The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site is proof that the secret to a successful Web site is not always in the bells, whistles and countless flash animations. Since its launch in 1997 the site has received over 10 million hits, and now averages 300,000 hits per month.
“The purpose of the site is to make accessible, to as many people as possible, reliable information on the history and heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Dr. James Hiller, History department faculty member and academic co-ordinator for the Web site.
Interest in the Web site comes from a wide variety of audiences including school kids, university students and tourists.
“The aboriginal community is also a significant source of interest,” added Vince Walsh, Web site co-ordinator. “Many, including people of aboriginal decent, have expressed their interest and pleasure in the information provided there.”
Mr. Walsh said a major reason for the site’s success is the wide range of information provided and the strategic way it is organized and presented. “What I believe we do more than any other site is actually provide the information people are looking for,” said Mr. Walsh. “When people go to our site they find what they need with minimal effort.”
“The site is well-designed, easily navigable, looks good and, most of all, it’s reliable,” added Dr. Hiller. “I’ve been told by a number of academics that the heritage Web site is one of only a few they will allow their students to use because they can trust the information provided on it. In fact, the draft of the text book to be used in the new course on Newfoundland and Labrador history in junior high schools, coming on stream in 2004, makes reference to the site on many occasions.”
Mr. Walsh works hard to ensure all information uploaded to the site is 100 per cent correct. “If we are not sure about the accuracy of something we will go directly to the source to check it out,” he said. This reputation for reliability has contributed greatly to the site’s continued success since there has been nothing done in recent times to promote site usage. The heritage site is most frequently accessed through its listing on all major search engines or through one of the thousands of other sites currently providing a direct link.
Another obvious reason for success is the size of the site. The core articles are organized around six themes: Natural Environment; Aboriginal Peoples; Exploration and Settlement; Government and Politics; Society and Economy; and The Arts. The site further features partnered projects with the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, The Heritage Foundation, Dictionary of Newfoundland English and many others. Mr. Walsh says it is most likely the largest history Web site in Canada.
“The former dean of Arts, Dr. Terry Murphy, was instrumental in getting this off the ground,” said Mr. Walsh. “He was very positive about the site from the beginning, he was important in getting the funds going and he was always encouraging. He is a big part of why this Web site is so successful today.”
While funding for the site has now dried up, it still remains very popular. Unfortunately, until further funding is secured, site expansion will not be able to take place at the pace it has in previous years. “We are now trying to go back to putting primary material on the site,” said Mr. Walsh. “We realized one of the areas underdeveloped on the site was Labrador. To correct this we decided to place all 12 volumes of the Labrador Boundary Dispute on the Web.”
“This is a hugely important collection to people interested in Labrador history,” added Dr. Hiller. “It’s got all the fundamental documents. Having this on the Web is of tremendous value to people.” Those who wish to have their names appear on the pages of the collection can visit the donations page of the Heritage Web site and sponsor a page for only $15.
To learn about the history and heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador, see www.heritage.nf.ca.