Digital Deerfield 1704
First Monday

Digital Deerfield 1704: A new perspective on the French and Indian Wars by Lynne Spichiger and Chris Sturm

In February 2003, on the 300th anniversary of the raid on Deerfield, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and the Memorial Hall Museum launched a Web site that both commemorates and reinterprets this event from the perspectives of all the cultural groups who were present: Wobanakiak, Kanienkehaka, Wendat, English, and French. The site brings together a multitude of Web elements including historical scenes, narratives of peoples’ lives, artifacts and historic documents, interactive maps, voices and songs, essays, illustrations/paintings, and an interactive timeline to provide a window into a world of global political and religious conflict, family stories, and military sagas. Many teachers find that this site — with its wealth of primary source material; its special features like interactive maps and artifacts, zoom function, and magic lens; and its curricula section — is an excellent digital resource for their classrooms.


Web site goals
Key features of 1704 digital storytelling
1704 From a teacher’s point of view





Figure 1: Raid on Deerfield, illustration copyright Francis Back
Figure 1: Raid on Deerfield (illustration copyright Francis Back).

In the pre–dawn hours of 29 February 1704, a force of about 300 French and Native allies launched a daring raid on the English settlement of Deerfield, Massachusetts, situated in the Pocumtuck homeland.

Figure 2: March to Canada, illustration copyright Francis Back
Figure 2: March to Canada (illustration copyright Francis Back).

One hundred and twelve Deerfield men, women, and children were captured and taken on a 300–mile forced march to Canada in harsh winter conditions. Some of the captives were later redeemed and returned to Deerfield, but one–third chose to remain among their French and Native captors.

This raid on Deerfield was the pivotal event in the history of Deerfield, Massachusetts. In 1870, a group of residents in the town, concerned that the younger generation knew little of the region’s history — particularly the 1704 raid on Deerfield — formed the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA), with the goal of creating a museum (Memorial Hall Museum) that would "memorialize" the past, including the Native peoples of the region.

For 300 years this assault in contested lands has been described by the dominant European viewpoint as an unprovoked, brutal attack on an innocent village of English settlers. Yet, it can also be viewed as a justified military action against a stockaded settlement in a Native homeland.

Since 29 February 2004 marked the 300th anniversary of the raid on Deerfield, it proved an appropriate occasion to launch a Web site that would both commemorate and reinterpret this event by telling all the stories of what happened from the conflicting perspectives of all the people who were present — not just the Europeans, but also the Wendat, Kanienkehaka, and the Wobanakiak. And so PVMA launched Raid on Deerfield: The Many Stories of 1704.

Figure 3: From the raid on Deerfield, copyright PVMA
Figure 3: From the raid on Deerfield (copyright PVMA).

Although conventional history has relegated the raid on Deerfield to one small episode in a larger global contest as European powers vied for control of the Spanish throne, the raid was, and is to this day, much more. It is a window into a world of global political and religious conflict, family stories, and military sagas. It is a story of alliances made, broken, and remade. Itís an exploration of contradictory meanings of land ownership, a confrontation among different values, and a case study of colonialism. The Web site is a multi–cultural glimpse of early American History, rooted in cultural and religious conflicts, trade and kinship ties, personal and family honor, and genocidal expansion.


Web site goals

We developed the 1704 Web site with several goals in mind:

  1. Present the raid on Deerfield from the perspectives of all five groups who were present at the event: Wobanakiak (Abenaki), Wendat (Huron), Kanienkehaka (Mohawk), French, and English. Consequently, there is no one truth on this site. We encourage visitors to explore the various "truths" and determine for themselves how they want to think about this event, what led up to it, and its aftermath.
  2. Bring together many Web elements in historical scenes, richly detailed by commissioned illustrations, to illuminate broad and competing perspectives on a dramatic event in American history: over 20 historic scenes; 23 narratives of peoples’ lives; 165 biographies; over 130 artifacts and historic documents from PVMA and more than 30 institutions in the U.S., Canada, France, England, and Italy; 15 interactive maps; over 400 glossary definitions; over 200 bibliographic and webographic citations; voices and songs; over a dozen essays; more than 100 illustrations/paintings, many commissioned expressly for this project; and, an interactive timeline covering 120 years of Deerfield, North American, and world history.
  3. Create a model for presenting conflicting points of view on a controversial topic.
  4. Harness the power of conflict by providing an experience that encourages an appreciation for the complexity of issues and other points of view.
  5. Create a process that itself is a collaborative effort whereby diverse communities and different cultural groups work together in a spirit of collaboration, connection, and reconciliation.


