Hypertext history: Presenting documents on the Web

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A new German website uses hypertext and Web technology to present an archive of first-hand accounts of the Thirty Years’ War in central Germany. If you’re interested in the future of digital archives, the site is worth a look, even if you don’t read German. It’s called MDSZ, short for Mitteldeutsche Selbstzeugnisse der Zeit des Dreißigjährigen Krieges.

One thing to notice is the behavior of the image on the front page, of an armored knight attacking fleeing peasants. If you mouse over the image, it is instantly magnified to show its detail in (presumably) actual size. Moving the mouse navigates intuitively to different parts of the picture (unlike some cumbersome image viewers on the Web, which move only in slightly overlapping blocks, or respond in unexpected ways to the mouse).

At MDSZ, mousing over an image (left) automatically zooms in on details (right). Moving the mouse glides smoothly around the enlarged image. (Example is reduced from actual size.)
At MDSZ, mousing over an image (left) automatically zooms in on details (right). Moving the mouse glides smoothly around the enlarged image. (Example is reduced from actual size.)

The archive contains four Selbstzeugnisse (“ego-documents”), first-hand accounts of violence and war-related events in Thuringia. None of these has been published before. The four manuscripts are (respectively) by Volkmar Happe, Michael Heubel, Hans Krafft, and Caspar Heinrich Marx, and all four are constantly available through links in the upper right-hand corner of every page. Continue reading “Hypertext history: Presenting documents on the Web”