"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." - Poor Richard's Almanack
Jan. 17 was the 300th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin, and with a few centuries' perspective, we can safely say that he has been a resounding success in the field of "not being forgotten." And he was no one-hit wonder. There are few historical figures who have earned their immortality through a more diverse assortment of numerous roles - including, but not limited to, Founding Father, writer, inventor, and international celebrity. A thorough survey of the man's life would require a deeper commitment than most people want to make online (Franklin began overachieving in his teens and continued throughout his life), but if you'd like to get a bit deeper than the customary tales of kites, bifocals, and namesake stoves, The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary offers a digestible introduction to the man whose portrait adorns the hundred- dollar bill.
Online companion to a traveling international exhibition ("Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World"), and also the name of a private nonprofit alliance created in 2000 to make the most of the 2006 anniversary, The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary is both an interactive introduction to the man's life, and a resource for those seeking further biographical information. Listings of commemorative events taking place throughout the year also make the site a worthwhile destination for those keen on attending real- world celebrations. Created by Terra Incognita, producer of such previously reviewed sites as Churchill and the Great Republic and Cycles: African Life Through Art, the presentation nicely matches visual touches that seem appropriate to the subject's own time with features that take full advantage of the Web's higher-tech capabilities.
As always, the visuals make the first impression when a visitor arrives at any website, and the Tercentenary's graphics and color scheme create the feel of a Franklin-era broadsheet. Navigational elements occupy the space normally reserved for a publication's 'flag,' and the bottom of each page features a hyperlinked masthead. Overall, the design offers a hint of the period without taking things to the "Ye Olde Webbe Site" extreme, and after setting the scene, it quickly steps back into its rightful role as a supporting element for the content. Still, the opening display does manage to incorporate a few modern touches in its presentation - such as rotating quotes from "Poor Richard's Almanack" in the flag, and the subtle visual modernity of the top of Ben's head 'breaking the frame' of his front-page portrait.
The exhibition itself breaks Franklin's life into a series of chapters, and begins with his teen years. Apprenticed to his brother at 12, Franklin was a published writer at 16 - under the cross- gender pseudonym of Silence Dogood - and ran away from home at 17. …