- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 4, 2004

As the World WideWeb began to explode as a communication tool in the mid 1990s, so did the creative endeavors of individuals who saw the potential to share information with a global audience quickly and easily.

One such Internet entrepreneur, history author Philip Gavin, found the possibilities for knowledge dissemination irresistible, and for the past eight years has shared his fascination with humanity’s past with an international audience in hopes of educating as well as taking part in the free expression of ideas concerning his favorite topic.

The History Place

Site address: www.historyplace.com

Creator: Mr. Gavin holds a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University and a master’s degree from Boston University. He lives in Quincy, Mass., and is completely responsible for the site and its contents.

Creator quotable: “The History Place is one of the surviving, original independent Web publications, dating back to the early days of the World Wide Web when easy-to-use browsers first came into being,” Mr. Gavin says. “This was indeed a thrilling time in which individuals from all walks of life rushed to create Web sites. They experienced the unprecedented power of instantly communicating their ideas to a global audience without censorship or interference.

“The History Place was born in this spirit and remains today somewhat of an icon to an idealistic era that itself has passed into history.”

Word from the Webwise: Combining an antiquated design, timelines, essays, slide shows and bunches of photographs, the History Place exists in cyberspace not only to give middle school and high school students an excellent source of concentrated information, but also to allow Mr. Gavin to point out examples of man’s inhumanity to man and humans rising to fight tyranny and preserve freedom.

Visitors first should read through the center column of the front page, which offers a wealth of exhibits surrounding the author’s specialties. These include a six-part chronology of the American Revolution, a photo essay on blacks in World War II, nine sections on Nazi Germany and an examination of seven genocides in the 20th century.

Additionally, a side menu of Special Features can be accessed through the front page, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at visitors through a variety of topics. Here, Mr. Gavin provides tips for students wanting to write a better history paper.

He answers frequent questions, including, “Did President Abraham Lincoln ever own slaves?” and “Who was the only U.S. congressman to vote against entering World War II?” He and his writers review movies with a bent toward historical accuracy.

He even presents personal histories of ordinary folks caught in extraordinary times, including the compelling story of Hubert Schmidt, who went from being a member of the Hitler Youth to joining the U.S. Air Force.

Ease of use: Even though the site will work with any browser version released since 1996, each exhibit is like wandering through an unorganized museum. Visitors may have a hard time finding their way back to the entrance while never knowing what they may encounter around a corner. Any type of navigation aid, other than an incomplete list of text links at the bottom of some pages, would have been appreciated.

Don’t miss: Under the Special Features area, the Something Different section lives up to its name. I especially enjoyed listening to a live performance of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by musicians identified only as “a chorus and band of the U.S. armed forces” and viewing an original version of a frightening 1950 “Protection From the Atomic Bomb” pamphlet, which suggested dropping to the ground for at least a minute until the blast passed.

Family activity: Using the USA or World Tourism Guide areas, the whole clan can outline a trip together via handy links to visit a historical destination.

Cyber-sitter synopsis: I understand Mr. Gavin’s needs to fund the online project, but the appearance of an extremely annoying selection of advertising banners that slide across the screen, pop out toward the visitor, blink, jiggle and hide behind pages completely detracts from the seriousness of the exhibits and excellent resource content.

Students will find plenty of facts for a term paper, but only older history buffs truly will find a reason to go carefully through the sections.

Overall grade: B

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it’s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]washingtontimes.com).

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