JWA's Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, Mar 2009


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In 2009, the Jewish Women's Archive got permission to put the Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, online. Launched on Mar 1, 2009, in time for Women's History Month, the Encyclopedia was an attempt to make the 2000 articles accessible and to promote engagement, re-mixing, and re-use.

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  • In 2008-2009, JWA had the opportunity to put a huge Encyclopedia online. The Encyclopedia doubled the number of women profiled on JWA’s website, and offered a rare opportunity to rethink how we were presenting biography online. The biographies came with relatively rich metadata. This would be our first major project using Drupal, and open-source CMS. (The largest previous project had used custom Java Server Pages (JSP). The following presentation walks through what we imagined and made happen then. Five years later, the website continues to evolve, and our sense of what makes an engaging online Encyclopedia has also evolved—partly as a result of what we learned in this project.Let’s start at the beginning….
  • The two-volume, “Jewish Women in America” was a ground-breaking reference work, bringing the efforts and contributions of hundreds of American Jewish women to light, often for the first time.
  • A decade later, the original work had been expanded to cover Jewish women throughout the world and throughout history. The result was too big for paper.
  • Two thousdand articles. Meta data included category, time, and location.
  • Knowing that we would have the right to put the Encyclopedia online as of Mar 1, 2009, we began planning in November 2008. Our goal: Go live in time for Women’s History Month.
  • A “weekend” project to prove the concept (mashing Google Maps and Jewish Women’s History) in time for Women’s History Month (March).
  • And I’ll end with my favorite “on the map” entry, so far. What’s missing? Information about the significant Jewish women in =your= town or neighborhood.
  • JWA's Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, Mar 2009

    1. 1. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF JEWISH WOMEN Re-imagining the Encyclopedia in the Age of the Internet Ari Davidow Consultant/Strategist ari@ivritype.com
    2. 2. IN 1997 A revolutionary, 2-volume book
    3. 3. IN 2007 A revolutionary, CD-ROM
    4. 4. REFERENCE RICHES! From Sarah Aaronsohn to Krystyna Zywulska, this electronic encyclopedia contains 1,690 biographical entries, 300 topic essays, and 1,400 photographs and illustrations. Together they capture the histories and achievements of Jewish women from biblical times to the present day and shed light on their changing roles worldwide. Accessible to lay readers and scholars alike, this exceptional work contains such valuable features as: • Full-text search of all articles and captions, plus category, century, and country searches • Extensive cross-references • Glossary with pop-up definition links throughout With contributions from over 1,000 world-famous historians and scholars, this is an unparalleled reference. Academic Sponsors: The Institute of Jewish Studies and the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
    6. 6. What can you do online that is as engrossing as reading several encyclopedia volumes, spread out on the floor?
    7. 7. First, expose the metadata. If we use tag clouds, people can see “how much”
    8. 8. Expose the metadata whenever you list an article. Now you have a Table of Contents that puts each entry in perspective
    10. 10. We wanted to ensure that each element could be shared, remixed, used on its own
    11. 11. … and that readers could continue to add to the story.
    12. 12. … and they do.
    13. 13. ACCLAIM & CONSEQUENCES (Project completed 2 weeks early.) Launched on March 1, 2009, for Women’s History Month Articles in all major Jewish media, blog posts, and more Doubling of web traffic to jwa.org, where the Encyclopedia today constitutes the major source of web traffic. New data formats (ways to enable discovery, re-mix, sharing down to the individual element) and use of CMS (Drupal) helped lead project to bring JWA exhibits into one common internal structure (still being completed) New tools for gathering stories on jwa.org
    14. 14. NEXT STEPS
    15. 15. Tweeting the Encyclopedia of Jewish Women
The Forward's Sisterhood blog, May 9, 2011.
"Although they were asked to commit to tweeting just one article a week, many of the partners have immediately embraced the project and have been tweeting multiple articles a day. Three days into the effort, 58 articles had already been tweeted — and retweeted many times over.” "Abusch-Magder, who suggested the project idea to JWA, sees this as an experiment in harnessing the power of social media to let people transmit and translate historical information in their own way and to their own networks. 'Scholars are not going to make history popular, but something like this will,' the rabbi said."
    16. 16. To see the Encyclopedia in person: http://jwa.org/encyclopedia