This week’s readings all discuss the concept of a website having/being a community for users and a way for them to dialogue. While I agree that this is an important feature for websites I wondered about the practical application for museums, archives, and public history sites. The examples Shirky gave in his book were hit-or-miss in their success and all were started from the ground up. But what about a site that already exists and wants to incorporate a user community within its organizational framework? History sites are attached to institutions, and as of right now there isn’t any getting around that, so how do they compensate for it? And once they do find a way to create a community, how do they attract an audience and sustain them? Shirky says that there is no magical one tool that can be applied to every situation, but are there any successful examples of history websites that can be used as an example for other sites?
My question is similar to Ashley’s; I am curious about how small websites track and adapt for their users. I imagine most projects are larger than ours, but I imagine a small staff and budget could interfere with a group’s ability to update and refine a website. Are there any viable options for a small group or organization to do so?
I was also wondering if it would be useful for us to download the “Simple Contact Form” plug-in? It would at least provide a starting point for communication with our audience, especially if this is a project any of us plan on perusing further.
I am curious as to why saving hardware and software is not a bigger movement. I realize that it would be cumbersome and nearly impossible for every archive to have a collection of all hardware and software, but would it not be beneficial for somewhere to collect old or outdated hardware and software that could be used by other institutions? I’m not sure on the practicalities, and there would be many obstacles, but I think it would serve as at least a temporary solution.
The Smithsonian has a Computer Collection (http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/comphist/) but I am fairly certain they never turn on the machines. Though I doubt it, I wonder if they would ever consider allowing other professionals to use outdated hardware or software if they have more than one example.
(This isn’t the most scholarly of questions, I know, but I kept coming back to it while doing the readings)
This site is a collection of items, mostly images, relating to the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club in New Orleans, Louisiana. Zulu is one of the krewes which have a parade at Mardi Gras. Zulu is the only primarily African American krewe and has an interesting and complex history which is reflected in their current practices.
This week’s readings made me wonder what happens when a system needs to be upgraded or transferred to a new system. Are the systems compatible with one another? If a small organization had an outdated system of information, would they be able to easily switch to the latest and greatest, or would they have to start from scratch?
For my tech question, how specific should we be when filling out the “subject” section of Dublin Core? For example, I have labeled my images with both Carnival and Mardi Gras, but for the purpose of my archive they are the same thing. I am following what other institutions have done, but their collections are vastly more broad than what I am doing.
Both the Weinberger book and the youtube video advocate the users ability to tag. Should we make our sites available for users to add their own tags to our images? Is that even possible? In general with tagging, is there a way to monitor or control the tags, to prevent things like repeated tags or tags containing offensive material?
Also, I tried to change my Omeka theme, but failed to do so. I downloaded the theme I want (winter), unzipped the file, and then pushed it to my website, but it didn’t change anything. So I tried moving the file from my website’s folder to my Project folder, but that didn’t do anything either. Is there a step I am missing or have I placed it in the wrong folder? Should I delete the theme and try again? Unfortunately, I didn’t write down how it was done in class last week.
Both readings this week mention how digitized items take up a lot of space on a computer, and that some items, when saved to an outside source like a CD, can take up the entire CD. Will this be a problem for us, even though our archives are much smaller than the ones mentioned in the readings? Would all of these large files change how our laptops run, and should we save all our items to CDs? Also, if tiff images are the de facto for the industry, should we save our images as tiff files? Is there a way to convert jpegs into tiffs?
Like some of my classmates, I am trying to figure out the balance between Krug’s ideas of simplicity and not being text heavy with my traditional views of historical writing. History is very text heavy, but Krug maintains that the ideal website should not be, and maybe Cohen and Rosenzweig’s middle-of-the-road approach is the best. The web is entirely decontextualized and that is frightening for historians and historical websites because so much of what we do is contextual. Perhaps some websites try to compensate for this by adding too much text, and therefore lose some audience, but is adding too much text always a bad thing? Would be not be better to have too much than a little too little, especially in our case when we are putting together an archive where contextualization and analyzing are key?
How “flashy” (not Flashy) should history websites be? Do historical websites which look very commercial and have a lot of features lose some of their sense of authority becoming more fun than informative? How much does the appearance of a website give it credence?
(Sorry this is kind of long.)
I also found myself drawn to the section of the “Interchange” article on museum exhibitions. I agreed with Frisch and Gallagher, in that no matter how great a website is, it will never replace going to the museum itself. There is a metaphysical experience involved with going to a museum. Regardless if it is for personal interest, or a mandatory school trip, being in the space changes your senses and how you experience the information. The environment plays a large role in the perception of the exhibition. In the very least, being in a museum changes your frame of mind. The level of noise, the movements of other people, the way the objects are presented, all require the patron to shift his/her focus. It some ways, it forces them to stop, or at least cutback, on multitasking and deal with the physicality and presence of the objects one-on-one. And museums which incorporate oral histories or interactive displays only serve to heighten the experience, because they can literally give a voice to the past.
And on a more practical note, this weeks reading have made me think about websites and how they incorporate many forms of media (text, audio, and video). I often find myself frustrated with the way they present the items. I find most websites either embed the other forms of media into the primary one which interrupts the flow or the other media is presented at the end and loses some contextualization. Is there a better way to smoothly bring together different types of media? Are scholars or designers working on this? Or is it just something I will have to get over? And what about when websites have hyperlinks to other sites that no longer exist or have changed significantly? Is there a way to avoid this?
Rosenzweig’s article about historical scholarship and Vaidhyanathan’s book both got me thinking about the alternatives to copyrights. Rosenzweig lists six alternative ways to access scholarly information, including self-archiving, partial access and electronic only journals, but he flat out states that there is no solution which does not have an accompanying set of problems. I think he takes a very realistic view with this statement; any system is bound to have flaws. And although Vaidhyanathan also offers alternatives to copyrights, he does so through a more general approach, he points out problems and what he sees as solutions to them, yet he does not offer a real alternative. In his enthusiasm for the subject, and while I share his opinions, I think that he fails in that he does not recognize there would be limits to any alternative system which is put into place.
I wonder if copyrighting is another example of society outstripping the laws it had set into place? If a new system was implemented, would it not also have similar situations to this version of copyrighting, in that problems would have to be worked out on a case-by-case basis, because the subject matters for copyrighting are so individual and unique?