Proud & Torn: How my family survived Hungarian history

The interactive digital history website, Proud and Torn: How My Family Survived Hungary,

( is a unique and groundbreaking public history and digital humanities

project that will greatly advance our understanding of what it means to be Hungarian. The

animated, digital timeline is four years in the making and an ambitious historical narrative

adapted to the web. As an online documentary told from the first person (the daughter of an

Hungarian emigré now living in the U.S.), the work is setting new standards for what is possible

through historical texts in terms of visualization and the reinterpretation of history.


Proud and Torn brings a highly visual approach to digital storyteling: over 1,200 photographs,

maps, graphics (many of them animated), and looping film clips together create a rich tapestry

of visual storytelling controlled by the user on the scroll. The timeline stylistically combines the

genres of photomontage and graphic history and presents the content with parallax scrolling, a

special web coding technique that makes background images move slower than foreground

images, creating an illusion of depth and a more immersive visual experience.

Beyond being visually unique, Proud and Torn is unique in terms of narrative. The story

focuses on one Hungarian farming family and the members of their small rural

community while connecting this family’s history to Hungary’s historical narrative. As

such, this timeline tells a more intimate and personal story about the national and global

events that affect everyday people outside of the capital Budapest. It also pays special

attention to Hungarian women, who are largely invisible in most Hungarian historical

narratives. In the end, the project expands our idea of Hungary by placing a greater

emphasis on rural and agricultural history and using fresh visual sources from amateur

and underutilized archival collections.


Today we have online access to non-commercialized, easily searchable digitized photographic

collections (plus maps, illuminated manuscripts, prints, drawings, lithographs, etchings,

cartoons) in nearly every library and museum institution, from small town historical societies to

large federal archives. This digital revolution in archival media has opened up access to

previously “unknown” images and the possibility that these images could broaden and

transform our collective memory. The time has arrived for scholars and practitioners—visual

communication scholars, museum exhibit creators, historians, digital media artists, journalists,

and others dedicated to visualizing public memory—to plumb these archives and use the

material in profound ways. Archives make images accessible to everyone, but humanists need to

use the archives to tell stories. We can and should be finding ways to make digital archives come

to life through new media applications, and we should also dig deeper into these archival

offerings and begin visualizing complex public memories beyond the famous, the noteworthy,

and the most obvious.


Creative Team: Dr. Bettina Fabos, Associate Professor of Interactive Digital Studies (IDS) at theUniversity of Northern Iowa, with Dana Potter (design), Jacob Espenscheid & Collin Cahill (code), Isaac Campbell (animation), and two historians of Hungary, Dr.s Leslie Waters and Kristina Poznan.






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