Key features of 1704 digital storytelling

Technology has made possible several key features of our digital storytelling that invite visitors to become actively involved in the site:

  1. A "tab" design for historical scenes using interactive flash files that invite the visitor into the point of view of a culture so they can see the event through the eyes of others. These tabs allow users to move easily among different perspectives, facilitating comparison of the perspectives and enabling us to tell the story from conflicting points of view, without losing the coherence of the narrative.
  2. A pyramidal content structure that enables us to tell the stories in small, understandable, compelling segments, supported by fuller context. This allows us to capture the casual user’s attention and then provide a rich context to satisfy her deeper interest.
  3. Multiple paths through the content — historical scenes and menus arranged by content type.
  4. Special features that allow for interactive analysis of primary source materials:
  5. Interactive maps allow users to zoom in and out and pan up and down, right and left (Quicktime)
  6. "Magic Lens" allows for transcription of historical documents (Flash)
  7. Zoom Feature for artifacts allows you to bring the object closer (Mr. Sid)
  8. Interactive artifacts allow you to turn an object around



The goals of this site can best be summed up in a quote that appears in the essay on the site titled Who Owns History and How Do We Decide?, by Barry O’Connell of Amherst College:

"The end to be sought is not to get something ‘absolutely right,’ but to make it come alive in all of its uncertainties.

The more we can multiply perspectives from many different kinds of people, the better able we are to ask useful and specific questions out of which can come the fullest sense both of what did happen in the past and how we might understand and judge it.

... It is our task, as students and teachers, writers and citizens, to bring everyone and everything out of the mist so we might hear their voices, follow their actions, and respect each person, past and present, as a maker, as well as a subject, of history."

The 1704 Web site was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). We hope that it will increase viewers’ awareness of the multiple perspectives surrounding the event and encourage them to reach their own interpretations. As the recipient of a National Leadership Grant from IMLS, we have created a model for any organization interested in presenting conflicting points of view on a controversial topic. In addition, we have created a process that itself is a collaborative effort, encouraging diverse communities and different cultural groups to work together in a spirit of collaboration, connection, and reconciliation. We are eager to share what we have learned and created with any interested organization.


1704 From a teacher’s point of view

Note: This section was written by Chris Sturm.

As a middle school social studies teacher, I am always receiving Web site addresses to investigate from well–meaning colleagues and administrators. In the workaday world, it is much too time consuming to log on to all of these sites, so most just get deleted from my e–mail without a look. To boot, many of the sites I have investigated have not been relevant to my curriculum and have not met my needs. I am, you see, a "re–invent the wheel" sort of person, and cannot usually apply other people’s ideas without my own extensive adaptations.

I came upon the Web address for the Deerfield 1704 site on a bookmark inserted into a new volume I had bought on a descendants’ weekend at Deerfield last summer. I logged on as a curiosity — expecting something interesting, but perhaps not useable for my new stint at teaching eighth grade U.S. History. What I got was a compelling, animated opening which completely grabbed my attention.

As I looked more closely, screen–by–screen, I was struck by the site’s ease of use and navigation. Mostly, though, I was amazed by the depth of the work before me. The sheer amount of information is staggering, much of it going beyond simply telling the story of what, for most people, is a rather obscure historical event. One of the ways this site goes beyond the obvious is its devotion to telling the story from the perspectives of the various cultures involved. After poring over the computer for a few hours, I knew I could tailor a lesson around this new–found resource.

I chose to place this lesson in a unit on French–English competition for North America. It would include material on Metacom’s War, Queen Anne’s War, and the French and Indian War. I had done a previous unit on "The Meeting of Cultures," so my students had been introduced to the concept of diverse European and Native cultures. This was not, per se, to be a lesson about the Deerfield raid of 1704. Instead, I wanted to use the raid, although a unique event, as indicative of all the aspects of the long struggle between these two powers. The fact that the site also offered an in–depth look at the motives and perspectives of the three native cultures involved was a bonus.

