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National Archives Honors Presidential Timeline, Commends Unique Vision of Creator

The University of Texas at Austin’s "Presidential Timeline of the 20th Century" was honored on Nov. 28 with an award from the Archivist of the United States.

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The University of Texas at Austin’s "Presidential Timeline of the 20th Century" was honored on Nov. 28 with an award from the Archivist of the United States.

The award recognizes the creativity and perseverance that a multidisciplinary University of Texas at Austin team applied in creating an online resource where anyone with Internet access can go to virtually experience the lives of 20th century presidents.

"This Web-based resource makes primary and secondary source materials from all 12 of the National Archives and Records Administration’s Presidential Libraries readily and freely available to students, educators and adult learners around the world," said Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein at a special awards ceremony in College Park, Md.

"The group that created the Web site secured the necessary funding, hardware and services and offered technical expertise. Members also provided project management for this complex, multi-faceted endeavor, bringing together all of the National Archives Presidential Libraries in an unprecedented collaboration."

Weinstein lauded Dr. Betty Sue Flowers, director of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, for perceiving the value of a learning tool like the Presidential Timeline and marshaling the necessary resources. Flowers led a team that included The University of Texas at Austin’s libraries system, College of Education’s Learning Technology Center, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation and the Johnson Library to accomplish the goal.

"Dr. Flowers recognized that a visual representation of the presidents’ lives and the issues that they confronted could be a compelling learning, teaching and discovery tool for a broad range of users," said Dr. Weinstein. "The award acknowledges her vision, persistence and leadership in developing the Presidential Timeline."

The interactive, intuitive Timeline features audio and video clips, photos and digitized documents that offer an engrossing view into the daily lives of American presidents. Many of these resources previously were accessible only to a select group of serious scholars.

Experts at each of the Presidential Libraries, K-12 teachers, university faculty, archivists, education specialists and top technology experts nationwide were consulted in the creation of the Timeline, and a major goal was to develop interesting educational activities that encourage teachers to use the Timeline in class.

"The Timeline is built around key historical events in each presidency, such as the Vietnam War or Great Depression," said Dr. Paul Resta, director of the Presidential Timeline Project and the Learning Technology Center. "We’ve designed the Timeline so that users can role-play and experience the crises and decisions of presidents at some of the most crucial and harrowing moments in history.

"Visitors can listen to telephone conversations, watch footage of addresses to the nation, view photos of riots or campaign trips and read diary entries. Students respond remarkably well to this sensory-rich learning approach. It encourages them to use higher-level thinking skills and it’s a great way to maximize the benefits of technology as an education tool."

The Presidential Timeline debuted on Presidents’ Day this year and was made possible by a grant to the Learning Technology Center from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as funding from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Foundation. According to Flowers, several hundred new digitized assets and a new exhibit will be added to the Timeline by early next year. Long-term plans also include the addition of visual resources and curriculum material for new Presidential Libraries.