A Tale of Two Sites

In this blog we will be looking at two history websites, which I will be comparing. These two websites are a Civil War-themed site called “The Valley of the Shadow“, hosted by the library of the University of Virginia and copyrighted by Edward L. Ayers (though the copyright on the website is from 1993-2007), and  “American Memory” by the Library of Congress.

The first website, “The Valley of the Shadow” describes itself as a “digital archive” that contains various documents from “two American Communities, one Northern and one Southern”, these communities being Augusta County, Virginia and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. The site contains a variety of documents from the time of the Civil War and from the years immediately before and after the war from these two counties. These documents range from diaries to newspaper articles to church records and census records. The site even has an “animated theater battle map” on which you pick a unit and follow its movements and battles throughout the course of the war with a timeline at the bottom of the map showing when each action is taking place, which is a feature that I find quite cool. This website definitely has the look and feel of an older website, which is not really a bad thing. Overall the site is quite easy and straightforward to navigate.

The other site, “American Memory” by the library of Congress has a different, and somewhat newer look to it (among other things it has a search bar) although the site was actually begun in the 1990s, but it also does not have as catchy of a name. Perhaps the name may be just as easy to remember, but “The Valley of The Shadow” has a more interesting ring to it, which could help it attract visitors who happen to see the site appear in a link on another site or in a search engine. This site has a more broad focus than the other site, focusing on the country as a whole and not being solely concerned with the Civil War. The site allows users to look at the resources of the collection by topic with topics including numerous subjects such as sports and Native American history. The site also includes links to such things as an “Ask a librarian” feature and a page for teachers, as well as a “this day in history feature”. To some degree it seems that this site has less of a scholarly feel to it than the “Valley of the Shadow” site, though both sites can be used for scholarly as well as amateur/hobby purposes. The two sites are actually quite different and should appeal to people with different interests. One thing that I prefer about the “Valley of the Shadow” site is that it seems to be more self-contained, whereas the “American Memory” site has some links on the main page that go outside of the “American Memory” portion of the Library of Congress website.

One thought on “A Tale of Two Sites

  1. sweepoftime Post author

    Though I do not know for sure, the name of the “Valley of the Shadow” website is probably derived from the biblical phrase “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” used in Psalm 23.


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