A History of the Web at W&L: one version...

25 August 2000
A call from Laurie Stevens asking for some of the details of the evolution of our Web presence prompted me to seek out earler versions of the Home Page, cached in the xliberty server ('Old Liberty', fortunately still in Jeff Knudson's keeping), and move them to an accessible place on the present-day web.

I arrived at W&L in August 1992. John Doyle's Law Library server (variously called 'Liberty', 'lawlib', and eventually 'Netlink') had been running for about a year, and was attracting notice as an exemplary Internet resource locator --it was one of the reasons W&L was especially attractive to me when I was job-hunting. Larry Schankman's posting to a Government Documents Listserv (in March 1993) called it "the ultimate site...", and so it was for a time.

John Doyle had set up an experimental gopher server, and in March 1993 I began to work on that platform, concentrating initially on library pathfinders. The W&L gopher went up in May 1993, and I used it in Fall 1993 to deliver material for various classes I taught in library use and information access.

In March 1994 John Doyle and I did a session at the Computers in Libraries conference. The abstract of the presentation is available, as are the screens for Netlink and Liberty. The Liberty menu is what W&L users saw on their terminals when they logged in to the campus system, between about 1993 and 1997 (with some changes as more resources became available). The links on the Liberty menu explain something of the features available in 1994.

The WWW was available to W&L users via lynx, a text-only browser. The graphical browsers that now define the Web were under development in 1993 (and I first saw NCSA Mosaic at a National Library of Medicine conference in November 1993), but I didn't start experimenting with Mosaic and Netscape (and writing HTML code) until March 1994. One of my first projects for the visual Web was digitizing the picture of Robert E. Lee on Traveller.

John Elrod (then Dean of the College) was shown the WWW (via NCSA Mosaic) by Bob Akins in April 1994, and commented as follows in a message to the University Librarian:

This is an amazing program. Bob Akins showed me how it works the other day, and I was dumb struck. He talked about it as belonging in the library, and I could see why right away. What do you think? A possibility that interests you?

I started using the Web as a vehicle for instruction with a weblet for David Parker's Latin American History classes in April 1994, and taught students to make pages in a Psychology 395 course I taught with Tyler Lorig in the same month. I also made a presentation to VLA Library Instruction and Microcomputer Interest Forum, on electronic access at W&L, in May 1994, at which I claimed the title of weenie for myself.

Pretty much since the beginning I've used the Web as a means to communicate with users. A memo to East Asian Studies faculty from August 1994 is an early example.

The first graphical-browser Home Page for the University went up in September 1994, with the Colonnade, Old George, and Traveller all present. By August 1995 only the Colonnade remained as a graphic. An outline of topics for faculty workshops I did in August 1995 indicates the array of skills people needed at the time.

By Fall 1996 the Home Page had a more elegant look and feel, but still included text links as well as buttons (which some browsers had difficulty displaying).