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King Center Imaging Project Goes Live with Martin Luther King Jr. Archive

Last week a press release announced that JPMorgan Chase & Co., in partnership with AT&T Business Solutions, EMC, and The King Center, would release The King Center Imaging Project’s Web site on January 16 to note and celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It appears to be live now and is available at http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/. While I think this is a great project for an archive, I found it somewhat hard to use as it is initially presented.

When you first go to the archive, you’ll be presented with some pull-down menus and a tile display of historical documents. The tiles are slow to load, and more have to load as you scroll down the screen. If you hold your mouse over a particular tile (which may show an image or a snippet of a letter or something else) you’ll get some explanation, but often, the image or the snippet aren’t enough. (One image, for an issue of Current, is just a block of the cover with no image or lettering.)

Thankfully you can turn this off by going to the top nav and choosing the “List” display, which makes for much easier browsing. You can go through a huge list of documents on the front page, or use the nav to choose different themes of Dr. King’s life. Themes include Economics, Letters from Children, Nobel Peace Prize, and Telegrams. (Items archived range from pictures to articles to sermons to oral histories to poetry.) I looked at Telegrams, turned off the tile display in favor of the list display again, and reviewed several dozen telegrams both to and from Dr. King. The listings include a brief description and a thumbnail; date and place are also listed when available.

Clicking on an item takes you to the item page with it in full view along with tools to zoom in, print, and share. A left nav gives you additional information on the item, including a link to a transcript and tags in several different categories, making browsing very specific topics easy. Individual items are as simple as a picture or a single telegram, and as complex as an entire issue of Current magazine. The tools and information on the single-item pages are elegant and easy to use.

In addition to browsing categories, there’s also a general search engine. I did a search for birthday card (since browsing had pointed me to a couple) and found six results. If you want to run a more serious search, there’s an advanced search mechanism that allows you to narrow your results in a variety of ways, including by date span, person or organization (the search engine will give you suggestions), or type of content (sermons, telegrams, correspondence, etc.)

I found the initial tile display of the archived items to be very slow loading and lacking context. Once I switched to the list format, it was a lot easier to get into the archives’ extensive content. As today is Martin Luther King Jr. day I suspect the site will be a bit of a slow load for a while, but it’s very worth a visit.

Obituaries Australia Provides Information on Over 2700 Australians

Obituaries Australia Home Page

Obituaries Australia Home Page

In April, The Australian National University launched Obituaries Australia, an online Web site that aggregates information on over 2700 Australians, in obituary or biography format. It’s available at http://oa.anu.edu.au/. You can search this Web site by keyword, of course, but there are a number of ways you can browse, too. You can browse by date of death, date of birth (I saw biographies going back to the 1700s), name, author (who wrote the item), or publication (where the item appeared.) You can also browse by lists (awards, clubs, military service, etc.)

I did a name search for Smith and got 26 results. Results include name of the person, birth-death years, and sometimes a little blurb about the person (“diplomat, public servant and Japanophile,” “ironmonger,” “surgeon and photographer,” etc.) “Surgon and Photographer” looked interesting, so I clicked on the obituary for Julian Augustus Smith.

This detail page had the obituary as it originally appeared in The Argus (there’s also a link to the original), a picture of Dr. Smith, and a sidebar with a life summary including birth and death dates, religious influence, and occupation. The items in the sidebar are clickable so you can browse lists of Australians by various characteristics — occupation, cause of death, religious influence, etc. There’s even a list of bushrangers available which includes Jack Donohoe.)

Sometimes the biographies are more extensive, as for Issy Smith. Sergeant Smith’s obituary information includes links to another obituary, several links to articles about him in newspaper archives, and a very extensive sidebar.

I’m impressed with both the amount of information here but also the external links to newspaper archives and the extensive cross-linking. Useful reference site.

Who’s Alive? Who’s Dead? Quick Reference

After the Jon Bon Jovi Twitter hoax of yesterday (he’s alive, though no word if his living is still on a prayer) I thought you might find this site useful: “Who’s Alive and Who’s Dead,” an index of famous people and whether they’re alive or dead. It’s accessible at http://www.whosaliveandwhosdead.com or http://www.wa-wd.com if you need a mobile-friendly URL.

Obviously this site can’t index everybody ever. It’s got about 3,000 people in it, including actors, musicians, athletes, etc. You can search by name, browse by last name or by category, or look at the recently-updated or special features. (Bon Jovi is here.) The index pages include the name of the person, birth date, death date (if applicable) and either their current age or the age they were when they died. Each person has their own page that gives this information and a little extra data about what they’re famous for if you’re wondering.

