Working in Public Projects has been a great learning experience. While working in the Division we were able to “sample” several different projects, which provided me with a firm understanding of the breadth of work this Division does.
I live tweeted our first day in Public Projects, which you can read about here. The focus of our first week was Omeka, the content management system used in online digital collections. We first looked at the showcases of Omeka to learn more about the front end. Our Clio class that evening was on Public History, so it was convenient to have the overlap between work and class. For the rest of the week we played around with the back end of Omeka. Megan took us through the steps of downloading Github, placing it in our directory on the dev server, and using command line in our Terminal to navigate. We also did user testing of Omeka, during which we installed the guestuser and poster plugins. We worked on generating posters on each other’s sites. We then installed all available Omeka themes and used them to test out the captions in both static and carousel views.
The second week we became more familiar with Histories of the National Mall. We compared Baltimore Heritage and Heritage Pin to Histories of the National Mall. Those sites have similar goals but use various methods to achieve those goals. Personally I liked History Pin – it’s a great example of crowdsourced history and it encompasses all parts of the globe rather than a single geographic region. Later that week we went on a field trip to the National Mall to do some live testing of the site. Since I don’t have a smartphone, I brought an iPad with me. Unfortunately for us, the wifi on the Mall wasn’t functional that day, so I was unable to do any testing (except for one minute when I was right outside the National Gallery of Art). Jordan and Stephanie graciously let me look at their phones so I was able to have some interaction with the site. At least our visit was a true visitor experience. After our field trip, we were each given a Mall Exploration to review and revise. I learned quite a bit about alternative plans for the Washington Monument. First I edited the content and trimmed down all five sections to under 50 words (apparently I’m unable to read directions that clearly state the sections can be 100 words or less). Then I fact checked the Exploration, using Dan Savage’s Monument Wars, a Washington Post article, the Library of Congress, and the National Park site. Editing and fact checking is a part of the writing process that I really enjoy, so I had fun with the Exploration.
Our final two weeks were spent on the 911 Digital Archive. We worked with several documents from the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings. I was given five of them, which I read through and then added metadata to the item record. Using Dublin Core, each document was given a title, description, date published, subjects, contributor, rights, and an item type. I never used Dublin Core standards in library school since I didn’t specialize in archives, but I am fully convinced as to the utility of the standards in museums and archives. Working with the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Fillings reminded me of my love of metadata and collection description.
Working in Public Projects has been incredibly rewarding. I greatly enjoy working in the public history field, and was pleased that we were able to work on so many different projects during our time in the Division. I found that working with the Histories of the National Mall Exploration and creating metadata for the 911 Digital Archive to be fun, which isn’t something I would have expected, but I attribute my love of editing content and creating metadata to my library background. Since this Division undertakes public history projects, when working on them I found it helpful to keep the audience in mind. What would a person creating a poster need or expect? Where might they run into difficulties? What type of wording in my Mall Exploration is the most concise, cohesive, and easy-to-read for a variety of reading levels and ages? When someone accesses the Boston Federal Aviation Administration Filings what sorts of data are they looking for? Is the wording of my description descriptive enough?
While I cannot believe our time is already over (I say that at the end of every Division but time really does go by too quickly), I am looking forward to CHNM’s 20th Anniversary Conference on Friday and Saturday!