The H-Net Website:
Designing OnLine Resources for Scholars and Teachers

Mark Lawrence Kornbluh, Chair, H-Net Executive Committee
Michigan State University

H-Net's efforts on the world wide web are animated by the same goals that drive its discussion lists: a commitment to pioneer the use of new communication technology to aid both scholarly research and teaching. As always, H-Net is eager to work with others engaged in these efforts. The H-Net webserver already offers a home in cyberspace to over a dozen scholarly societies, whose webpages are linked together and integrated into common databases so as to maximize their usefulness.

There are two key ingredients in the development of the H-Net site. First and foremost, H-Net's scholar editors determine the content of H-Net's webpages. The only material on the site is material that they deem valuable for teaching or research. As anyone who has explored the world wide web knows, so much of what currently exists on the web is shallow and devoid of substance. One can easily waste a day away following link after link to shallow websites. Building on the strength of its discussion lists, H-Net is committed to creating webpages of substance filled with full text book and software reviews, syllabi collections, discussions of scholarly and pedagogical issues, a comprehensive database of academic events, updated job listings, and more.

Second, H-Net's technical staff at Michigan State works to ensure that the site is as usable as possible. While new software development has made tagging material for the web increasingly easy for individuals, building a large scholarly site that is fast and useful is far more complicated. Much effort goes into developing searching and index tools to make the material on the site truly accessible. Continual upgrading of hardware and storage capacity and checking and rechecking of linkages and search engines are necessary if scholars are to find the webpages a useful resource. Over the coming months, H-Net plans to mirror its webpages in Europe, Asia, and Africa so as to make them more useful for scholars outside of the United States.

A Tour of the H-Net Website

The H-Net Website is purposely designed to provide many entryways in. At the top of the H-Net homepage is a welcome that provides information about H-Net and its operations. Right below this is the entry point to home pages for H-Net's various discussion groups and affiliated organizations. Every H-Net list, network, and affiliated organization has its own pages from which it is convenient to access subject-area specific resources (reviews, syllabi, discussions.) H-Net list homepages are controlled by list editors many of whom solicit contributions from their subscribers. Most H-Net lists make the full text logs of their list discussions available through a web interface. Many store syllabi and bibliographic collections and/or conference reports. Each has its own style and flavor reflecting the editors who are developing it.

H-Net book and software reviews can be accessed from list homepages and from a central link off the main page. The full text of all reviews published by H-Net are available. At the click of a button, these can be sorted by author, title, or reviewer. In the near future, they will also be sortable by date published and Library of Congress keyword description. H-Net owns the copyright of all reviews that it publishes and freely grants the right for non-profit educational use. As with all material on the web, H-Net's reviews can be readily printed out, downloaded and stored, or forwarded on by e-mail.

Off the H-Net home page, there is a connection to H-Net's Teaching Project. Over the coming year, one of the main goals for H-Net efforts on the web is to develop this central interface to teaching resources for History and related areas at all levels. Using database programming, the teaching project will provide a readily retrievable collection of syllabi, bibliographies, lesson plans, and test questions, as well as access to online texts, images, and sound. Our hope is to build an interface which will integrate the vast array of teaching material that is being developed on the H-Net server with that being developed by libraries, archives, and scholars elsewhere. As with the book reviews, this material will be accessible through the subject-area home pages or off the centralized teaching project homemade.

The H-Net webpages also provide a central clearinghouse for information about academic events. The H-Net Events database provides information about conferences, seminars, grants, fellowships, prizes, and awards. Likewise, the H-Net web also provides access to H-Net's weekly job guide which lists new positions in History and related disciplines, and to the weekly reports of the National Coordinating Committee for the Humanities. Finally, the H-Net Links page provides an annotated listing of other web resources of particular value to scholars and teachers.

Perhaps the most valuable tool on the H-Net Website is the H-Net search engine which indexes the entire Website and allows for a wide range of customized full-text searching. One can search for any combination of words and can search narrowly, for instance only one list, or just the book reviews, or more broadly.

Open Access and Fair Use

As anyone who uses the world wide web knows, there is a huge battle brewing over accessibility. As commercialism of the Internet proceeds apace, many online resources are being restricted to those who pay for access. H-Net, in contrast, is committed to open access to its materials. With financial support from the National Endowment for the Humanities to get us started and continuing support from a land grant university, Michigan State, H-Net is developing online resources that will be freely available for educational purposes. The H-Net webpages are being used by scholars and teachers worldwide, at big institutions and small, regardless of financial resources. In developing web-based resources and tools, H-Net will continue to work in cooperation with libraries, universities, scholarly societies, and individuals who share this commitment to using the Internet to broaden access to scholarship.

Mark Lawrence Kornbluh is in the Department of History at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824.

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