Reviewing Reno

Showing the splash page of Illuminating Reno's Divorce Industry and several images of Theme categories

I chose to examine Illuminating the Reno Divorce Industry.

My first impression of the website reminds me of traditional themed museum displays and collections, like the typical artifact presented with signs and placards explaining the item’s context and purpose. Content is arranged around six main themes, which each having smaller sub-themes of its own to break down content by specific topics on individual pages. For example, one theme is titled “Out of the Public Eye” and discusses the way divorcees lived privately before and after attaining their decrees. The subthemes under the larger theme are “A Segregated World”, “Children of divorce,” “Hidden Stories”, and “Sealed Records.” Navigating between the various themes and their sub-themes is fairly self explanatory through the provided menus.

The page of a sub-theme usually includes a piece of written content, images or primary source materials arranged in a gallery, and occasionally a specific story/example or audio tour. A timeline that describes the history of divorce in the United States (and specifically Reno) is also hosted on its own page. The Themes and Timeline section represent the area of presentation of information to viewers.

Helpfully, Illuminating the Reno Divorce Industry also provides a How-To page in its About section to help guide readers through navigation and using the site’s many resources. The About section also contains information about the project’s creation, funding, resources, and staff.

Vintage Postcard Showing a woman riding a horse in front of the Washoe County Courthouse.
Image Owned By Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries via Illuminating the Reno Divorce History

One such resource is the site’s Library, which contains all the sources used in the Theme narratives and more besides. Over 1000 images, articles, legal documents, etc. are contained and available for public viewing/downloading. As part of the services available in the Library section, users can filter by media type and search by keyword. As a post card fan, I happily spent a lot of time examining the many post cards contained in the database, two of which are included in this post. This Library contains the site’s sources/assets and allows the public to view and interact with them beyond the presentation in the Themes.

Vintage postcard showing a woman dragging her donkey into Reno, with the accompanying caption "Dragging My Ass into Reno" so as to create a pun. The woman is bent provacatively.
Image Owned By Mella Rothwell Harmon, personal collection via Illuminating the Reno Divorce History

Services provided by the site include the storage and download of various sources in image or pdf format. A search function that uses keywords to find results across the various Themes, Library, and Timeline also exists and is fairly user friendly.  Bibliographies of the materials hosted and used on the site are also available, either in a single complete document or broken down by media type.

Overall, I enjoyed the site as a digital humanities project containing fun and interesting narratives which also provided a repository of primary source material on the subject. The site appears user friendly to most readers with a basic understanding of computers, and provides services to casual readers and interested academics without hampering either.

I encourage anyone with a passing interest in recent US History, divorce law, or women’s history to browse the site and see what interesting facts they can uncover.

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