At the beginning of this semester, the James Monroe Museum political cartoon group was faced with the task of taking 114 cartoons present in the collection at the museum in downtown Fredericksburg and make it accessible to the public. Our project took the form of creating an archive where each and every cartoon would be available to the public with historical commentary to guide the audience of researchers, educators, and the interested public. Looking back on this semester and at this extensive project, this group not only fulfilled what was promised in the contract, but also a great digital history resource was made available as the end result.
After deciding that this project would feature all 114 cartoons and that they would be presented as an archive, we ventured to the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library to assess the collection of cartoons. Discovering that we already had photos of all the cartoons, we were able to focus our project on bettering the quality of the images, taking pictures of those that were overlooked, categorize the total collection into separate exhibits based on topic, and do research on the events discussed in each cartoon. We then were able to focus on the website itself, deciding on a site platform and what kind of information architecture we wanted to use in displaying this weird, but wonderful collection.
In the beginning, we decided on using Omeka.net as our site support because of its great image hosting capabilities, its exhibit builder, and the Dublin Core data design, which guided our information architecture. Due to the limitations of Omeka.net however, we eventually decided to move everything over onto its brother site, Omeka.org. While this move was never noted in the contract, we still fulfilled this obligation because we are still using an Omeka based platform.
In building the site, as a group the four of us made sure we distributed the tasks evenly. Although some members were more eager to do more than they should, we made sure no one overstepped their boundaries and that no one took over another’s task. For example, Rachel I. oversaw the writing of the content labels because with her experience with museum work, she knew what components made for a good exhibit label. Andrew, Rachel L., and myself wrote a third of the labels and had Rachel I. look over them for both continuity and to make sure they flowed with each other. We also divided cleaning up the images, citing sources, and making the individual exhibits in this way. We also made sure we had our own little projects, such as my construction of the timeline and my collaboration with Rachel L. on the educational resources page. I can safely say that each group member took their responsibilities in stride and did what they said they were going to do.
Comparing the result of our project with our contract, it is important to note that while we came close to needing to change things around, we never did. The only thing that we were not always faithful in fulfilling was having certain aspects of the site completed by every due date. When this happened though, we were within reason. With my project, the timeline, I had plug-in compatibility issues and this caused us to be two weeks late with its completion. Otherwise, each group member met their due date. In the end, our project came out the way we planned it would. We succeeded in making this unique collection public using every resource and presenting every aspect we said we would. I am very proud with how this came out and feel that we were very successful in creating a substantial piece to contribute to digital history.