Internet Scout Report -- Best of 2008-2009

The Scout Report
July 2nd, 2009 Best of 2008-2009

The Internet Scout staff takes an incredible amount of pride in providing pointers to some of the best online resources to our readers in our weekly Scout Report. Although we feel all of the resources we cover are valuable, inevitably there are some that stand out from the pack. In this year's 'Best of' issue we will share some of our favorite sites from the past academic year with our readers. The process of choosing which sites to include was not easy, as the interests of our staff vary as much as those of our readers. Whether it is the design of the site, the fascinating subject area and content, the site's ease of use, or its usability in the classroom, Scout staffers all have different rationale for preferring one online resource over another. Nevertheless, we were able to produce a top ten list that pleased everyone on the staff and we hope our readers as well.

The list is not intended to be inclusive of all our favorites, or every great resource, but it is meant to remind our readers of some of the outstanding resources the Scout Report has covered over the past academic year. So we hope you enjoy this list, and maybe take a few minutes to revisit some of our favorite sites from 2008-2009. As always, we look forward to providing you with a new batch of fantastic resources throughout the upcoming year.

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Best of 2008-2009

Smithsonian's History Explorer
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, along with the Verizon Foundation, has developed this website which offers standards-based online resources for teaching and learning American history. We loved this lively looking red, white, and blue themed website that provides the resources of the museum in various online forms including artifacts, primary sources, interactives/media, lessons/activities, worksheets, and more. Finding the resources you need is easy: just use the box provided on the front page and select grade level, resource type, and historical era. If visitors are looking for materials on a specific subject they can also enter keywords to narrow the results. The site also offers a customizable monthly newsletter to keep users informed about activities that suit their needs and interests.

Academic Earth
The entire Scout staff fell in love with this site the instant we found it. Academic Earth provides videos of lectures by top scholars in subjects that range from Astronomy to Entrepreneurship to Religion, and come from universities as celebrated as MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, and Stanford. Visitors must register to view the lectures, but registration is free. There are over 1500 video lectures available, with more being added everyday. Visitors can even keep a playlist or download their favorite lectures. The Scout staff has enjoyed making and sharing their playlists and we hope that you do as well.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers
We love this site from the Library of Congress, which allows visitors to search and view newspaper pages from 1880-1910 and find information about American newspapers published since 1690. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). The site is fun, interesting, well designed, and regularly maintained. In fact, since our April 24, 2009 mention of the site they have added some new features. Most of the new features are behind-the-scenes, but users will notice some differences including "search results as thumbnail images, increased performance, and persistent (i.e., "bookmarkable") URLs in use throughout the site." In addition, they have improved the site to provide open access through standard protocols.

National Science Foundation: Discoveries
Every day, research sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) turns up a new discovery. NSF created this website to serve as a clearinghouse of information about the work they sponsor. The Discoveries site can be searched in its entirety, or visitors can just peruse the chronological list that is front and center on the homepage. NSF's public investment in science, engineering, education, and technology is prolific but most are unaware of the results. Here, visitors can learn about NSF projects that concern the "Internet, microbursts, Web browsers, extrasolar planets, and more... a panopoly of discoveries and innovations that began with NSF support." The Scout staff enjoys this site so much that most of us have subscribed to its RSS feed as well.

The Mannahatta Project
While only one of our staffers is from New York, we all loved this site. It is fascinating to think about any landscape before humans made their mark. The folks at the Wildlife Conservation Society are interested in this as well, and have worked to find out what Manhattan (or Mannahatta as it was called by local Indians) was like in 1609. Over the past decade they have been involved in uncovering and investigating the original ecology of Manhattan, and they have found a natural landscape of hills, valleys, forests, fields, salt marshes, beaches, and streams. Should any of us or our readers head to the Big Apple, the "News" page will help to find out about upcoming Mannahatta walking tours, talks, and exhibitions.

The Great Issues Forum [iTunes, Real Player]
The Scout Report was delighted to profile the Great Issues Forum website this past year, and it's one that both new and established Report subscribers will want to keep tabs on in the future. So far, the folks at the Forum have explored the theme of "Power" by inviting a wide rage of guest speakers (including Naomi Klein and Nicholas Kristof) to engage in meaningful conversation on this subject. Fortunately for everyone, these conversations have been archived on the website. In the "Seminars" area, visitors can drop in to look at recent weblog entries that have been the focus of the online and in situ seminar sponsored by the Forum and the City University of New York. There's a good deal of chaff out there, and it's nice to know that the Great Issues Forum website has plenty of hearty wheat for those looking to engage in a dialogue with other curious souls.

Philadelphia Architects and Buildings
Once upon a time there truly was a "Sound of Philadelphia", though the architecture of the city of Brotherly Love defies any simple categorization. One of our favorite sites from this past year was the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings website, which lets curious parties peer into over 250,000 projects and buildings from the city's architectural past, present, and future. The site was created by bringing together archival materials from the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Historical Commission, and several other participating institutions. Every major American city should be so lucky to have such a tremendous resource dedicated to their built environment, and this website is a model of how such a database should be created. If you're looking for a few search terms to get you started, why not type in "City Hall" or "Frank Furness"?

Reclaiming the Everglades: South Florida's Natural History, 1884-1934
Working with a grant from the Library of Congress, this digital library project brings together images, maps, and essays that relate the multifaceted environmental history of south Florida. The Scout staff considers this site a fabulous resource on everything from urban development to the role of women in the modern conservation movement. The timeline is really one of the highlights here, and visitors can traipse through the area's Native American history, the drainage proposals for the Everglades, and more than a couple of Florida's land booms and busts. Visitors looking for a bit more background on the whole project should click on over to the "Guide to Collections".

LabCAST: The MIT Media Lab Video Podcast
The Scout Report recognized the fine work of the MIT Media Lab's Video Podcast website this past year, and the Lab was also awarded a prestigious Webby Award recently. Scout Report readers and anyone else with a penchant for technology and related matters will want to tune in to one of their almost forty podcasts. Visitors can sign up to receive new podcasts, and they'll want to do so after taking a look at just one initial offering. Some of the more notable recent additions include "Robots to the Rescue", "Synthetic Neurobiology", and "Selectricity", which offers some suggestions on "voting machinery for the masses."

Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice
Regular readers of the Report may have already heard the buzz surrounding this exhibit of Old Masters at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), and it's one of the best online art museum exhibits we've come across. Designed as a showcase for the remarkable talents of Titian, Tintoretto, and Veronese, this complementary online exhibit takes visitors within their friendly artistic rivalry via a wide selection of their works, complete with thoughtful narration from curator Frederick Ilchman. In the "Conservation Story" section, visitors will get a detailed and interactive look into the restoration of a large nativity scene by Tintoretto. The site just might inspire a visit out to Boston, which is a town that we've heard has a few other good museums as well.

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Editor Max Grinnell [KMG]
Managing Editor Chanda Halderman [CMH]
Co-Director Edward Almasy [EA]
Co-Director Rachael Bower [REB]
Metadata Specialist Andrea Coffin [AC]
Internet Cataloger Brian Schneider [BS]
Internet Cataloger William Straub [WS]
Web Developer Tim Baumgard [TB]
Web Developer Chris Beley [CB]
Web Developer Corey Halpin [CH]
Technical Specialist Rusty Lalkaka [RL]
Admin. Assistant Emma Schneider [ES]
Contributor Debra Shapiro [DS]

For information on additional contributors, see the Internet Scout staff page:

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July 2nd, 2009 Best of 2008-2009