Wow. I can’t believe that its the end of the semester, that our project is, for the most part (barring revisions) completed, that its almost time to say goodbye to something that has become such a part of my life. This project has eaten my life, in a good way. It was rewarding and challenging, but more on that later.
As for what we contracted at the beginning of this semester, I feel that we met and exceeded every goal we laid out in the group contract. We archived all 114 political cartoons, and made five mini-exhibits, which exceeded our original goal of making just one with the Monroe related cartoons. This is thanks to the Omeka interface, which I really pushed for since it had an easy exhibit builder plugin and I was looking forward to putting into practice everything that I was learning about in my exhibition design lab. In such a rewarding way, everything I learn in both classes contributed to my projects for both.
We researched and displayed all the cartoons in a viewable manner, and despite problems with Omeka we managed to have EVERYTHING and more we wanted for the site. We got the mini-exhibits, we got the archive, we got the Timeline (finally!) and the glossary page. By downloading a new theme we got the slideshow and featured exhibits on the home page, and a really easy to use interface. While it does still have glitches in teh exhibit builder, it is worth it to have everything else we wanted. Overall I am very happy with how the site turned out and believe that we fully met and exceeded our goals.
The process this semester, the getting what we wanted part, was long and at times complex. Originally we were researching alot, which almost made us feel like we were behind the other groups, who seemed to focus on building thier site first. However it was the nature of our project. We decided to say somthing about these cartoons, not just throw them up in political cartoon vomit on the screen, which I think was a good choice. Choosing Omeka was a no-brainer for me, but for the others it was a harder sell, especially since we had so many problems moving from omeka.net to omeka.org and organizing our information at first. I was confident however that it would come through and be better suited for our project than wordpress and I’m glad I conviced them to stick with it.
The editing of the cartoons and the labelling was the most time consuming of my personal tasks. While we agreed that each person would write labels and edit the cartoons in their own section, I was tasked with editing the labels and seeking uniformity. As a result I edited almost all 114 cartoons, as we all ahd different programs for editing and I ended up being the one with the more usable programs. It was time consuming and at times a headache, but I’m happy with the results. The cartoons look like new and are easy to view online, one of the main reasons we edited them. Another task of mine was to make a video about the editing process, and while the contract said we’d use imovie, I didnt touch that program. I had Jing on my computer and used it to shoot the video. I then uploaded it to screencast.com from which I copy/pasted the HTML for embedding the video in the site. It was easier than attempting to upload it to youtube and I’m happy with the video quality. The player has volume and fullscreen options, just like youtube, only without all the hassle.
Label writing is an art, and I repsect now even more curators who write them regularly. Reading 114 cartoon labels per day, every day, for finalize them was a trial. The problem with such a dense collection was that some did slip through the cracks, only to be caught and added later. So the label writing process was long and drawn out way past the due date on the contract, but they got done, which is the main thing.
As far as the group work, I feel that as a group we worked together pretty well. We all had our stengths and we all had our faults, mine mainly being trying to take on too much work, because I like doing the museum work that was associated with it, and I liked learning the HTML later on. Rachel L was a fantastic research guru and label writing machine. Her faults was trying to do too much, like me. Andrew had a styleto his writing that was distinct and inviting. His fault, not of himself but of circumstance, was being stretched thin between this class, others, and his 485 project. Heather was the most technologically savvy of us and worked wonders with DTLT and making the Timeline happen and installing all the plugins and working the behind the scenes interface of Omeka. Her fault was the label writing, but she improved greatly after practice.
Overall this process has been so very rewarding. Not only did I learn about all the digital tools needed to create a website, I worked on a digital exhibit, which is a growing concern for many museum. So many lessons I learned from this project, about coding, and visual design of a website, and bringing museum objects to a new interactive space, will only serve to help me when I try to break into the museum field. I’ll be bringing so much experience in a variety of areas with me and so many good lessons. I’d just like to thank Dr. McClurken, for opening my eyes to the world of Digital History, and for making me take this incredible journey, both inwards and out.