- Exploration tools
The Environment & Society Portal is a nonprofit education, research, and outreach project that aims to make digital multimedia and interpretive materials in environmental humanities freely and openly accessible to academic communities and the interested public. We hope the Portal will cultivate the spirit of exploration and serendipity that characterizes research, allowing users to find--even in a digital environment--unexpected results. To this end, three custom-designed interactive navigation tools (map viewer, timeline, and keyword explorer) allow users to explore and discover the Portal's growing collections.
The Portal's logo, designed to evoke a tree ring, represents human participation in, engagement with, and understanding of the natural environment.
The Environment & Society Portal is a project of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, a joint initiative of the LMU Munich (University of Munich) and the Deutsches Museum. The Rachel Carson Center is generously funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
Frequently asked questions
1. How can I submit feedback?
We welcome your suggestions and ideas. Please send them to us using the “feedback” tab found on the left side of each page.
2. May I use content found on the Portal for my own project?
Unless otherwise indicated in relation to specific elements of the Portal, you are free to print or download materials from the Portal for your exclusive personal use. For more information about rights, and to learn how to cite Portal content, please visit our rights page.
3. What kinds of interactive features are planned for the Portal?
In addition to continually developing new content, we plan to add new features to facilitate and encourage feedback, interaction, and sharing. Among the future possible tools we envision are the means to create and share collections of material, automated references, full embedding of our content in the social media environment, and even the possibility to create mash-ups together with content of selected partner websites. We want to know which features will be most important to you. Please use the “feedback” tab on the left to let us know how you would like to use the Environment & Society Portal.
4. Where does Portal content come from?
A small team at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society at LMU Munich (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität) is responsible for researching, creating, editing, and presenting Portal content. Team members come from five different national backgrounds and bring academic and professional training in geography, history, cultural studies, and information technology.
The Portal mixes previously published materials with born-digital content, such as interpretive exhibitions, short descriptions of places and events, and localized environmental histories. For the Multimedia Library, rather than “systematically" surveying subfields or attempting to be comprehensive, our team looks for unique and compelling items that spark interest in the human-nature relationship or contribute to its critical study as a field of knowledge. While copyright issues and digitization processes make acquisition of some materials easier than others, we aim to present the greatest possible variety of materials in terms region, discipline, and media type (such as podcasts, films, images, reports, and academic texts).
In addition, we have invited several external experts to contribute content. The “Arcadia” project, for example, is a collaboration with the European Society for Environmental History; the Portal’s exhibitions are researched and written by specialists and made possible by archival assistance and digitization services provided by partner institutions.
5. May I contribute content to the Portal?
We hope you will! We invite you to submit feedback and content suggestions using the “feedback” tab to the left. As the Portal aims to be an academic resource, all content for our current features is subject to editorial approval and copyediting. We are currently working to streamline processes for future user contributions and considering new features for integrating user-generated content.
6. How do the Portal’s navigation tools connect Portal content?
To help the user make unexpected discoveries with the Portal and connect results, we have created three interactive navigation tools: the keyword explorer, timeline, and map viewer. These tools aim to help users find what the Portal has to offer—not to offer one perfect or permanent placement for any item. As the Portal’s content grows, these navigation experiences will become richer, and content items may be linked or clustered according to diverse research paths. Making this possible takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work assigning keywords and other metadata to each content item.
The Keyword Explorer allows users to refine a thematic search. Instead of imposing a predetermined hierarchy, the Portal team has created a flat controlled vocabulary of thematic keywords. This way there are no strong ties among content items and no predefined paths that lead to specific themes and events. The way content is presented to the user and the links among keywords will thus evolve over time as the Portal's content grows. The occurrence of unexpected combinations of keywords is a natural feature of this approach and will hopefully allow users to make unanticipated discoveries.
The Timeline allows users to effectively visualize items in the Portal’s database over time; it does not aim to be a definitive canon of particularly important events in environmental history. Temporal metadata are limited to years as points in time, to the exclusion of periods, “fuzzy” dates and eras, which may be understood differently in various national or cultural contexts. It should however still be clear which events fall within a specific era or period (e.g. the Middle Ages or the Industrial Revolution) by looking at the results within a user-determined time range.
The Map Viewer allows geographic browsing and discovery of “nearby” Portal content by tagging content items with approximate point (not line or area) data. After considering several alternatives, we chose to adopt GeoNames’ highly hierarchical open-source gazetteer (used also by other major European digital humanities portals such as Europeana). Its hierarchical structure will allow us to include geographical and administrative dependencies in search results. In accordance with the structure of the Geonames database, "cultural regions" (e.g., the Middle East or the American West) have been excluded, as they may reflect ideological bias and do not fit well within a hierarchy based on political and geomorphological entities.
7. Why is the Portal in English?
An important part of the RCC’s mandate as a Käte Hamburger Kolleg funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research is to internationalize humanities in Germany and build connections with international institutions and researchers. The English language allows us to work with partners and reach audiences internationally. We aspire to include a wide variety of multimedia content in many languages, but will always provide short summaries in English.
When editing our born-digital English-language contributions (such as Arcadia articles and exhibitions), we aim to preserve regionally specific qualities in our authors’ English usage insofar as the texts are understandable for international audiences. For matters of style and punctuation, we rely on the Chicago Manual of Style. One of the most respected guides for English in general, the Chicago Manual is also widely used in academic humanities, including environmental humanities publications such as Environment and History.