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Tag: Museums

Thinking about digital exhibits

This week’s readings encompassed the idea of digital exhibits. If nothing else, I now think that anyone working on digital exhibits should have on hand a copy of the Curator article “Digital Storytelling in Museums” by Wyman, Smith, Myers and Godfrey, as well as the evaluation section from Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think.

For this post, I am going to take Conn’s title question, Do Museums Still Need Objects? and ask it of digital exhibits. Do digital exhibits need objects? Yes, I think so. However, I also think it’s important to define what we mean by an object. Digital exhibits don’t have vitrines to fill; Most of the time you’re dealing with a two-dimensional representation of any three-dimensional artifact you want to include, unless you’re willing to use fancy code or use a video (not always a bad choice). On the other hand, a decent quality digital image of a document or artwork might make it easier for visitors to see the details or read the very tiny handwriting than it would be in a traditional exhibit. Moreover, we also have video, audio, map, infrared scan, and other sorts of objects to use in a digital exhibit. You could undoubtedly make a digital exhibit without any historical ‘objects,’ but I suspect in that case you’d end up generating your own images or video, which are objects of a sort in their own way. I, for one, think the historical object can still be useful in a digital exhibit.

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H697 Less Myst, More Clarity

The readings this week were to explore the website The Lost Museum and read an essay which explains some of the ideas and motivations behind the project.

I read the essay first, because I initially visited both via iPad and didn’t want to deal with audio/video in a public place (I’m unable to wear headphones comfortably at the moment). Even if I hadn’t started with the essay, I would have seen the influence of the game Myst on the exhibit. I can understand way the designers might have been drawn to it as a model: it was an immersive experience, award-winning, stunning graphics for the time. However, I think it was a poor choice of model for a historical game, at least one you’re expecting people to come to without any preparation.

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Week 4: Design, Standards, and Usability

I enjoyed reading the various essays from A List Apart regarding design and usability, but the piece for the week which most engaged me was the article by Elings and Weibel regarding shared metadata standards for museums, archives, and libraries.

My job at the historic house and what I am now doing with CHNM both came down to assigning keywords, metadata, to historic documents and (at the house) objects. One of my roles at the House was to propose, evaluate, and define new keywords for our relational database. As a result, I’m aware of the benefit of a controlled vocabulary, as well as the challenges which accompany it.

As I think about it, the challenges fit well with the readings about design and architecture of websites. Both situations force the builder or implementer to look at the audience, or audiences, they plan to serve, and how the audience(s) will interact with the data they provide.
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The Donor Side

This past week I participated in the museum donation process from the other side – the donor side. My father was donating some of the papers of his father and grandfather to a military museum, and my sister and I joined him.

The initial meeting with members of the collections and research departments was relatively familiar to me, having witnessed it happening in my own department when I was at the historic house museum. They explained the process of accession – slightly different from what I was used to – and we talked about the content and history of the 2 trunks, display table, and assorted files and scrapbooks. They were very excited about some of the material, and sensitive to the fact that it was sort of hard for us to let it all go. They are, however, going to digitize everything, and we’ll get a pdf of the finding aid once it’s complete.

The best part of it all, however, wasn’t even on the original itenerary. Dad of course mentioned that I had just worked in a curatorial department, which led to some friendly colleague chat with the research guys. They suggested that, after visiting my great-grandfather’s aircraft (undergoing restoration), we visit their office building, also the collections storage site. Continue reading The Donor Side

Living with Hurricanes at the Louisiana State Museum

what remains of a piano damaged by Hurricane Katrina
Fats Domino's piano

Last month I was in New Orleans for a joyful family occasion, and I had the chance to see a new exhibit at the Presbytere building of the Louisiana State Museum titled Living With Hurricanes: Katrina and Beyond. I was intrigued by the exhibit to see how a museum in the heart of an affected area remembered and interpreted a major natural and human disaster. I was also drawn because Katrina had a direct impact on my family.

The joyful family occasion was my sister and her husband’s graduation from medical school. My sister moved to New Orleans for med school at the beginning of August 2005. Less than a month later, she was thousands of miles from her barely-unpacked house, with two cats, a car, and no idea when she’d be able to get back into the city. I viewed the events of Katrina and Rita through a familial lens; this exhibit was a chance to look at it from a different angle.

Overall, I found the exhibit compelling, informative, and I think designed in a way so that every visitor would come away having learned something. Information was presented in a number of ways, providing all sorts of ways for a visitor to connect to the story. The exhibit also seemed like it would not be too traumatic for someone who had experienced the storm to visit.

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