Chicago Historical Society Provides Unprecedented
Online Access to Historical Materials - "The Dramas of Haymarket" and "Wet with Blood"
Chicago Historical Society Provides Unprecedented Online Access to Historical Materials
Two new sites - "The Dramas of Haymarket" and "Wet with Blood" - allow visitors to experience two pivotal events in national history via multi-media technology
The chaos, violence and passion that rocked the nation during two of its most pivotal political events can be relived as never before through two new Web sites launched by the Chicago Historical Society.
Dramatic narratives, video interviews, music and 360-degree camera angles are some of the multi-media features that allow visitors to virtually experience "The Dramas of Haymarket" (premiering May 4) and "Wet With Blood" (launched April 2000). The Dramas of Haymarket (http://www.chicagohistory.org) takes one inside a crucial event that tore Chicago apart and ignited a response worldwide that continues to this day. Wet with Blood (http://www.chicagohistory.org)
merges forensic science and historical analysis to investigate whether hundreds of artifacts attributed to Abraham Lincoln's assassination are real - one of the most comprehensive efforts of its kind.
The web sites' unprecedented merging of key historical artifacts, documents and multi-media technology allows the Chicago Historical Society to share its collections to the world via the Internet. Northwestern's scholarly expertise and technical sophistication in media and web-based applications have helped make this sharing possible.
As Douglas Greenberg, president of the Chicago Historical Society, notes, "There are tens of thousands of Web sites, but only a handful with the kind of content, depth, texture and design sophistication of these two new sites."
Carl Smith, Ph.D., the Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English and American Studies and Professor of History at Northwestern and the curator for The Dramas of Haymarket, concurs. "These web sites have many of the features of a major museum exhibition and a book, though they contain far more material than either could practically hold and are more readily available throughout the world at any time," he says.
About The Dramas of Haymarket
Few events in Chicago's history can rival the impact of the Haymarket Affair - the May 4, 1886 bombing at Haymarket Square that tore Chicago apart and spawned a worldwide labor movement. The Dramas of Haymarket Web site provides a context for looking at this pivotal event -- from the labor unrest born of harsh working conditions to the bombing and trial that threw into sharp relief the deepening division between American industrial workers of the late 19th century and the industrial capitalists who employed them.
The Haymarket Affair takes place in a time of great social tension and unrest in an area near what is now the intersection of Randolph and Des Plaines Streets. The Affair began on May 3, 1886, when Chicago Police fired into a crowd of striking workers at McCormick Reaper Works, killing and wounding several men. The following evening anarchist and socialist labor leaders organized a peaceful protest near Chicago's Haymarket Square. Just as the meeting was breaking up, the police marched on the meeting and attempted to disperse the crowd. In the
midst of the confusion, a bomb was thrown into the ranks of the police. One officer was killed, and others were injured. In the ensuing riot, the police - and perhaps others - fired. In all, eight police officers died from their wounds.
This act of an unknown bomber created a national sensation. Public opinion was galvanized against the radical left. Mass hysteria fueled by media led to eight prominent anarchists being arrested and charged with conspiracy to murder. A jury sentenced all but one to hang; the other to a 15-year prison sentence. Ultimately, four were hanged, three were pardoned and one committed suicide in his jail cell.
Visitors to the Haymarket site will learn about this remarkable episode in American social history - from the rally and bombing to the arrests, trial, executions and related events of 1886-1887. The site provides a wealth of images and information, and a number of special features, including labor songs and "virtual" tours of key sites. Users also can view video interviews
with Studs Terkel, who recalls the heritage of Haymarket; Les Orear, head of the Illinois Labor History Society, which oversees the memorial to the anarchists in Waldheim Cemetery; and interviews with descendants of one of the convicted men and with one of the policemen severely injured in the riot.
The Dramas of Haymarket is an interpretive narrative of materials from the Haymarket Affair Digital Collection, a vast holding of Haymarket artifacts and documents held by the Chicago Historical Society. The digitization and presentation of the materials in the Haymarket Affair Digital Collection was supported by an award from the Library of Congress/American National
Digital Library Collection. Materials in the collection will be available through CHS' website and through the Library of Congress' American Memory initiative (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/award/index.html) in early fall 2000.
About Wet with Blood
One of the most powerful artifacts in the Chicago Historical Society's collection is a cloak attributed to Mary Todd Lincoln that was allegedly "wet with blood" on the night Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. An investigation team of historians and scientists is examining the authenticity of the cloak and other Lincoln assassination relics.
Visitors to the newly launched Internet exhibition "Wet with Blood: The Investigation of Mary Todd Lincoln's Cloak" can investigate the assassination as well as participate in the ongoing research and complexities of DNA analysis. The site pairs more than 400 artifacts and images from the Chicago Historical Society's collection with multimedia features made possible by Northwestern University's Academic Technologies. Visitors can peruse Civil War diaries and
newspapers while listening to period music, take a virtual reality tour of the Historical Society's conservation laboratory, examine the artifacts under a microscope, and watch video clips of the scientists developing tests to analyze blood on the cloak.
According to CHS textile conservator Nancy Buenger, site developer and designer, one of the most exciting aspects of the investigation is applying novel forensic and micro-analytical tools to historical research. The partnership between historians and scientists involved in the investigation include Dr. Robert Gaensslen, Director of Forensic Science at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and Dr. David Stoney, Director of McCrone Research Institute.
Smadar Kedar, Ph.D., who is leading Northwestern's web development team, believes this virtual exhibit gives the general public an unusual opportunity to participate in a compelling search for historical and scientific authentication: The visitor can take a virtual reality tour of the lab where the artifacts reside, listen to music of the period, watch videos of scientists performing
the investigation, free of the physical museum space limits or preservation concerns.
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