Tool Reviews

David F. Huynh, Pierre-Julien Bringer, Cabriel Durazo, Nina Guo, Margaret Leibovic, Johan Sundstrom, and Mason Tang, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Exhibit tool, a part of MIT's SIMILE project, is a customizable structure for sorting data that requires neither server- nor client-side database installation. Although a working knowledge of HTML is necessary to set up the feature, it is overall quite easy to use and install. Because of Exhibit's flexibility in displaying and sorting all kinds of data in many different ways, the potential uses for this tool in the digital humanities are almost boundless.

Authors can type data directly into .js files (which store information), or they may import data from a preexisting source, such as a spreadsheet. They can then place some code and links to this data in the HTML for a web site or a WordPress blog. Once the files are assembled properly, the information will display in an interactive format for the user. Exhibit's user interface is easy-to-use, customizable, and professional-looking.

I recently employed the Exhibit tool in a limited way on my own web site to demonstrate the interconnectedness of a group of Puritans in the seventeenth century. The Exhibit web site displays a number of much larger and more extensive uses of this tool. As someone with a moderate to strong background in HTML and a basic knowledge of computer programming, I found it fairly easy to understand the basic layout of the file structure necessary to run Exhibit. However, actually implementing the file structure and then somewhat customizing the interface of my site still took quite a few hours.

There is a tutorial which guides users through making their first Exhibit project. It is not bad; however, I prefer a more straightforward presentation of information to the tutorial's "now do this, and this will happen" approach. Eventually, I found it easier to look at the code for preexisting projects and work backwards than to use the tutorial. It is important to note that the Exhibit documentation is not yet finished; more documentation has been added since I finished my project in March, 2007, and several entries indicate that still more will be coming in the future. Once all of these files are available, Exhibit should be a highly accessible and comparatively easy to use tool, and will be a great resource for many digital scholars.

Amy Gant
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Reviewed: May 2007