Amanda HirschFreelance writer Amanda Hirsch, former editorial director of PBS Interactive, blogs about documentaries and the Web in her column, Outside the Frame, published every week on the POV Blog.

Forget what you’ve heard: The inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama does not actually begin on January 20. Sure, that’s when the official ceremony takes place, but who says that’s where the story of the inauguration begins? In fact, this particular story has been unfolding online for weeks, nay, months. To wit:
The Presidential Inauguration Committee has a website, blog and Twitter feed offering up-to-the-minute inauguration news and a behind the scenes look at what it takes to mount such an event. The committee also has its own photo stream on Flickr that allows virtual access to, say, the January 11 inauguration dress rehearsal or, for the more nostalgic, a round-up of photos from past inaugural balls. (Nice touch, adding historical context to enrich the story.)
Inauguration Parade Rehearsal

Photo of Inauguration Parade rehearsal courtesy of the Presidential Inauguration Committee on Flickr.

Not to be outdone, the Joint Congressional Inauguration Committee is also hard at work documenting the inauguration, including posting weekly photos of the inaugural platform as it’s being constructed outside the U.S. Capitol. (A contender for the TMI, or “too much information,” category is the slideshow of the nail-driving ceremony. We get it: you’re building a platform! What’s next, a photo gallery of the construction workers’ lunch breaks?)

Lest we all forget where the inauguration is taking place (other than online), the Washington, D.C. government’s website is on hand, offering further photos of inaugurations past, as well as a series of interactive maps to help enrich your inauguration visit. You can even download the Navigating Washington map application to your Blackberry or iPhone. And since this seems to be the age of Twitter, you can follow the government’s inauguration tweets as well.

Screenshot of the navigating Washington map

Screenshot of the D.C. government’s Navigating Washington interactive inauguration map.

Speaking (again) of Twitter: The Twitter community is amassing its own archive of inauguration coverage that goes well beyond any official committee or government contributions. Individual users can just tag their tweets with #inaug to add their content to the central inauguration pool, which is viewable at the hashtags website. (If this is all Greek to you, check out this excellent explanation of “hashtags” and how they work.)

Twitter user Andy Carvin, for example — who also happens to head up social media efforts at NPR and helped organize Twitter users to employ the #inaug tag — has posted such inauguration-related tidbits as:
“The Neighborhood Inaug Ball will also have interactive video and texting to link to other neighborhood balls around the country #inaug09”
“Overheard people at LL Bean in Columbia, MD buying all-weather clothing for standing outside at #inaug09.”
(Incidentally, POV will be twittering from the inauguration, too — we have an actual ticket! — at

Last but not least: Local media giant The Washington Post is also in on the action with its Inauguration Watch website. I like the “Faces in the Crowd” feature, a series of profiles of people who plan to attend the inauguration — from Indian American Gulshan Gachoke, who “almost never ventures beyond her Fremont (California) neighborhood’s Indian shops, lest someone mistake her for a Muslim and insult her,” to a Rhode Island professor and the 17 students taking his “Inauguration 2009” political science course at Bryant University.

The Post also joins the congressional inauguration committee in offering video of the inaugural stage’s construction and even goes a step further, offering a live webcam of the action — begging the question, What action?! But I digress.

There’s something for everyone, it seems, in this unfolding story of Inauguration ’09. Add your links to the mix using the comments section below.

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Amanda Hirsch is former editorial director of PBS Interactive.