Yesterday, I talked about how our focus on teaching and integration among resources has driven the development of graphical tools like our Bible Atlas. Today, I want to talk a little about how that teaching focus has also driven the development of our Bible Lands PhotoGuide.
When developing the PhotoGuide, we used photographs from a number of different photographers, but we quickly found that what they were photographing was not necessarily what we wanted to show. You see, a professional photographer is typically more focused on artistic composition and dramatic impact than on usefulness for teaching about a site. The ruins of a Byzantine-era church at an Old Testament site may make for a nice shot, but such a photo has limited value for teaching about that site's Biblical importance. We therefore passed over a lot of beautiful, postcard-style photographs we could have included.
Our purpose in developing the PhotoGuide was not just to offer a photo archive, but to create a photographic tour of various Biblical sites. We want our users to get a feel for the geographical background of Biblical events. Consequently, we might be more interested in a few flagstones from a first-century road than we are on the spectacular Medieval fortress beside it.
Beyond the selection of each photograph, we went to great lengths to research each site thoroughly and provide detailed descriptions of every shot. In my opinion, the real value of the PhotoGuide is not just in the pictures themselves, but in all the background information it includes. I was privileged to help develop the PhotoGuide, and frankly, I learned more about the Bible in the process of researching all those sites than I ever learned in seminary!
Like all Accordance resources, the PhotoGuide can be used on its own, but it was really intended to be used in conjunction with the Bible Atlas. I recommend that all users who have both the Atlas and the PhotoGuide go into the Map Window Display settings of the Preferences and select the PhotoGuide as the default tool for hypertexting. That way, any time you double-click a place name on the map you'll get the PhotoGuide entry for that site. This integration really strengthens the teaching value of both resources, making it far more likely that you'll discover something significant.
The biggest challenge we have with resources like the Atlas and PhotoGuide is getting past the perception that the Atlas is just a collection of static maps and the PhotoGuide is just a collection of photos. On the contrary, these are tools designed to teach you about the Biblical world. That is their real value, and the thing which sets them apart from mere map collections and photo archives.