Research Tools: “Chicago History Comes Alive Through Interactive Databases”
When Northwestern University’s Leigh Bienen launched Homicide in Chicago,1870-1930 in 2004, the website crashed the School of Communication’s servers the first weekend it went live. The site had more than 70,000 visitors in its first few days, following coverage in the Chicago Sun-Times. The interactive site now has logged more than 1.5 million visitors over the past 20 years.
The project began with the discovery of a rich log of more than 11,000 homicides maintained consistently and without interruption by the Chicago Police Department over the course of 60 years, from 1870 to 1930. From 1998 to 2003, Bienen, now senior lecturer emerita at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, worked to make the archive of materials accessible to the public, and the Chicago Historical Homicide Project was born, culminating in the creation of the website.
Bienen followed this with Florence Kelley in Chicago 1891-1899, a digital archive on the life and times of one of Chicago’s great hidden treasures, the first woman factory inspector in the United States and a resident of Hull House.
Bienen now has curated many of her projects on a new website Leigh Buchanan Bienen: Works, which serves as a hub for the Homicide in Chicago database, 50 publications, 27 videos and seven other websites focused on Chicago and Illinois legal history. The Homicide in Chicago and Florence Kelley websites are part of University Library’s permanent collections and reportedly two of the most visited faculty websites at Northwestern.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.