An experiment in two-way direct linking using

Historic Hansard embeds so that users can easily annotate or highlight any part of the text. Websites can add it just by inserting an extra script tag in their pages. If a site doesn’t embed you can still use its annotation features by running any url through their proxy server (just click on ‘Paste a link’ on the home page).

Screen capture of Historic Hansard showing Hypothesis

That’s pretty cool, but what’s even better is the fact that using you can make direct links, not just to pages, but to a specific fragment of text on a page. Here for example is a direct link to Arthur Calwell’s infamous phrase ‘two Wongs do not make a White’ in Historic Hansard.

It’s easy to do, just:

  • Open by clicking the tab that appears on the right of any page in Historic Hansard.
  • Either create a free account, or sign in to your existing account.
  • Highlight the text you want to share and click ‘Annotate’.
  • Write something in the box and then click ‘Post to public’.
  • Click on the share icon to copy a persistent link to the annotated text.

But we can go further! What about direct links between fragments of text on separate web pages?

Screen capture of Meanjin article showing annotation

In November last year, Clare Wright published an article about Hansard on Meanjin’s blog. It includes a number of quotes from Hansard, so I thought it provided a useful test case for an experiment in direct cross linking.

First I found each quote in Historic Hansard and annotated it with a citation noting it had been quoted in Clare’s article. I then copied the shareable link for the quote and went back to Meanjin.

Meanjin doesn’t have embedded, so I had to ran the article’s url through the proxy. Then I annotated the corresponding quote in Clare’s article with a full citation to Historic Hansard including the direct link to the quoted fragment.

Finally, to complete the circle of citation, I copied the shareable link from each quote in Clare’s article and added them to the annotations in Historic Hansard.

If you access Clare’s article via you can see the result. Try clicking on the highlighted quotes and following the links in the annotations.

This means that not only is the article now linked to Historic Hansard, but the quotations themselves are linked in both directions. Someone exploring Historic Hansard can see that Clare has written something using the annotated text and can jump directly to where the quote appears in the article. Or someone reading Clare’s article can jump to the exact position of the quote and quickly view it in context.

This sort of thing gives me goosebumps because it really points to how our narratives and sources can interweave to create a real web. Indeed, Dan Whaley, the founder of pointed me to an article by Christina Engelbart describing how direct linking fulfilled the vision of Doug Engelbart and Ted Nelson, who designed the first hypertext systems in the 1960s.