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Website Analysis

Apparently it is very difficult to create sports history websites without them being directly correlated with a physical exhibit in a museum somewhere, so here are a few pretty awesome sites I found that are just that.  The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a museum setting in Canton, Ohio, but their website offers a unique experience and a look into the past and the history of each player inducted and how he impacted the game when he played and what the game was like then.  I also love Random History, which has a few thousand words on a lot of different popular culture histories, such as specific sports like baseball and soccer, cultural phenomenon like same-sex marriage, and even holidays like Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day.  The best sports history website I found is about The Mesoamerican Ballgame, played centuries ago and considered the earliest team sport in history.  This site is incredibly interactive and fun to use, yet still part of a traveling museum exhibit that visited Charlotte, NC; Newark, NJ; and New Orleans, LA.

The MesoAmerican Ballgame, www.ballgame.org, is the best website I found that is informative, interactive and great for kids and adults.  There are even a few games for kids to play that ask them questions about the history of the sport and the cultures while they play the ballgame.    From the very beginning the spectator gets to choose what to learn about from the four major categories of the website; “explore world,” “explore game,” experience game,” and “experience exhibit.”  Each button takes you to a different page about a different aspect of the game and the cultures who played it and lived during the time it was being played.

The pages are not terribly detailed, but they are very informative for those just beginning to learn about this game.  The more specific pages like the ones about the actual ball or how the game was played have more detailed information.

The biggest concern I have about building a website like this is that is done almost entirely in Flash which I feel is a bit advanced for me in this stage of my thesis, and I don’t know that I would be comfortable enough with it to design an entire site with it.  Also, I am hopefully making a site for an older audience and should not focus so much on making it accessible to a young demographic with the games and things, and it does not have to be too interactive.  Although, this site has taught me that I can make my site more interactive to make it more entertaining.  They had input from over a dozen PhDs from the US and Central and South America, and the support of over 20 museums that allowed site developers access to objects and permission to digitally publish objects.  Overall, I think this website is a smashing success, backed by many awards for web design and history alike, and I hope to have similar success with my website.

So the thing that makes the next website so great is that the history it represents goes right up to the present day because the game is still being played.  The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s website, www.profootballhof.com, is awesome because it is sectioned off into a lot of different types of history including the history of each player inducted, histories of each team in the league, both present and defunct, history of the game itself, and even an archive of their most prized objects and primary sources.  The Pro Football HOF website also has specific sections devoted black history and how black players changed the culture of the game.  The archives are separated into physical pieces, like the playbook of Johnny Unitas, and news articles.

It also has online exhibits much like you would find in the actual museum except they are interactive, so that you can freely move between pieces and descriptions without regard for the direction that is normally set in a traditional museum.  The part I like best about this site is the online, searchable archive of news and artifacts that all include descriptions, plus numerous articles or pieces written about certain aspects of the history of the game such as African American involvement, or changes in the culture of the players, owners, and spectators.

The third site I found that I really enjoy reading and using is called Random History.  This site is great because they are actually commissioned to write every article they write and the facts they find, by individuals, groups, historic societies, etc.  They have articles about nearly every facet of pop culture from individual sports like baseball and softball to same-sex marriage, eating disorders, and broader subjects like human rights and the American Civil Rights Movement.

The actual history on the site is pretty good too, because trained historians do it.  They are like DJs in the club taking requests, instead of playing the list they have been working on.  The downside of this site and those like it is that they are essentially history for hire and the writing sometimes lacks the personal character of its author because it is often something that may not really interest the person researching and writing.

Overall, these three websites bring a lot of different things to the table that are both good and bad.  Some of the things that I really like are the digital archives of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the interactivity of the ballgame site, and the ease of use and shear amount of information in the Random History site.  If I could pick one site to really model mine after it would be the Pro Football HOF site because of its huge archives and easy navigation, but I hope to keep it much less cluttered than their website.

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