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, you are free to print or download materials from the Portal for your own personal use. For other uses, please note the rights and licensing information for the item in question. To learn more about how to use cite content found on the Portal, please visit our rights and terms of use 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 create mash-ups together with content of selected partner websites. 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? The Environment & Society Portal publishes and aggregates content that reflects the thematic research priorities, events, and publications of the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. Each of the Portal’s five features serves a different educational or research function. Fellows, alumni fellows, staff, students, affiliates, and partners of the RCC may propose or solicit projects that reflect these priorities. Anyone may submit to Arcadia; please visit the site to read the submission guidelines. Arcadia articles and Virtual Exhibitions are peer reviewed. Multimedia Library acquisitions are reviewed for fit with the RCC’s mission; while copyright issues and digitization processes make acquisition of some materials easier than others, our goal is to make content of  various regions, disciplines, and media types (podcasts, films, images, reports, and academic texts) openly accessible to the public. Beginning in summer 2015, Multimedia Library acquisitions will be built around “curated collections” by RCC alumni and current fellows. A small team of postdocs, doctoral research associates, and copyeditors at the RCC is responsible for fact-checking, editing, tagging, and uploading Portal content. Our overall aim is to connect a broad range of openly accessible content that sparks interest in the human-nature relationship and contributes to its critical study as a field of knowledge.

5. May I contribute content to the Portal? We invite everyone to submit suggestions, corrections, and feedback using the “feedback” tab to the left. Researchers in environmental history and related fields are welcome to submit work to Arcadia.

6. How do the Portal’s navigation tools connect Portal content? While the Portal’s search tools help the user find something specific, its three “discovery tools” (map, timeline, and keyword explorer) allow her to find spatially, temporally, or thematically related results.

How do these work? The Map allows geographic browsing and discovery of “nearby” Portal content by tagging content items with approximate point (not line or area) data. 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. The Timeline allows users to plot a chronology of the Portal’s content; 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. To respond to requests for a simpler model, in 2012 we replaced our graphic timeline with a vertical chronicle of events. Our future plans include applying an open-source plugin for a more traditional graphic horizontal timeline. The Keyword Explorer allows users to refine a thematic search. Instead of imposing a predetermined hierarchy, we 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.

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.