Monday, February 19, 2007

Dead presidents

When I was a child, President's Day did not exist. Instead we celebrated Abraham Lincoln's birthday on Feb. 12 and George Washington's birthday on Feb. 22. We got two days off from school! Then the celebrations were combined into one day (the third Monday in February) and now school children in the U.S. only get on vacation day.

In the spirit of Washington and Lincoln, here are two web sites to explore that contain digitized materials.

George Washington: A National Treasure -- This site includes an interactive portrait for people to explore. What do the symbols in the Gilbert Stuart portrait mean? The site also includes audio (voiced by Roger Mudd) as well as a timeline of Washington's life and other information. The last sentence in the timeline is "In his will, he frees his slaves, numbering about 300, upon Martha’s death." Which is a nice segue to...

Civil War@Smithsonian -- "The initial 250 objects that comprise this site were selected from thousands of artifacts by Smithsonian curators at six organizations and include uniforms, equipment, weapons, and paintings and photographs of some of the war's most celebrated personalities." I kept looking for a place where I could search or select from a group of items those that I wanted to see. That is not the way this site is built. However, you can select a category, then page through to see and read about individual items. I appreciate that they tell you who created each item, its size & composition, who donated it, and where it resides. Those "small" details are important -- especially where each item resides, since these materials come from different Smithsonian collections.

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