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When you first go to the archive, you’ll be presented with some pull-down menus and a tile display of historical documents.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.