How the Virtual Library, HistoryofInformation, Could be a Model for the Curated Presentation of Small Libraries of Almost Any Kind

During the twenty plus years in which I have been collecting, writing, and developing HistoryofInformation I often wondered what the project was becoming. As I wrote in my essay Presenting a Different Style of Timelinesthe project began as an effort to compare the current transition from primarily print to primarily digital information with the transition that occurred in the mid-15th century from manuscript copying to print, and from there,—driven by passion more than a plan— it gradually morphed in various directions until, with the collaboration of web developer Vann Miller, in February 2021 it is finally achieving most of what I would like to accomplish in its functionality and performance, though, of course, I will never be fully satisfied with its content.

In reflecting upon the project as it now stands, and asking myself how I should characterize this project, it occurred to me fairly recently that HistoryofInformation may be viewed an extensively curated virtual library on a variety of interrelated topics presented in a very flexible way. The history of information involves such a broad range of subjects that it was always my intention to present the data in ways that the user could customize to their own purposes or points of view. What I brought to the project was a desire to collect and explore the histories of these topics, and to present them from my perspective as it has evolved during the duration of this project. Throughout my experience of writing, collecting, and presenting this data I have appreciated the flexibility that the database and timeline formats have allowed, both in the writing and presentation, since in view of the panoramic scope of this project, I could not have produced it any other way.

In creating HistoryofInformation I have visited and sometimes linked to thousands of websites around the world, including many digital libraries. Most digital libraries are far too enormous, with hundreds of thousands or millions of titles, to be curated at the level presented in HistoryofInformation. However, now that Historyof Information has reached the current stage of development, I believe that the HistoryofInformation model would be applicable to a wide variety of institutional special collections of a manageable size, or privately collected libraries that desire a flexible curated public web presentation. With that in mind I would be available for consultation concerning conception and methodology should anyone wish to consider undertaking such a project.

Jeremy M. Norman
February 22, 2021