Per our discussion of Omeka and of archival metadata last class, I thought I would share my first (and to this date only) foray into the world of Omeka.
The Schlater project is a group assignment that has been utilized for the past few years in our Public History Method & Theory class. It involves a collection of World War II correspondence between the grandparents of Angie Schlater, a former Loyola Public History PHD student. The collection is vast, comprising of several-page long letters from most days spanning several years during the war. Though the letters form the crux of the collection, photographs and various ephemera are also included.
I’ve a personal stake in this project, as I have been digitizing the letters for Angie on and off for the past year- and I hope to finish it up sometime in the near future. However, this Omeka site is one that my group created during class in the fall of 2010. Looking back on it now, with far more comprehensive familiarity with the letters themselves, I’m able to grasp just how valuable a site like Omeka can be in terms of utilizing metadata for navigating archival content.
Anyone who tuned into the Academy Awards this past Sunday would have picked up on some patterns. Two of the biggest winners of the night- Hugo and The Artist- celebrated the history of filmmaking itself. The Kodak Theatre was done up to look like a 1920′s art deco movie palace. Women in vintage costumes weaved through the aisles passing out popcorn. Even the return of everyone’s favorite Oscar host of yore- Billy Crystal- signified a yearning for a return to simpler times.
I suppose any museum website could be considered a “public history” website. Having said this, the Museum of the Moving Image website is one I spend plenty of time perusing. This institution has been my dream place of employment for going on ten years now, but when I’m not obsessively checking the job listings, I find plenty of other reasons to poke around.
The museum itself has recently received a well publicized renovation. Though I have not had the chance to visit the new space, I noticed their website had also received an image overhaul in the past year or so. As far as museum websites go, this is one of the better ones I have seen. It’s stylish, pleasing to the eye, and easy to navigate. The necessary links used to make way around the website are prominently displayed below the heading, and beneath this, current happenings at the museum receive center stage, taking up most of the page.
I would say the most noteworthy feature of the Museum of the Moving Image’s website, is their collections page. If the definition of public history, at its most basic, is to make history accessible to as wide an audience as possible, this museum has done a splendid job of making its holdings- the self-professed “nation’s largest and most comprehensive collection of artifacts relating to the art, history, and technology of the moving image”- available to the public. You can then browse the rich array of digitized artifacts- 6,831 of the museum’s 130,000 in total- by filtering your search through both “artifact class” and by “collection subset.”
But aside, it’s also thought provoking. We muse sympathetically upon Yahoo and Hotmail and Friendster- former internet phenomenons which have gone the sad way of the dinosaur punchline. But as fluid as the internet- and technological development itself- is, does this mean everything on the internet is subject to eventual obsolescence? Or is there such a think as the ultimate email server (gmail?) and the ultimate social networking site (facebook?)
During my flickr lurking, I happened to come across a quite fascinating project sponsored by the National Archives. History Happens Here! implores folks to “create (their) own augmented reality” by inserting a historic photograph from the NARA collections into a modern day photograph. Some of the results are quite striking. I hope to spark discussion about the manner in which this project demonstrates how the web- and how flickr in particular-create the opportunity for examining historical resources in an especially provocative way. Particularly in the case of somewhat controversial images such as this one.
VHS: The Video Home System Tape (VHS) was born in 1976 in Japan, changing the landscape of television watching forever. Edging out its competition-the Betamax-with lucrative marketing strategies, the VHS quickly grew to dominate the world of television recording, in addition to allowing people to construct their own home film libraries. By the late 1970′s, the VHS had made its way to the United States, and by the early 1980s an entire generation of Americans had their lives changed forever by their newfound ability to record episodes of Dallas and Hill Street Blues for viewing at a later time. Alas, a shift to digital rather than analog recording formats beginning in the mid 1990′s sealed the fate of the VHS, resulting in its eventual decline. With the rise of DVD culture, new films had stopped being released on VHS by 2006. Its final manufacture occurred in late 2008, in Florida, where many things and people go to die. However, it’ll live on forever in the creepy, curtained-off porn sections of many video stores.
Laser Disc: Born of the analog to digital shift that caused the demise of the VHS, the laser disc began manufacture in the mid 1980′s, enjoying a brief spike in sales in the early 1990′s. These large, shiny discs seemed the way of the future, in that retro 1980′s way where everything shiny and space-age looking did. Alas, much like slap bracelets, the promise of Hoverboards, and NASA’s Space Shuttle Program, laser discs were not the way of the future. People tired quickly of the large and cumbersome medium, which often required viewers to get up and flip the disc over just as Return of the Jedi was getting to the good part, completely ruining the Princess Leia experience. Laser Discs, which were large, expensive and difficult to store, were rapidly replaced by the more portable, and far more affordable DVD. Manufacture ceased entirely in the mid 1990′s.
Per our presentation in class this past Thursday, the following is a list of questions to spark further discussion:
- Should institutions place their entire collections online and make the experience digital? How would that entice visitors to attend the institution and have a multileveled experience?
- Are visitors capable of ‘self-directed learning” with little to no direction? How does a museum know the visitor’s learning starter point?
- What is the balance between individual agency and curatorial authority? Is it possible for visitors and curators to truly co-author/co-create?
- Is a museum truly able to offer a personalized, adaptive experience? Why is democratization of remediation desirable/undesirable?
- Is a cultural product inherently meaningful due to that interaction with and creation by the visitor?
- Is communication between museums and visitors essential?
- Susan Hazan’s article “A Crisis of Authority: New Lamps For Old” states that a common criticism museums receive as they shift to more technologically based exhibits is a privileging of “information over the object.” Is this a fair criticism? Do museums have a responsibility to privilege one over the other? Is it possible for new media to work in tandem with tangible objects without usurping them?
I’m vaguely living a lie. I try to put forth the image that I only peripherally participate in social media, am slow to catch on to trends, and mostly, kind of hate it. Two truths and a lie here, because while the latter (I kind of hate it) may be a fact, I participate more than peripherally, and am hardly slow to catch on to trends. As mentioned in a previous post, I had an internet journal in high school, more than ten years ago, WAY before the advent of Web 2.0. I subsequently had a friendster account, a myspace account, and- although I deleted it- had a facebook account during its first wave for college students only.
Now, this is not to say I didn’t experience mild to moderate anxiety every time one of these social media went obsolete. I deal poorly with change. I resisted switching from friendster to myspace when all of my friends did, put forth similar resistance when they all moved from myspace to facebook and, though facebook seems far from the precipice of being replaced, the presence of twitter gives me similar anxiety.
I’ve recently been coerced into opening a twitter account for Public History Media class. Though I’ve yet to tweet yet, our assignment was to “lurk” around twitter, which I have done plenty of myself already. I’ve looked quite frequently at the pages of friends and of institutions I am interested in, but for some reason, never felt compelled to join twitter and frankly, am a little terrified of it. As I did a little more lurking, I tried to figure out why. It is more than just vague anxiety that twitter will render all other social media obsolete and I’ll be forced- yet again- into a social media upheaval. What is it about twitter that is so intimidating?