What is digital history about if not making work accessible to the public? And what better way is there to do this than place it on the Internet? And what do many academic archives use?
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I’m going through two Omeka archives today in order to get a better idea of what my group’s “Refresh, Restore, Rescue” final website could potentially look like. I specifically chose websites that were archiving text-based information, rather than websites that put their focus towards archiving photos, videos, or things of that nature. This is because we will be archiving and displaying older websites from the college as a sort of hub. We don’t have many visuals to work with. We really don’t even have text. We only have links, and figuring out a way to make the information interesting and accessible will be a challenge.
This website is an archive of early 20th century letters from a Norwegian family, and a truly lovely example of a simple, lightweight, and elegant website. A nice visual as a header sets the color scheme. You’re greeted by a welcome page explaining what the website is and on the left side is a menu of ways that you can look through the letters. Searching by person, by time period, and location are all possibilities that the site’s viewer can easily see. The website’s biggest problem is the way the website translates some of the Norwegian letters and punctuation. Apostrophes are displayed as “â€™”, making the website difficult to read, but I’m positive that as we create an Omeka website that’ll largely be in English and already consider UTF-8 encoding, this shouldn’t be a problem for us.
What I hope to do is emulate this website in its simplicity. The idea of being able to browse forwards and backwards would be particularly interesting given the way websites aesthetics/functions have changed over the past several years. That way, our project can not only be an archive for old UMW websites, but show a sort of timeline as well. Of course, we need to figure out a way to display our websites in a less bare bones way than how Shoebox displays its letters. It works for text, but it doesn’t quite work for hyperlinks.
This website is an archive of oral histories taken in the 1980s from residents of Philadelphia about the early 20th century “Great Migration” of African-Americans escaping the Jim Crow south and traveling up north. The blue header is, just as Shoebox’s header, an image rather than text. An interesting pattern, but I guess formatting in HTML is much hard than just creating an image as a header. We’ll have to consider what text we’re going to type our into the website and what text we’re going to take as an image. A navigation bar at the top allows you to move easily between the biographies of residents, interviews, stories, etc etc. The about section below explains what the website is, coupled with a ribbon of interviewees’ faces and a slide show of Philadelphian images. The description offers a list of things the viewer can do on the website, linking to the page with each item.
I like that idea. I like the about page kind of explaining what the navigation bar buttons can do and then linking the viewer to the page anyway so they don’t have to scroll back up. It’s small, but it makes things easier. I am particularly a fan of the images associated with each of the interviews on the “Oral History Interviews” page. I’d like for an image or two to be attached to our websites, it might make them a little flashier and their contents might be better understood if there’s a visual. We could also write little blurbs explaining what each of the website is, what we did to it, and whatever other relevant information we can come up with about it. This page is also quite simple, the color scheme is nice, I think I’m a fan of the white background and blue accents. The use of images is also a nice addition to what could otherwise just be interview transcripts.
I think these two websites are good examples of what our final project should look like. Even if not an exact copy, the understated aesthetics of both websites are a good match for how little we’re working with in terms of visuals. The immediate navigation bars and home page explaining the purpose of the website is also something we should consider. This is good. We can make this work.