web shrines

web shrines

The emergence of Web shrines -- home pages dedicated to the memory of friends or ancestors -- is unexpected, unheralded, and remarkable. Web shrines are among the clearest signs that the Web is neither purely a commercial nor a transitory phenomenon.

At first, Web shrines seem an improbable phenomenon. The Web, after all, is new and alien to most people; many of those whose lives Web shrines commemorate never knew the Web at all. Web sites are notoriously transient, too, while we normally expect memorials to aspire to permanence. But the electronic fragility of the Web shrine -- like the sacred flames of antiquity -- somehow seems wholly appropriate: shrines bear witness both to the virtues of the departed and to the continuing devotion and memory of those who tend the site.

The following list is a selection of web shrines brought to our attention by HypertextNow readers and the editorial staff at Eastgate Systems in 1996. Quite a few shrines remain online nine years later.


Web shrines defy categorization and resist genre. Here we find awards to commemorate a career, recipes to aid remembrance, memoirs real and imagined, prose and poetry and political polemic. We find shrines tended by sons and daughters, by grieving parents, by academic institutions, by an army medic who cannot forget the ravaged body of a child whose name she never learned.

Media pundits should approach Web shrines with profound humility; as far as I know, no hypertext researcher anticipated the phenomenon or even recognized it before Web shrines became widespread. No How To guides instruct shrine builders.

Absent experts and marketeers, we have myriad diverse sites, each crafted by an intimately personal vision for this most impersonal of media, each an intimately personal vision somehow captured in this most impersonal of media. As these shrines remind us, artists will use whatever tools they possess, however improbable the medium may seem to the message. When the work is finished, the medium no longer seems inappropriate or the task futile.

The next time it seems that there is something -- anything -- that hypertext is intrinsically unable to achieve, stop by a Web shrine. Remember.

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