When you have a good set of tools, you are apt to speak highly of them. And any browse through this blog, you’ll see I like the way the Historical Marker Database presents the “subjects.” Yes I’ll be the first to point out issues, quirks, and some reservations in a few areas. However most are related to “power user” areas. None in my view preclude a positive experience. And of course, I’ve been entering my “trophies” for a couple of years now, so while on one hand you could say I’m a bit biased. But on the other hand, I’d say that I’m quite well acquainted with the system and would know if something was out of pace.
One aspect or attribute that I like about a marker entry is the potential for evolution. A marker entry page (here’s an example), is technically a wiki page with a bit of structure to it. The structure is set to ensure uniformity in display more than anything else. I’ve mentioned the components of this structure before, but just to briefly reiterate – marker entries include the title, the text as it is displayed, administrative information, location details, additional notes, links to websites with further information, photographs and commentary. And within the bounds of reason, each of those components (save the title and text of course) can change and evolve as needed.
The evolution of a marker entry sometimes include changes to location (yes from time to time they grow legs and walk, with a little help from our friends doing road work) or administrative details. But let’s face it, unless the marker was the victim of some tree fall or an auto accident, those are usually boring updates. The better updates, with regard to content, are additional notes, links, photographs and comments. I’d say the majority, running at least 5 to 1, of the updates are additional photos, providing additional visual reference either to the marker or the subject of the marker. But the updates I really like to see are new links and commentary entries.
Links and commentary provide that additional background which did not appear on the marker (either due to space limitations, or as Robert Moore is often quick to point out, “other” considerations). From my perspective, that’s the information that provides the connection the reader needs for perspective. A link offers a connection to what may be a more authoritative account of an event. A commentary might just be someone’s thougths on the event. But at the same time might well be some important background information that just hasn’t made it to the web yet. See Robert’s additional commentary on the entry for the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind, adding a Civil War connection where the marker did not mention one.
I often find while browsing blogs that new content, posts, or articles appear which begin to fill in the missing pieces or at least reinforce a marker entry. Just today I was reading Scott Mingus’ short post on a Dillsburg, Pennsylvania resident who suffered the loss of some merchandise during J.E.B. Stuart’s visit during the Gettysburg Campaign. Scott has written a book discussing aspects of that campaign with regard to York County, Pennsylvania. So after reading that short blog entry, it just made sense to post a link from a lonely marker entry from Dillsburg that until today really had no “support.” Now when that entry shows up at the end of someone’s query from HMDB, they have a thread to follow to Scott’s blog, and hopefully more than enough to satisfy their thirst for information.