Virginia History to Scale

Published:February 2, 2017 by Brendan Wolfe

Since the first days of Encyclopedia Virginia we’ve thought of our audience in a couple of different ways. In one sense, it’s anyone in the world with an Internet connection. And most of our traffic, as you might expect, comes from folks who type search terms into Google and, Voilà! The gods of the web lead them to our door.

But when actually building a site like ours it’s not always helpful to think of the audience that way. How can you make decisions about best serving your readers when your readers could be anyone?

For that reason we identified what we think of as our primary audience—the people for whom we hope to make EV the most useful. These are educators and students. We still aim to serve everyone else, too, but we spend a lot of time talking to teachers and administrators about how EV works for them and how we can make it work better. When names like Christopher Newport and Oliver W. Hill showed up in the state Standards of Learning (SOL) and we didn’t have entries on them yet, we heard from teachers and got on it. When social studies teachers told us they needed primary resources, we got on that, too.

Lately we’ve been hearing about the need for what teachers call “scaled” entries—or entries written with different grade levels in mind. We considered doing this early in the project but found it to be too unwieldy. We couldn’t write each entry four times, could we? One for an average adult, and three more for students from first grade to high school.

We’ve become both more ambitious and pragmatic over time, however. And our thinking now is that we may try to produce scaled versions of some of our entries that are mentioned specifically in the SOL. For first-graders, that means Newport, Pocahontas, Powhatan, Maggie Lena Walker, and Arthur Ashe. After the jump you can read drafts of those first three. Let us know what you think, especially if you’re a teacher. In the meantime, we’re also thinking about how to present this on the site.

We are forever a work in progress!

IMAGE: Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum

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