Friday, November 16, 2007

Link of the Week: Open Vault

In this YouTube age, short videos have become increasingly important as both a cultural expression and a source of information. Most internet purveyors of short video clips provide entertainment and little more. However, for those who want to get past the Mentos fountains and the piano playing kitties, here is a website to peruse.

Open Vault is web resource created and maintained by Boston's Public Television station, WGBH, and (in the site's own words) "Open Vault provides online access to unique and historically important content produced by public television station WGBH for individual and classroom learning. The ever-expanding site contains video excerpts, searchable transcripts, a select number of complete interviews for purchase, and resource management tools."

Want to see, from 1993, poet Lucille Clifton read one of her poems? Want to see bits of a 1978 William Wegman video profiling his dog (or is it the avant-garde photographer....), Man Ray? Want to see Flo Kennedy sound off (in 1976) about racism in the women's movement? Want to see a clip from Vietnam: A Television History (1981), in which special counsel to U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson, Harry McPherson, discusses President Johnson's "internal stalemate" about the war? How about a cool, très artsy clip from Ros Barron's 1976 "dramatic movement work," Magriitte sur la Plage?

As the dates above indicate, this is not a good source for up-to-the-minute news segments. These are slightly more historical clips that come from the documentaries, public affairs programming, and news shows of WGBH. There are many excellent clips related to the Boston and Massachusetts region--especially useful are the ones detailing the issues and lives of the minority communities. In some cases, transcripts are provided for the clips, and you can register with the site to be able to keep notes on videos and the like. And, just like Amazon will suggest additional books or videos based on other user's purchases, Open Vault will even suggest other clips, based on the viewing of previous visitors.

Although you can buy some full-length videos related to a few of the featured programs at Open Vault (see Shop PBS or WGBH Stock Sales to explore these options) most of the clips in this media library and archive resource are not available elsewhere, and are meant to simply be used and viewed here.

This website is still developing and evolving, but if you'd like to explore short videos that have some educational value and informational substance to them, this website is worth a browse. [Note: If you don't already have it, you will need to download Apple's Quicktime Player to view the video clips.]

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Link of the Week: EarthTrends

In honor of former Vice President Al Gore's recent win of the Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental work related to climate change, I thought I'd list a web resource called EarthTrends. EarthTrends self-describes as "a comprehensive online database, maintained by the World Resources Institute [WRI], that focuses on the environmental, social, and economic trends that shape our world."

These are the same folks who put out a well-known biennial World Resources report, which is available online at their website. Sawyer Library also owns printed versions of these reports, published by Oxford University Press, so if you'd like to browse through paper versions, come in and take a look at our reference holdings.

EarthTrends includes current news links right on its opening page. But it organizes much of the rest of its content according to Research Topics which include Coastal & Marine Ecosystems, Water Resources & Freshwater Ecosystems, Climate & Atmosphere, Population, Health, & Human Well-being, Economics,Business, & the Environment, Energy & Resources, Biodiversity & Protected Areas, Agriculture & Food, Forests, Grasslands, & Drylands, Environmental Governance & Institutions, and Special Collections. In each category, there is a Searchable Database, Maps, Country Profiles, Features and Data Tables.

Articles and tables are available fulltext and often links are provided to other WRI materials, or to useful resources elsewhere on the web.

Because of its currency and "statistical, graphic, and analytical data in easily accessible formats," EarthTrends can be a valuable resource. However, keep in mind that the WRI " is an environmental think tank that goes beyond research" into an environmental advocacy role. Their stated "mission is to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth's environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations."

Although Al Gore would no doubt applaud their efforts, the materials here certainly do not pass academic muster in situations where a teacher is requiring the use of peer-reviewed scholarly journal literature. In other situations, this website can be a valuable one.

By the way, it is worth noting that Vice President Gore won the Nobel in conjunction with another group, the IPCC. I featured them in our blog several months back. To take a look at that entry, click here.