It is fortunate that our school district is committed to using technology in the classroom, so I had hardware at my disposal. I reserved one of our school’s computer labs for two days. The lesson was to be structured thusly: classes worked in three pre–existing "crews," each of which was to look into one of the "sides" involved in the raid — Deerfield Settlers, French–Canadians, and Native Cultures. Within each crew, groups of students would investigate that cultureís perspectives on the raid, from the viewpoint of motives, a narrative, and individuals involved. After investigating all of these angles, we would follow up with a roundtable panel discussion of each crew’s findings.

Figure 4: Lesson segment by Chris Sturm
Figure 4: Lesson segment by Chris Sturm.

Each crew was given three worksheets in the form of a Web quest, which I have likened to what we in Scouting call an orienteering course. The worksheets contained specific navigating instructions leading to intellectual and conceptual content objective tasks. Each worksheet was intended to direct students to a centralized understanding of the Deerfield raid in the perspective of the teaching unit, to wit, understanding the French/English conflict — while allowing the maximum amount of self–discovery and investigation allowable in the time constraints of the class schedule. With that in mind, the worksheets were designed to employ as many of the Deerfield Web site’s wonderful special features as were practical to the teaching objectives.

Aside from the depth and breadth of information included on the Deerfield site (, it employs compelling technology to present that information. The Internet is replete with sites containing a wealth of information, but if you cannot catch the interest of adolescents accustomed to sensory stimulations, you have little chance of having your educational goals succeed. Some of the features I wanted to present to students were: (1) the scenes which darken, leaving highlighted the elements which correspond to the selected tab; (2) topical modern and historical maps which can be enlarged and in which one can navigate using the computer mouse, or which show modern–day photographs of the historical places in the Deerfield saga at relevant places on the map; (3) windows which allow the viewer to manipulate images of historical artifacts, viewing them from different angles; and, (4) documents in which one is able to see, through the use of a "magic window," both the original view and an in situ transcription. These are, of course, only a fraction of the features available on the site, which also includes period music, auditory pronunciation guides, document transcriptions, and the ability to enlarge images of maps, artifacts, and documents. It is suggested that the reader visit the site and investigate these features personally.

Of course, what my students did in this exercise is adaptable to other classroom conditions and circumstances. For instance, I like my students to write the cues and answers in their notebooks to more fully implant the learning, but someone else might choose to let students "fill in the blanks" right on the worksheets. Another adaptation for a one–computer classroom might be a whole–class lesson, especially if a projector is available.

As a bonus, my yearly observation was completed during this lesson. Let me share some of my Vice–Principal’s comments as a closing: "Students were engaged throughout the period, led curriculum related discussions with teammates, and ventured through the given Web site. The graphics ... were awesome and captured the students’ attention. Lessons of this nature will foster a lifelong learning, [and] use of technology for research and critical thinking skills." End of article


About the authors

Lynne Spichiger has worked for over 25 years as a project manager in both the public and private sectors. She was an English teacher and project manager in the New Haven public schools; served as evaluation consultant for non–profit education organizations such as Education Development Center in Newton, Mass.; was an online training project manager for Dun & Bradstreet Software; and served as Vice President of Helios Custom Training in Northampton, Mass. She has extensive experience in the design, development and management of online interactive multimedia educational projects. She holds an Ed.D. from Harvard University, an M.A.T. in English from Wesleyan University, and a B.A. in History from the University of Rochester. Currently, Dr. Spichiger is the Director of Online Exhibits and the Administrative Director of the Deerfield Teachers’ Center at the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association/Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, Massachusetts, where she was the project manager for the 1704 raid on Deerfield Web site. Lynne lives in a 270–year–old house in Amherst, Mass. and volunteers for the local hospice organization. She spends much of her free time in her cabin on the Maine coast.
E–mail: lspichiger [at] deerfield [dot] history [dot] museum.

Chris Sturm can be reached at Marlboro Middle School, County Highway 520, Marlboro, N.J. 07746.
E–mail: csturm [at] marlboro [dot] k12 [dot] nj [dot] us.

Editorial history

Paper received 30 March 2005; accepted 3 May 2005.HTML markup: Susan Bochenski and Edward J. Valauskas; Editor: Edward J. Valauskas.

Copyright ©2005, First Monday

Copyright ©2005, Lynne Spichiger and Chris Sturm

Digital Deerfield 1704: A new perspective on the French and Indian Wars by Lynne Spichiger and Chris Sturm
First Monday, Volume 10, Number 6 - 6 June 2005

A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

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