Cool Website of the Week! May 15 2022

Every week I like to post an interesting history website. Because honestly, there is a whole heck of a lot of history and only one of me. Not to mention that there are a multitude of really cool websites out there that just don’t get enough love. Sometimes these are amazing resources lovingly curated over decades. Other sites show a new way of looking at history. Some sites show the parts of history that are almost never seen. This week’s website definitely falls in the third category. The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things is definitely both of those things. It’s both interesting, and ridiculous.

The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

This website is awesome for those who have a love for the weird. Think about how strange people are today. People were just as weird, if not weirder in the past. Dr. Chelsea Nichols, the creator and main writer on this site, shares her love of the strange and wonderful world of curiosities. This is a side of history that is rarely if ever, taught about in school. Dr. Nichols originally started the site in 2011 and relaunched it in 2019.

Ever see some vintage ads for leeches? Do you know the importance of Marie Antoinette’s lost shoe? Want to see a witch in a bottle? This site is absolutely for you. I was supposed to be working on this week’s other posts but ended up spending about an hour looking through this virtual museum. My personal favorite was “The Nun’s Backside”, which had me laughing for a good few minutes.

If you happen to have a half-hour and a love of the peculiar, I’d definitely take a look at the Museum of the Ridiculously Interesting.

Is the link above not working? Try here:

https://ridiculouslyinteresting.com/

Want to read about more history? Check out our article on the Mechanical Pencil!

Cool Website of the Week! April 25th, 2022

Every week I like to take the time to focus on other history websites. History is a huge topic, and I know that I’ll never be able to cover everything that I find interesting. Even if I quit my job, became a hermit of epic proportions, and dedicated my life to writing, I’d never be able to touch on everything awesome about history.

So each week I showcase a cool website related to history. These websites sometimes have fun ways of looking at history. Other times they’re a way to look at pictures and videos from the past. And sometimes, like this week’s website, they’re a niche website not easily found through Google.

This week’s website isn’t quite as fun as last week’s Monument Explorer, but it is an amazing resource for those interested in US Naval history.

NavSource Naval History: Photographic History of the US Navy

I tend to really enjoy websites that have historical pictures, and boy this site delivers! The NavSource Naval History is a huge archive of naval photos. While the focus tends to be on photos, this site is way more than just that.

Navy ships departing Norfolk, Cool website of the week
DVIDSHUB, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

As they describe on their “About” Page, NavSource was designed to be “A one stop Naval Resource Center, where visitors could find information and images of ships of the USN”

This site is an amazing database of all US Navy ships. Not just what you would normally consider ships, but any vessel that fell under the US Navy. This includes “Ridgid Airships”, auxiliary craft, lightships, and more. For each ship, there is a lot of information available. Each ship page begins with the insignia, any awards the ship had earned, and the ship’s specifications. From there they list the operational details of the ship, then the photographs.

For some ships, they are able to show some documents as well. It’s highly dependent on the age of the ship and the information that’s available. Despite this, every ship has a huge amount of information.

They also show any memorabilia from the ship, such as patches, lighters, belt buckles, etc. A listing of the commanding officers throughout the ship’s career follows, as well as a link to the ship’s listing on the Naval History and Heritage Command website.

Who runs NavSource?

Volunteers run NavSource and they are a pure non-profit. They don’t accept donations, and you won’t find any ads on their website. Not only can you find a massive amount of information on their site, but you can email them directly with questions or for more information. This site is old, at least for the internet. It was started in the 1990’s, and is still being updated. That takes an amazing amount of dedication and work. This cool website has been decades in the making.

Paul R. Yarnall founded the site in 1996.

If you have any interest in US Navy History, I heartily recommend checking out the NavSource website or reaching out to the team of volunteers.

Have problems with the link in the heading above? Try it here:

https://www.navsource.org/

Interested in more naval history? Check out 5 Lighthouses in NJ you can actually visit!

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Cool Website of the Week! April 18, 2022

Blue Background with various monuments, based on the cool website for this week.

There is a whole lot to history. Think about it, modern humans have been around for nearly 300,000 years. The oldest known tools, from before modern humans, dates back 3.3 million years. Even if we only consider written history, that gives us over 5,000 years to look at. That’s a whole heck of a lot of history.

I know that I could never even touch a single tenth of a percent of that history. There’s just way too much! So every week I like to highlight a useful or cool website that others may find interesting or helpful. These websites help cover everything I can’t. These websites don’t reach out to me- I find them on my own at this point. I’m not paid to write about them. These are just some cool websites I think my readers may find interesting, useful, or just plain neat. Many of these you would have a hard time finding on Google. Since they’re not major players, they often don’t rank high enough to be noticed., though many deserve to be ranked higher than they are.