The site had everybody I could think of when I checked it (with one exception, more about that in a minute) though about 3,000 people doesn’t seem like a lot. I was surprised to see some of the people listed here. Are people really wondering whether Jimmy Fallon is alive or not? Kirk Cameron?

If I was going to check on one person I’d probably go to Wikipedia first. But if I were on a mobile phone (this site is very fast loading) or I needed a quick reference site (complete with an RSS feed about recent changes in status) I’d bookmark this one.

And the missing name? Elvis Presley (though I did see Priscilla Presley.) Sorry folks, you’ll have to keep wondering…

Thirty Thousand Portraits, Over a Thousand Napoleons

I read an entry on the New York Times Public Library Blog last week that covered one resource but actually took me to another one. The blog post was about a collection of 1,358 images of Napoleon (or images closely related to Napoleon.) Which was all very interesting but not as interesting as Historical and Public Figures: A General Portrait File to the 1920s, an NYPL archive. It’s available here and contains not only the aforementioned Napoleon portraits but also tens of thousands of public figure images, with most of them focused on the 16th through the 19th-centuries.

If you like you can look at all the portraits at once, but this is a big collection for that. You can also do a search. (There file does have a name index available, but I found it unwieldy; I’d stick to searching.) I did a search for Napoleon, natch, and got 1,755, though many of them were copies and knockoffs of each other. I did another search, this time for Twain, and got 109 results, everything from photos of the man himself, to cartoons, to a sculptor working on a bust of Twain.

Search results have thumbnails, each item also has its own page with some details and the ability to zoom in. (Sometimes you can’t zoom as much as you like — some of the Twain images were dark and there wasn’t sufficient detail.) If you really like an image, you can order a print. If you just want to share it, detail pages also include permalinks and codes for embedding.

Great reference source, especially for kids doing history reports.

Who’s Following Who on Twitter? Twiangulate Will Tell You

I have been covering Twitter tools more and more on ResearchBuzz. You might be wondering why. Here’s why: because Twitter, with its millions of users sending out tens of millions of tweets, is a great source to monitor for information and links. And there are some amazing people out there holding useful conversations. So you’re going to get see more Twitter tool coverage here, because whether you personally want to use it or not it’s an important information stream. (And you personally do not have to use it to take advantage of it as an information stream.)

I am always looking for interesting people to follow on Twitter so I appreciated learning about Twiangluate, at http://twiangulate.com. Besides sounding like it must have been founded by Elmer Fudd, Twiangulate lets you enter two or three Twitter users and find common followers between them.

Say I’m interested in tweets on genealogy. On the front page of Twiangulate, I enter the tweeters @Cyndislist, @Dickeastman, and @Megansmolenyak, all respected genealogy peeps. Twiangulate thinks about it for a moment and gives me the following search result:

What you get is a list of who the people you entered are following in common. My idea was that if I followed people who had a topic in common then the people they followed would have that same topic in common, and for the most part it was true; the list was full of professional genealogists and sites/tools of use to genealogists. The list includes the person’s avatar, a brief description if they have one (be sure to fill out your Twitter bio!), the number of followers they have as well as the number of people following. You can also see where they’re twittering from if they’ve made that information available.

Now, you will have to have a wedge to start your searching; it may be amusing to see who @davewiner and @maddow are following in common but it might not give you any topical follower ideas. You might want to use a directory like WeFollow.com to find tweeters on a given topic then run them through Twiangulate to find more. A useful tool, though I can see how it would turn into a timesink!

New Database for Awards and Honors

This is interesting. There’s a new Web site that’s cataloging over 32,000 winners for over 800 awards and honors. As you might expect, it’s called and is available at http://www.awardsandhonors.com .

The front page includes a list of categories you can choose from, as well as an overview of awards in the year (TIME Person of the Year, inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, etc.) I went and looked at the business category and saw 14 listings for awards/honors, including Advertising Hall of Fame, Webby award winners, and the Nobel Prize for Economics.

Each of these pages has a listing of winners. For example, the Advertising Hall of Fame had the honorees from 1949 to 2008. But here’s the problem. It was just a list of names and years. For the pages I looked at, there was no attempt to aggregate/link to ANY other information. For example, Wikipedia articles, books on Amazon or Google Books, articles in article archives. Nothing complicated, just direct URLs or search queries created as formatted templates, to which winner’s names could be added. And no, not everybody listed on this site will have a Wikipedia page, but I suspect a lot of them would!

There are plenty of awards and honors and people here, but it’s disappointing in that there is just so much more that could be done with these names. I can imagine I’d use this site as a reference or a jumpoff point, but as soon as I found a name I’d be gone somewhere else — Wikipedia, a news archive, or a very specific search engine query.

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