The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) went live with a new JavaScript viewer today (as well as a lot of other stylistic improvements) in the Beta area portion of Chronicling America.

Being able to smoothly zoom in on images, and go into fullscreen mode is really reminiscent (for me) of the visceral experience of using a microfilm reader. We joked about adding whirring sound effects when moving between pages. But you’ll be glad to know we showed restraint :-) It’s all kind of deeply ironic given the Web’s roots in the Memex.

Hats off to Dan Krech. Risa Ohara and Chris Adams for really digging into things like dynamically rendering tiles from our JPEG2000 access copies using Python (more maybe on that later).

I hacked together a brief video demonstration (above) of looking up the day the American Civil War ended (April 9, 1865) in the New York Daily Tribune, to show off the viewer. One thing I forgot to do was go into headless mode (F11 w/ Firefox, Chrome, etc), which amplifies the effect somewhat.

Aside from the improvements on the site, this is a real milestone for the project and (I believe) the Library of Congress generally, since it is a ‘beta’ preview of what we would like to replace the existing site with. Given the nature of what they do, libraries are typically fairly conservative and slow moving organizations. So knowing how to use a beta/experimental area has proven to be a challenge. Hopefully a little space for experimentation will pay off. I don’t think we could’ve gotten this far without the help of our fearless leader in all things tech, David Brunton.

If you have ideas, feel free to leave feedback using the little widget on the lower-right of pages at Chronicling America, or using our new mailing list that is devoted to the Open Source software project that makes Chronicling America available. Open Source too, imagine that!