I feel as if more often than not, the arts receive a significant amount of favour in the eyes of historians. I conducted an experiment to prove this hypothesis. I collected a small sample size of 5 post-graduate students, and asked them if push came to shove and they had to write one essay; either on the History of Visual Art or the History of European Football, which they would choose. A unanimous pattern became apparent, as the hypothetical History of Art essay prevailed. Upon asking one of the students why they made that decision, I found myself agreeing with her when she stated that she made her choice “because art is more historical”. Upon asking her to further elaborate, she mentioned that there would be far greater resources that lay within the topic of the History of Visual Art, than the History of European Football. There would simply be more books, websites and primary documents that would relate directly to the artistic topic. A quick Google search proved her statement correct; there were very few websites dedicated solely to the history of the sport. I tallied about 5-6 sites contained useful information regarding the topic of European Football. I then took my investigation to a personal level and proceeded to find websites that related directly to the history of my favourite sport; Hockey. I always thought of Hockey as a sport that had a historical past that was deeply embedded into the soil of our country; so imagine my shock when I found a mere 3-4 sites containing relevant information regarding the history of Hockey. Most of the useful historical sites were blogs, but I was absolutely stunned to find a plethora of relevant, interesting historical information regarding the sport in a website that revolves around a location extremely close to home.
The Hockey Hall of Fame (HHOF) is located right here in Toronto, and boasts some of the most extensive and interactive hockey exhibits known to the sport. It is directly affiliated with the wealthy National Hockey League, which entitles it to a hefty amount of income as far as budgets are concerned. This is displayed within the building itself, which is extremely up-to-date and visually appealing, making it any Hockey fan’s Mecca. Having been there many a time and witnessing the visual and historical prowess that the HHOF displays in its actual building, I was anticipating the same in its website. Due to the fact that it was affiliated with an extremely high-grossing company, I was hoping for a sleek, stylish website design with an extremely interactive interface and media coming out its ears. I was not disappointed. However, I was not impressed either.
The front page was extremely visually appealing, with bright colours and attractive pictures littered throughout its entirety. However, I couldn’t help but feel as if the layout was extremely text-heavy, giving the website a cluttered first impression. It is evident that the site is consistently updated with recent news, as an interesting picture gallery that the site uploaded revolves around the cancer-awareness movement called “Movember”, and it’s relation to hockey (Hockey’s Memorable Moustaches).
The actual act of navigating through the page is an absolute disaster. The top bar of the website is scattered with drop-down menus that clog up and inhibit the user’s interaction with the page. The sheer quantity of these troublesome drop-down menus also creates the feeling of claustrophobia as you navigate through it, making it extremely unappealing. However, the site has some extremely useful information regarding each and every one of their exhibits, with fantastic pictures coupled with useful historical information on each exhibit’s page. The main exhibits page displays an interactive map of the actual HHOF, and the site regarding the exhibit on the Montreal Canadiens Dressing Room displays the usefulness of the pictures and the extent of the historical information regarding the exhibit. Whilst this method is extremely useful, it can’t help but reek of being outdated. In today’s technological age, many other historical websites (with significantly less money) are able to create an interactive video-tour of the exhibits, which prove even more useful and visually appealing to the user of the site. Unfortunately, the theme of out datedness runs rampant throughout the site.
Upon clicking the Face-Off Interplay link at the navigational bar on the top of the page, you are brought to a website that would not look out of place on the internet in the late 90’s. The whole concept of the “Face-Off Interplay” seems a little redundant, as most of the information there could be easily summarized and placed under various other sub-headings. It is from this page that users can access the audio and video files in the site. The site boasts massive amounts of video of hockey old and new, yet it is evident that the interface was mishandled. Yet again the site provides the information, but does not organize it in a way that would prove easy for the user, instead resulting to small text and video files that would not be found if the search engine in the user’s browser was not used.
All in all, I can almost understand and justify the fact that historians would rather dwell on subjects that they are familiar with; on a subject that they know enough about to either organize and classify themselves, or known enough by others to have been organized clearly beforehand. For the average hockey fan, the website might be more than substantial, but it is more than evident as to why the position “Hockey Historian” is found few and far between.