Build Your Own Interactive Timeline


Using the extraordinary Exhibit and Timeline scripts written by MIT's SIMILE project and the flexible power of Google Docs spreadsheets, it's now possible to build custom, interactive, and searchable timelines for use in your research and your teaching. Watch the screencast below to see exactly how such a timeline works.

But why would you want to build a timeline? Well, just imagine that you are teaching a survey course of Victorian literature. You could assign your students different years in this time period and ask them to identify four important events that happened in their particular year and to post them to a timeline. The result might look something like this. Or imagine that you are teaching a novel with a complex chronology, like Slaughterhouse-Five or Jazz. You could have your students work collaboratively to timeline Billy Pilgrim's experiences. Or you could timeline your work on your dissertation. Or...well, you get the idea.

Now that you have an idea why, I’m going to walk you through the steps of building your own timeline. This shouldn’t require any specialized knowledge on your part. While a basic familiarity with HTML will prove helpful, this tutorial is aimed at those with no prior web publishing experience.

This tutorial has three sections. In the first, you will build your spreadsheet. In the second and third, you will write the web page for your timeline. If you are not familiar with Google Docs, click here to get started. If you already have a basic familiarity with Google Docs, start building your spreadsheet.

Creative Commons License
Timeline Tutorial by Brian Croxall
Exhibit and Timeline Scripts by MIT's Simile Project