Histories of the National Mall, Practicum

If you lived in D.C. in 1891, chances are that you may have found yourself basking in the cool waters of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. Now, this risks the Secret Service, DC police, some hateful looks, and perhaps a few minutes of Internet fame (though I definitely don’t suggest it).

It is hard to imagine locations like the Reflecting Pool and others on the National Mall as representing something else a hundred years ago. But, with the mapping website Histories of the National Mall, you can do just that from the comfort of your laptop or phone.

Whether you are on your morning route on the Metro or a tourist walking past a Smithsonian or generally just curious as the history of the National Mall, this website provides a collection of photographs, maps, people and more.

The home page gives visitors multiple avenues to pursue. I’ll go over each section quickly:

Home Page

SECTION 1: MAPS

This section depicts an interactive map of the National Mall with numbers covering it. These numbers represent how many digital markers are in that spot. These digital markers appear as dark blue map logos which visitors can click on to discover a unique part of National Mall history. Each has a button that a visitor can also click on to learn more and can do so twice before coming to a final page that details the digital information of the subject matter.

Maps section of the site

SECTION 2: EXPLORATION

This section is more about collecting articles written on the site. These include scavenger hunts and articles that answer a question.

There are five pages of these types of items.
Example of an article

SECTION 3: PEOPLE

This section details a list of people that are mentioned in the site. At the top, the visitor can toggle between looking up a person by their picture or through a list (shown below in the red cricle). When a visitor clicks on a person, it provides a biography of the person and some other additional information. A neat aspect of this website is that you can input these items into other formats, listed under the photos on the detailed page of each “item.”

This is what a typical “Item” page looks like. These are used for biographical information, object identification, and further location information.

SECTION 4: PAST EVENTS

This section is dedicated to  the events of the National Mall and the visitor can control what time period of the history they can look at. In other words, it works like a massive interactive timeline.

SECTION 5: FEATURED EXPLORATION

This section highlights a story on the archive. Currently, it is a history about swimming in the Reflection Pool and other leisure activities that were once normal.

SECTION 6: USING THE SITE

Lastly, this section is an About Page of the Archive. The History of the National Mall was created through George Mason University with Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media and funding provided by the National Endowment. They break down the site like I did here provided some additional information. Sadly, this archive has not been updated since 2014, but unlike some other archives we have seen– at least they are honest they are inactive.

Overall this website is easy to use, has some unique features, and great for a general audience looking to expand their knowledge of the National Mall.

2 Replies to “Histories of the National Mall, Practicum”

  1. Jane – Okay. I’m going to say it. The fact that this site has been inactive since 2014 is tragic. And I mean tragic. I would be sending this website to everyone who came to visit me because the amalgamation of the information into one website is amazing. And as someone who loves walking around and learning about local history of places I visit, this is one of the neatest. If you were to take this site over, what would be the first thing you update? I’m curious what you would improve after spending time with this site.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Hi Jane,

    Good post. The website is very user friendly and accessible. It has multiple elements that help tourist get around and explore the history of the National Mall. The website looks like an early attempt of making an online interacting exhibit and archive. In 2014 the university have not have the technique or maybe desire to go any further. I feel that like if it was attempted today it would be a successful online exhibit.

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