If you’ve ever been involved in researching or interpreting an historic site, you’ve no doubt assembled a timeline to keep track of events and understand connections between the site, region, and nation. After you assemble a lot of data, managing those relationships becomes incredibly complex and you’re continually updating charts and reshuffling cards. Help may be on the way through Aeon Timeline by Scribblecode, a timeline tool for fiction writers which can be easily adapted for historical research and interpretation. It’s currently only available for the Mac for $40, but next year they will introduce a version for PC.
Like any timeline, you can plot dates of events, put them into categories (e.g., local or national), and display them neatly and chronologically. Even better, it can zoom in or out so you can examine the details or see the big picture. That’s nice, and you might be able to figure out how to manipulate a document, spreadsheet, or database to do this for you. But Aeon Timeline goes further by allowing you to tag events and add notes to provide depth, and you can add layers for people or places to visually keep track of what happens to whom or where. If you’re exploring narrative non-fiction or using storytelling techniques in historical interpretation, it will help you construct arcs and identify turning points. Watching the introductory video can explain the features better than I can, but if you’re creating a tour, exhibit, or article, this might help you organize ideas much better than the traditional outline or stack of cards. You can download a 20-day demo version for free but if you want to buy it, Aeon Timeline is available for a 20 percent discount until June 14 at http://www.scribblecode.com/summerfest.html.
This should be a web browser based application too to allow mobile device access.
I agree, and I suspect that within a few years, everything we do will be web-based applications that work across multiple platforms. It seems we want to do our work on any device at any time, and software developers are scrambling to make that happen. My fear is that museums and historic sites will also be slowly be left behind because many are unable to adopt high-speed internet and multiple devices, don’t have the technical knowledge to manage and maintain these “digital worlds,” and unwilling to experiment with and learn from new applications. Although the museum field often promotes Facebook and blogs, the far bigger concern is that many museums are using a six-year old PC running Windows XP and connecting to the Internet using dial-up. With new apps getting ever larger and moving to the Cloud (e.g., Photoshop, Office), these museums won’t be able to use them at all.