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REL 205: Introduction to Jewish Studies: Digital Tools

Recommended Resources and Strategies for the Jewish Nations group presentations

The Tools

StoryMap JS and Timeline JS are two tools created by and supported by Knight Labs at Northwestern University, in support of journalism.

Which tool should your group use?  That depends on what aspect you want to foreground in your narrative--chronology or geography?  If your research leads you to want to emphasize chronology--change or continuity over time, the role of contingency in history--then Timeline JS is probably the better choice.  If you want to emphasize the importance of place (including questions of distance), then StoryMap JS might work best.

You do need a Google account to use this tool. While you can set up a shared gmail account so that everyone can access the project, please note that some groups have found that work done simultaneously by more than one person is not saved.  Also, be aware that one person's mistake can eliminate an entire project (and yes, it's happened, unfortunately). 

ThingLink is another digital tool your group might think about.  ThingLink allows you to highlight and annotate your chosen artifact. While it does have a paid version, the free version is pretty powerful, too.

Writing Captions

Each slide or annotation in your project should include a caption of 25-150 words.  These captions are interpretive acts!  You are not just conveying information; you are attempting to provoke a response in your audience.  When you have only a few words in which to do that, every word counts! 

Beverly Serrell, in her Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach, 2nd edition (Rowan & Littlefield, 2015) suggests that you focus on trying to answer the following questions in your captions:

  • What am I looking at and why is it important?  [Start broad and then narrow down to specific elements as needed.]
  • What is the big idea here?  How does this one object figure into a larger narrative?
  • What is something significant about this object that the average viewer wouldn't know or couldn't know just by looking at the object?
  • Is there controversy about this object?
  • Are there unanswered questions about this object?

The Getty Museum's Guide to Adult Audience Interpretive Materials suggests a very similar set of questions:

  • What is it?
  • Why is it here and why should I care?
  • What is the story or symbolism?
  • How was it made?
  • How was it used?
  • What can I discover by looking more carefully?