is also obviously curated with a separate section for new exhibits. Also, the site provides a lot of background historical information and puts its objects into that context. My only concern with the collection is its relatively small number of actual objects. (Some pages are full of background info text without a single object!)

The objects themselves seem appropriately titled and described for public use. Some objects also have their location and id# from their physical home location listed. However, not all objects have that information, and that and the title appear to be the extent of metadata provided. The sore lack of metadata might also explain why the site does not have a search function.

Between the lack of metadata and the history-by-example approach, I gather that the Texas Treasures sites intended audience consists of members of the general public with amateurish interests in history and/or small children. (Note, however, that the site does not include lesson plans or other supplementary material that would indicate school children as a primary audience.)

If the Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission's goal was to publish a novelty site for the general public at which even quasi-serious historians would laugh, then they have succeeded admirably with Texas Treasures Online.

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