A few of our favorite things.
A project of the Smithsonian Institution, HistoryWired provides global access to a small selection from the three million objects in storage at the National Museum of American History's Behring Center. Because there is only room for less than five percent of the collection in the public exhibit halls, Smithsonian curators selected 450 objects to be presented online (and, doing so, came up with the program's slogan, "a few of our favorite things").
The program is designed to be like a private tour through the storage area. A Java-based map allows visitors to select only the objects that interest them, information about which is then presented conversationally. Related to the treemap displays worked on at the University of Maryland's Human-Computer Interaction Lab, the map provides a timeline, keywords, thumbnails, and a search function. The map is organized into categories, each of which is filled with rectangles - one for each object - making it not entirely unlike a historical quilt. A rectangle's size is determined by the rating its object has been given by previous visitors - the higher the rating, the larger the block. An object's own page provides further information, with links to information on its historical context and other details.
While some objects in the map are in storage, others are available to be viewed in museums. The map's timeline runs from 1400 to 2000, and the map itself includes items as diverse as Pat Nixon's inaugural gown, sheet music by George M. Cohan, the silver tea set used by Mary Todd Lincoln, a webcam, Kermit the Frog, and a Harlem Globetrotters jersey.
Main HistoryWired site: http://historywired.si.edu/
Text-only version: http://historywired.si.edu/text.cfm