By Kristine Hamlyn
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.
|“When people go to our site
they find what they need with minimal effort.”
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
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
“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
“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
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
“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