Highlights from the 10 billion+ collection of documents at the National Archives are launch points for unique, personalized journeys of discovery through the history of the United States.
Putting visual records front and center—images of documents, photographs, and popular media—the Digital Vaults illustrates how records can come together in unexpected ways to tell the nation’s story. Through a unique record-browsing interface inspired by a Fibonacci spiral, visitors launch their explorations by shuffling records and selecting a starting point. A tag palette revealing the metadata attached to each record allows visitors to navigate through the Digital Vaults using keyword connections that describe relationships between the content of records. The closer records are to the record at the center of the record spiral, the more tags they share. The site offers opportunities for visitors to make their own collections, use records to create posters and movies, and take challenges that use clues to guide visitors along pathways of connected records. The interactive interface is connected to a backend server, giving the National Archives’ staff the ability to add records and update detailed record information with a content management tool.
Press & Awards“Interactive Design and Motion Graphics,” Graphic Design Solutions: Fifth Edition, Robin Landa, January 2013
The concept puts images at the forefront, emphasizing how records are related and how, when put together, they tell a surprising, informative, and important story.I.D., Annual Design Review, Design Distinction, Interactive, 2009HOW, Interactive Design Awards, Merit, Consumer Web Sites, 2009Choice, December 2008
Web 2.0 technology allows users to search the database both by keywords and tags. It enables visitors to customize their exhibit experience by collecting images and creating posters, movies, and games that can be shared by email.“The Insider’s Guide to the Digital Vaults,” Prologue: The Journal of the National Archives, Suzanne Isaacs, 2008
This latest exhibit at the National Archives, part of what is called the National Archives Experience, was not contained within its stone walls but in the bits and bytes of cyberspace. Unlike a typical online exhibit, the new Digital Vaults is more than the digitization of a physical display, it is an entirely new environment that allows visitors to create their own collections, games, posters, movies, and more based on the primary sources we hold.“The Digital Vaults,” Social Education, Suzanne Isaacs and Lee Ann Potter, October 2008
It combines interactive elements and thousands of primary sources from the holdings of the Archives, and invites visitors to explore not only well-known people and historic turning points but also little known players and events that provide surprising perspectives and insights.Communication Arts, Interactive Design Annual, Information Design, 2008
A wonderful exploratory interface on top of a sophisticated application. Great functionality and highly approachable.Adobe Site of the Day, August 29, 2008Favorite Web Site Awards, Site of the Day, August 3, 2008Time Magazine, 50 Best Websites, 2008
You can get lost here for hours—dusty, old documents have never looked so good.The Scout Report, Best of 2007–2008, May 22, 2008
Scout staffers fell in love with this site the instant we found it. We couldn’t help but spend valuable time shuffling records to see what we could find and then collect our favorites into our own profile. We created our own pathways and marveled at the digital access we were granted. The site is well developed and designed, easy to use, and provides a plethora of valuable memorabilia and historical documents that could easily be used in the classroom or to create a fun and interesting homework assignment. This site was a shoe-in as one of our favorites for the academic year.Webby Awards, Nominee, Cultural Institutions, May 2008Museums and the Web Conference, Honourable Mention, Best of the Web, April 2008
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