Website Review: Visualising China

Before you ask, no I didn’t misspell the word “visualising” instead this is the British spelling of the word.

First, let’s give a run down on how this review is going to work.  I’m not approaching this as a so-called professional but as a “typical user.” Someone who happens to love history and happens to stumble on to this website.  So, I’m going to tell you what I like about the site and things I don’t like (if I find any).

I learned about “Visualising China: China 1850-1950” through a e-newsletter I get from History Today.  Great little newsletter that I skim through unless something catches  my eye.  This happen to catch my eye today for the simple reason that China has a very closed culture.  You never really know what’s going on there and its still like that today.  Suffice to say, my interest was piqued.

Here’s the link to the website: Visualising China: China 1850-1950

The name is a bit of a misnomer as most of the photogaphs, primarily, focus on Canton which is a Southern China city.

The Review:

The Good:

1.) I like functionality of the site.  More specifically that when you click to access a photo you find tagged information as well as information on the photograph.  To add content to a particular website, you must login but they do give you the option to login via Google, Yahoo, or OpenID (which I’m not sure what that is).  So, it gives users a chance to contribute and fill invested.

2.) The “Map” feature — I know this may seem as part of the functionality but I thought I merited a separate point.  I like the map on the right of the photograph.  This lets you see where in China that particular picture originated from.  Very cool feature.

3.) The “Related Images” feature –When you click on one particular image then you can also see related images.  Either arranged by that particular event being covered or the subject of the photograph.  Either way, pretty cool.

4.) The “Explore” feature — For me this is one of THE coolest features of the site.  When you click under the feature, it puts the photograph within context of the Chinese history.  If the photograph depicts a certain person, then it shows you their connection to other people (politicians, government officials) and to various locales associated with them.  I know I’ve said it before but very cool feature.

The Bad (or the could be better):

I didn’t find too many right off the back but then again I’m very simplistic in what I want from a website.

1.) The site is obviously still a work-in-progress.  Some of the images pop up an error message if you try to click on them.  And, whether its my computer or the site, when I click on the gallery of images, there is a slow load time.  I get some pictures but not all so that greatly reduces what images I can see at a given time.

Take some time to check out this website and reach your own conclusions.  If you’re really interested in this joint endeavor you should check out their Project Blog which really discusses the nitty-gritty of the website and this project.


About Ashley S

I'm an archivist!
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