Out of the three sites, I found the 9/11 Digital Archive to be the most representative and organized. As a result, I’ve decided to focus primarily on identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the 9/11 Archive. I then decided to compare some of these pros and cons with elements from the Hurricane Katrina and Occupy Archives.

Here we go…

What are they all about?

The September 11 Digital Archive is a collection of over 150,000 digitized items intended to preserve and present the history of 9/11.

The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank is dedicated to collecting and preserving items concerning hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Occupy Archive collects primary source documents on the various Occupy Movements that occurred during 2011.

What do they offer?

The 9/11 Digital Archive is an extensive collection of emails, personal stories and photos that were produced on, or relate to, the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

In addition to personal stories, federal and municipal government documents have been included. These documents consist of reports from the National Guard, the New York City Fire Department, and emails from the Department of Justice.

An FAQ section has also been included on the site. It contains links to a timeline, relevant newspapers articles, and supplementary information on victims, first responders, and the reconstruction of New York City and Ground Zero.

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The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank contains 25,000 items ranging from first-hand accounts, on-scene images, blog postings, and podcasts about hurricane Katrina and Rita.

The most compelling collection on the site is a compilation of artwork from children recollecting their experience of Katrina and Rita.

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The Occupy Archive has collected photos, documents, oral histories and videos about the 2011 occupy movements that erupted all over the world.

Are they valuable and representative?

Stories and memories of those who were immediately affected by 9/11 have been meticulously chronicled and collected. However, the voices of others, including the responses from around the world, have not always been preserved to the same extent. By allowing users to browse through emails and flyers from the streets of New York, the 9/11 Archive provides valuable insight into how the attacks impacted everyday Americans.

Another useful part of the archive was that all of the items were categorized into distinct collections. This made browsing through the database much easier.

Furthermore, the inclusion of government documents provided an administrative and operational perspective on the event, rather than a personal perspective. The collection of the New York City Fire Department Incident Action Plans illustrates how the city of New York responded to, and documented the crisis. These plans are incredibly informative and make the site more comprehensive.

Lastly, from a personal perspective, I found some of the collections absolutely remarkable. The email collection from everyday Americans was fascinating to read, and the Michael Ragsdale Flyer Collection is an exhibit of remarkable proportions in regards to archiving the societal response to the attacks over a one-year period.

With that said, the site is not without its shortcomings.

Although the site is not meant to assist the victims of 9/11, or those mentally traumatized by the events, I nonetheless wish the archive had included links to organizations dedicated to providing these services.

Another noticeable feature that detracts from the site’s value is the archaic layout. The site is predominantly presented in a textual format, rather than through organized and sleek menus that include images or videos. Because of this, although the information is compelling, the way users access it is not.

Furthermore, although the site reveals the response of everyday Americans to the attacks, the responses from around the world to 9/11 are marginalized.

In comparison to The 9/11 Digital Archive, I found The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank and the Occupy Archive significantly less valuable.

Firstly, the Hurricane and Occupy Archives were devoid of an administrative perspective. Unlike the 9/11 Archive, both did not have a collection of sensitive government documents detailing the national or provincial/state plan of action.

In addition, the voice of unaffected, yet still connected Americans, was missing in both the Hurricane and Occupy Archives. Furthermore, like the 9/11 Archive, the international “bystander” response was also absent.

Similarly, the Occupy Archive, although it claimed to collect items from all Occupy Movements from around the world, did not do so in a broad capacity. Although they had Flickr images from countless protests, there were few relevant textual items supplementing the photos. This was most apparent in their collection of Occupy Toronto.

Lastly, I found both the Hurricane and Occupy Archives to be extremely disorganized. Indeed, both relied predominantly on photographs, which were usually devoid of a description, or, in some cases, the descriptions provided were too text heavy. As a result, collections were not succinctly set into context, which made disseminating the information difficult.

The Final Word…

At the end of the day, all three sites provide users with an unprecedented amount of data on three historic events. However, the 9/11 Archive was noticeably more polished, organized and representative. My advice to both the Hurricane and Occupy Archives would be to take a page from the 9/11 Archive: organize collections and add features that will bolster your site’s comprehensiveness like a timeline of events, an FAQ, or Links section.

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