This week I found a great site for people who want to visit monuments but are unable to for one reason or another. If you’re anything like me, there are plenty of places you’d love to visit but can’t. This week’s cool website will let you visit far-flung places.

Cool Website: Virtual Vacation’s Monument Tour!

I actually found this site during one of the Covid lockdowns and it was a lifesaver. Virtual Vacations overall was created during the Covid lockdowns. This site features videos and photos from over 50 countries. This section, the Monument Explorer, focuses only on the famous monuments from around the world. The videos are all donated to the site, but most of the ones I’ve watched are fantastic. Some of them will stop and focus on the signage around the monument as well.

The process is simple. You go to the site and select a monument. It will take you to a new page where the video will open. Most of the videos are very high quality and include sound. The quality can be affected by your internet connection.

I love how the videos expand to fill the whole browser, and if you know to change your display settings, you can get it to fill your whole screen.

Normally I don’t enjoy videos with tourists in them, but given the circumstances, it’s almost comforting seeing so many other people.

You get the whole experience in some videos, including waiting in line and passing security. I highly recommend headphones.

The one thing I don’t like is that there is no way to pause or rewind the videos. You can refresh the page to restart the video, but if you miss something there is no easy way back to it.

Some videos don’t go into the monument or don’t focus on the signage around, but it’s still fascinating to be able to see historical monuments in places I’ll most likely never be able to go.

The one thing you won’t find here is narration. These aren’t tours, just people donating videos of the monuments they live near so others can see them.

What do you think?

So, what do you think of the Monument Explorer? If you’re having issues with the link above, you can try here:

https://virtualvacation.us/monument

There are other aspects to Virtual Vacation site, like live streams and guess the city, but the monument explorer is definitely my favorite. You can donate your videos if you live near a monument and want to share it with the world.

This isn’t a traditional cool history website, but it’s certainly one of the most engaging. It works best if you have the background knowledge of the monument and why it’s historical. Thankfully the videos are normally short enough to fit into a normal lunch break, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check out the Great Wall of China.

Want more historical places you can visit in person? Check out these 5 Historical Lighthouses in New Jersey!

Cool Website of the Week! April 11th, 2022

There is a lot to history. I mean, a lot. Go ahead and think about your favorite hobby. Or think about that one thing that you are absolutely obsessed with.

Got it?

I can guarantee that whatever you just thought of, there is a history to it. Nothing comes into this world from nothing, and so everything has some sort of past. With so much history to cover, there is no way I can come close to writing about even half of the amazing hidden history that surrounds us. This is why once a week I’m recommending an interesting website that helps cover the many gaps in my knowledge and expertise. All of these websites are free to access as of the time of the recommendation and all can be found over on the Resources page as well!

Street View of 1940’s New York

This week I have a really cool website to share. Street View of 1940’s New York is an interactive map of New York City. On this map are hundreds, if not thousands, of dots. Each dot is a photo of a building, circa 1940’s New York! As the website explains, these photos were taken between 1939 and 1941. The Municipal Archives finally finished digitizing and tagging the photos in 2018. What this website does is place all the photos on a map and makes the photos easily accessible!

There’s not a whole lot of information about the website itself. Julien Boilen created the map. Honestly, the best thing about this site is the sheer elegance. You can search for a specific property, or you can follow along the streets to get a great feel for the 1940s version of the city. The map has two modes: a “satellite” view in black and white, and a “map” view similar to Google Maps.

A screenshot of the 1940s New York
Every dot is a photo. That’s a lot of dots!

You also have a link to head over to the 1980s version of the site, which is not yet as complete as the 1940s version. A different group of people is also working on the 1980s version of the site. It’s still worth a look! You can leave the creator a tip, which I highly recommend based on the work put into this map.

My favorite part of this site is the Outtakes. Just like we do today, the photographers in the 1940s fumbled with the camera, accidentally took a picture when they didn’t mean to, or had someone walk in front of the camera just as they were taking the photo. There are pictures of kids and cars. There are pictures of people’s coat pockets, blurry photos of cops, and the insides of restaurants interspersed with rejected photos of buildings. I could scroll through the pictures for hours.

Why This Site is Awesome

One of the things that photos are great at doing is making history real. People know that the things in the books happened to real people in real places, but actually being able to see it makes it real on a whole new level. And that’s why I love this particular site- it makes 1940s New York City real in a way that books just can’t. At some point, it would be interesting to go to New York and compare the old pictures with the buildings that are there today. But that will need to wait for another day. For now, looking at the buildings through the lens of a 1940’s photographer will have to be enough.

Want to learn about history you can visit? Check out “5 Historic Lighthouses in New Jersey you can Actually Visit!”

