Digital History Site Analysis: Ottawa’s Eyewitness

Ottawa’s Eyewitness is a digital history site that focuses of the landscape artwork of Thomas Burrowes. Between the years of 1826 and 1846, Burrowes was as a civil employee working on Rideau Canal project. The canal project linked the city Ottawa, located on the Ottawa River on the border of Ontario and Quebec to the city of Kingston which is located on the coast of Lake Ontario. During the years as a civil employee, Burrowes created beautiful watercolor paintings of various locations in Ottawa along the canal route. These watercolors show how Ottawa looked in the mid-1800s. With Ontario Ministry of Government Services. “Eyewitness: Thomas Burrowes on the Rideau Canal” website as a source, Ottawa’s Eyewitness places Burrowes’ landscapes in the locations where he would have viewed the canal.

  1. Interacting: This digital history site has some basic interactive features. You are able to zoom in and out on the map of Ottawa. Since each watercolor is a different location and numbered, you can click one painting or cycle through them and you are sent to the location with the corresponding number on the map. Also when you can click the number on the map the corresponding image will appear. That is the extent of its interactive capabilities.
  1. Clear Narrative: The narrative is lacking. For each of the paintings we get description of what we are seeing if we were looking at the same image in the mid-1800s. There is no explanation or clue why Burrowes created the paintings. What we know about Burrowes is he served as a tradesman in the British military in Canada after the War of 1812. After being discharged, Burrowes served as Clerk of the Works for the Rideau Canal until his retirement in 1846. Since he was a civil employee, he was probably commissioned by the magistrate to create these works of art but that is only speculation.
  1. Good user design: Ottawa’s Eyewitness has a very good user interface design. While in class today, I was able to bring up this site on my mobile device. Usually sites get a little buggy if you try to bring them up on another device than a desktop or laptop computer. While on the site, I was able to take advantage of all the interactive features.
  1. Accessibility: As I said before in the last statement, I was able to bring the site up on my phone. Also there are no dead links in this site and also it is very quick and does not lag.
  1. One thing I like about the site: The one thing I like about the Ottawa’s Eyewitness digital history site is the map layout. Since Burrowes made his watercolor landscapes in different parts of Ottawa, it is interesting to know where he visited or setup to paint. This site also implies his point of view at the time when he created his art.
  1. One thing I would like to change: There are a few things I would change about Ottawa’s Eyewitness, but the one glaring issue is the lack of historical content. When I first visited the site, I was wondering who Thomas Burrowes was, why did he do these paintings, and what is so special about the Rideau Canal project. The site makes no effort to answer these questions. I would add more historical information about the Rideau Canal project and what was it built for. Also I would add a little history about the man Thomas Burrowes.

Ottawa’s Eyewitness is a pretty good site if you want to learn something interesting about Ottawa Ontario. As a digital history site, I find it very lacking in content, interactivity, and especially history. With that said, the site does have its merits as a starter site. I think Ottawa’s Eyewitness gives someone, who has no idea how to proceed with their digital history project, good ideas on where to start.

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