Time lines have long existed as a useful visual representation of data. Their immediate strength is the contextualization of data in a linear progression. Their faults, however, are numerous, and generally discourage historians from presenting data in that manner. First, they contextualize data too strongly. Often, a time line will create such a powerful narrative that it naturally squelches alternative interpretations. Similarly, it becomes difficult to present counter-factual scenarios. Second, the traditional visual depiction of the time line fails to convey the cyclical nature of human history. Patterns and trends are lost to the linear march of events. Finally, time lines exist as a static medium. Unlike an essay, their growth is limited by the 2-dimensional size of the presentation; guaranteeing a shallow historical perspective.

The availability of information is often incorrectly measured. Information, while easily available, may lay untouched by its desired audience. Information cannot merely exist, but must also invite an audience in. This project, from its inception, was to recognize that important participatory aspect of building the diversity narrative at Williams College through the generosity of contributors. Its current, past and anticipated populations are encouraged to examine and enhance what might be known about Williams’ diversity choices—missed opportunities and significant developments.

Diversity is a complex construct that too often attempts to separate the differences rather than find means by which they intersect. The result can lead to further segregation or worse. This time line, which we prefer to call a thread-line, will hopefully offer an alternative to a linear movement through space and reveal that no current choice is without precedent or shaping influence from some earlier choice, that no immediate event is isolated from all others and therefore to be regarded as unique, and that to examine our institution’s current mission is to also consider how we have arrived at this moment through the contributions, challenges and generosity of many who precede us.