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Authors : Jennifer Utter, Ann Wynne
Title: Archives and Museums: Idaho
Publication info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
April 2001

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Source: Archives and Museums: Idaho
Jennifer Utter, Ann Wynne

vol. 4, no. 1, April 2001
Article Type: Site Review

Archives and Museums

Jennifer Utter and Ann Wynne


Through the standards set forth in Project Épée, the Idaho State Historical Society site is well on the way to becoming an exemplary site. The Historical Society site was entirely reviewed because the state archives page is just a small part of this great wealth of information. There is no direct statement of purpose or how the material is assembled and edited as suggested by the Épée standards but the site design partly compensates by placing recent news on the index page. This feature enables visitors to quickly locate information. The index page also contains contact information for genealogical reference questions and general web site questions. The graphics contained within the site are quick loading and pertinent. They do not hinder the performance of the site.

Another Épée guideline states that exemplary sites must be easy to navigate in order to save the user the necessity of exploring the entire site first to fully understand the information architecture. The Idaho site's navigation scheme gets a minus grade because of a slight problem. The navigation bar contains links to contact information, the calendar, the State of Idaho Home Page, the Site Index, and a link to a categorized list of Idaho history links. The index page navigation bar contains a link to the Site Index, a page that should prove to be a tremendous help to users. Like a true site index, the page contains an alphabetical list of all the topics contained in the site. Unfortunately, the Site Index link disappears after the user leaves the main page. The Site Index should appear on all subsequent pages to facilitate navigation.

Aside from the lack of a link to the Site Index after leaving the homepage, the remainder is done well. Every subsequent page contains the same navigation bar, minus the site index link, and is well organized. Many of the pages also contain links to information pertinent to that part of the site.

Two other important Épée guidelines require that a site list both an author and when the author last updated the page. The Idaho State Historical Society site does list an e-mail link for site questions but there is no date listed on the homepage. In January and February, the homepage and the Calendar of Events pages were not updated and contained old information. This problem has apparently been resolved as the homepage and the Calendar of Events page are now current. A date as to when the pages were last updated remains unlisted.

Once visitors find a way to navigate the site, there is a wealth of information. Educators and students may be surprised to find such a varied source of information concerning Idaho. Informative pages include links to lists of Idaho cemeteries, Idaho newspapers, and college and high school yearbooks. A newly added feature is a comprehensive list of "completed" (fully processed) oral history interviews from the Idaho Oral History Center. These interviews are available through Interlibrary Loan. Users can also peruse the online flash slideshow of scenes representing Idaho life from the collection of the professional photographer R. Harold Sigler.

If visitors cannot find what they need through the site, users can submit a query to the Library and Archives staff. Turnaround time is two to four weeks, which is standard, for a query to be answered. The archives also participates in Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and will send select parts of its collection to public, academic, and historical agency libraries that participate in an Interlibrary Loan program as well. A nominal fee is charged for out-of-state ILL requests. The Library and Archives catalog will soon be available through OCLC. Currently, the collections are cataloged on WLN LaserCat. This database is available to many Pacific Northwest libraries.

With the improvement to the navigation bar and the continuation of regularly updating site information, the Idaho State Historical Society site is well on the way to becoming an exemplary site. The few broken links found were fixed within hours of notifying the Webmaster. The site is well designed: pictures do not hinder the site and the site loads quickly. The downfall to the design is the navigation; it might prove to be difficult is the user does not fully engage the use of the Site Index. Whether researching family history or studying some aspect of Idaho history, educators, researchers, and the casual visitor will find this site informative and useful.