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Website Recommendation of the Week!

There is a lot to history. I mean, a lot. Go ahead and think about your favorite hobby. Or think about that one thing that you are absolutely obsessed with.

Got it?

I can guarantee that whatever you just thought of, there is a history to it. Nothing comes into this world from nothing, and so everything has some sort of past. With so much history to cover, there is no way I can come close to writing about even half of the amazing hidden history that surrounds us. This is why once I week I’m recommending an interesting website that helps cover the many gaps in my knowledge and expertise. All of these websites are free to access as of the time of the recommendation and all can be found over on the Resources page as well!

Website Recommendation of the Week- The Public Domain Review!

This week’s website is The Public Domain Review! This site is based out of the United Kingdom. Their focus is on art, photos, writing, film, and audio that is now in the public domain. This website has an impressive collection of now public items. Last time I looked, there were over a thousand items in their collection! Each collection of items has historical context provided. They also have essays related to the collections, a blog, and a shop! Thankfully the website is searchable by tag, and you can filter the collections by medium, theme, and epoch.

The universal public domain symbol. Not from the websire
The public domain symbol. Note that this is not from The Public Domain Review

Frankly, the collections are incredible. I love that they provide some of the context, as other websites just post the work with little explanation. If you want to use the items in the public domain, they try to also give you some idea of what usage is allowed. Not all countries have the same laws regarding the public domain, so it’s nice that they try to flag items that may not be in the public domain everywhere.

I recommend this website to anyone with an interest in older literature, art, audio, etc. The website is mostly safe for kids as well, although you may want to monitor the younger kids. Having problems with the link above? Try here:

https://publicdomainreview.org/

Website Recommendation of the Week!

This week I have a pretty cool resource for people interested in the history of words. Everyone knows that language changes over time. Honestly, when was the last time anyone referred to something as “totally tubular”? But what happens to languages over the course of hundreds or thousands of years? This is one of the main focuses in the study of linguistics, and as a historian, it is endlessly fascinating.

Having a sense of how languages have changed over time is also incredibly important. A minor change of words can completely change the context of a source. If I invite you for a stay in my cottage in the forest, it paints one picture in your mind. If I ask you to come to my cabin in the woods, it paints another. Another good example is the difference between a “booty call” and a “butt dial.” In one sense, they mean the same thing! But, because we understand the context and linguistic differences, the meaning changes.

Understanding the underlying meaning of words is so incredibly important when understanding history and current events. With all that in mind, my cool website this week is The Etymology Nerd! Much like how I explore the hidden side of history, The Etymology Nerd explores the hidden history of words.

Etymology Nerd, Words Words Words
Etymology Nerd, Words Words Words

The Etymology Nerd was created by Adam Aleksic, a junior at Harvard University. According to the website, he started The Etymology nerd as a way to help study linguistics. His website just ballooned from there. He does run an active blog where he explores certain words or sets of words. There are also cool infographics, an interactive map, and some really useful videos.

Even if you have no interest in linguistics, this site is just plain fun to play around on. I spent some time messing around on the interactive map rather than writing. Although to be fair, it did give me some great ideas for some upcoming posts… stay tuned!

Looking for some more hidden history? Check out the history of the mechanical pencil!

Cool Website of the Week! The Digital Antiquarian

This week we have a great website to share if you love computer entertainment and digital culture history! This is a relatively new field in history, but one that will become more and more important as time goes on. Early historical and cultural aspects of the digital age are easily lost, often by accident. While The Wayback Machine and the Internet Archive are important parts of preserving this information, cultural context is easily lost.

That’s where Jimmy Maher’s website and blog, The Digital Antiquarian, come in. He provides the cultural and historical background needed to truly understand the early digital age. And by early digital age, I don’t just mean when the internet began. Maher’s posts will often reach back into the 1800s to explain the very beginnings of the digital era. Personally, I really enjoy his attention to detail and his ability to weave a good story out of what would otherwise be dry facts. He definitely isn’t afraid to dig deep into detail. Maher’s absolute joy in his writing is apparent right in the first few sentences in any of his posts. He’s apparently going to start up a new blog soon, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Need the full link? Here it is! https://www.filfre.net/

I totally recommend checking out Jimmy Maher’s website, even if you don’t have a passion for the early digital age. He touches on many topics in order to explain the why and hows in each post, so there is something for everyone in each of his posts! Maher has also collected his many posts into an ebook collection for people who prefer to read the posts in chronological order and in an ebook format. He also has a collection of other historical books that he’s written. I can’t (yet!) attest to these, but considering how much I enjoy his writing I will definitely be picking up a few of his other history books as well.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy The Digital Antiquarian as much as I did!