The Interface - this page is under construction -

The Princeton Shahnama Project has gone through several years struggle to come up with a coherent, intuitive and adequate interface. Alas, the struggle continues unabated. The present interface is inspired by the "Trajan's Column Site" by Geoffrey Rockwell et al. from "The McMaster Column of Trajan Project." The "Trajan's Column Site" uses an unhurried approach on its homepage which tells novices exactly what is in the site, how to use it, and how to get started. Although the six bullets cover almost two pages, a navigation bar allows the expert and habitual users to go the the appropriate part of the site quickly.

Our previous efforts at interfaces have tried to keep everything on a single computer screen forcing us to use cryptic keywords that required extensive indoctrination. Our tutorials and documentation forced users to spend even more time away from the materials we would like to put on display. Who wants to get an advanced degree to see an exhibit?

Thus, the present, with due recognition to the work from McMaster, is an attempt to do justice to both the expert scholar in the field of Shahnama Studies and the casual browser. The difficulty of the task is increased by the fact that Shahnama scholars come in two very different casts, art historians and textual scholars. The varying emphasis on cycles of images, in the case of art historians, and the emphasis on the text episodes and the placement of images within the text, in the case of textual scholars, present unique challanges.

1. The Homepage

The homepage tries to solve the problem of the expert vs the novice. The page is divided into two essential parts - a naviagational banner and a short welcome and statement of purpose followed by a six part description of the site with links as entry points to various parts of the site.

a. The Navigation Bar, which covers to top two inches of the page, allows habitual users to reach the appropriate gateway into the archive. There are three: illustrations, text episodes, and indices. Thus using the "Illustrations Button," an art historian can bring up all the images of a particulat manuscript or to view thumbnails (as with a light table) of various manuscripts and expand them into high resolution.

Using the "Episodes Button," the textual scholar can focus on a specific episode as found in the "Table of Contents" of the most impotant editions of this voluminous work and extract the illustrations for an episode or a specific group of episodes.

Finally, through the "Indices Button," both the art historian and the textual scholar can do thematic studies, to pick out illustrations of a specific person, or iconographic feature, or a specific place, or a particular kind of scene. This part of the interface is not yet very well developed since we are still determining the various categories of indices to present.

b. The Statement of Purpose is an aesthetic imperative; it is meant to be used by gateways to describe our efforts. This introduction is supplemented by two links, one describing the interface and one describing the technical issues. This supplement is designed for webdevelopers with no overt interest in the Shahnama but who might be interested in some of our solutions for their own sites.

c. The six-part description, under the heading of What's here and how to use it is designed to lead the first-time user through a short tour of the site. This is primarily designed for first time users or for browsers. A working scholar in the field might not be very interested in yet another page-long introduction to the Shahnama; yet might want to glance at a description of the underlying data-structures. In any case the six-part description serves as a painless introduction that can be ignored completely once a user becomes familiar with the site.

  • The Introductory Section
  • The Databse
  • The Indices
  • The Illustrations
  • The Episodes

2. Illustrations

3. Text Episodes

4. Indices