Omeka exhibit

historyofford.omeka.net is my Omeka exhibit.

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Omeka project

I am planning on doing my Omeka project on the history of the Ford Motor Company, especially its cars using photographs I have taken at various car shows throughout Connecticut.

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Designing for the Web

 “Users of the web encounter attractive and functional sites, and awkward and unfriendly pages, all the time, and each of us is confident we know the difference between good and bad design and that everyone else is wrong about such things…  If a website is a tool, Nielsen and Krug tell us, then we want it to be as usable as possible, and good design helps to achieve that important goal. Surely there is nothing wrong with—and much to be appreciated in—the clear construction and function of your web pages.”-Cohen

The best way to design anything on the web is to keep it as simple as possible and as easy to update as possible. An easy to navigate and constantly updated website that is simple in design is far better than some hard to update flash website, despite the flash based website being far fancier.

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How does the role of the professional historian or archivist change in a Web 2.0 world?

Professional historians and archivists now have to be web savvy to reach people in this age of computers, the internet, mobile phones, e-readers and other devices. Many museums have updates on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, and their own websites.

“A case study on the Powerhouse Museum‘s “Object of the Week” blog posts is a successful example of this exchange between curators and visitors over the web. Through a behind-the-scenes approach, the posts generated interest which appealed to both casual readers, as well as those interested in a deeper level of scholarship. In their posts, curators were comforted that the exercise allowed them to retain academic authority.”

Allowing visitors to interact with the museum staff and comment on galleries lets them get more involved in the museum experience.

“Other museum blog posts offer more than just highlights from their collection. They can even go as far as to express the stress in building an exhibition like Lana Hum‘s post about the Rising Currents exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.” “Sometimes blog posts even ask questions from visitors to create a general discussion about a work of art…” Some museums have days where people can ask a curator questions via Twitter. “For a promotion solely promoted through twitter, it was a remarkable success. Over three hundred and forty institutions participated, generating a lot of one-to-one access between curators and the public. The campaign marked one of the first times that curators used social media at work. Even though curators were limited to responses of one hundred and forty characters, “answers were still well thought out and authoritative in tone.”

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Undercutting

“He can’t, of course. For Harmel, the harsh economics lesson was clear: The product Harmel offers is no longer scarce. Professional-grade cameras now cost less than $1,000. With a computer and a copy of Photoshop, even entry-level enthusiasts can create photographs rivaling those by professionals like Harmel. Add the Internet and powerful search technology, and sharing these images with the world becomes simple.”

Not only does this apply to photographers, but it also applies to web designers as well. With an increasing amount of programs being made available that streamlines and makes the designing of websites easier, it takes business away from professional web designers as more people take on the task of making a site themselves. I once heard a professional web designer/graphic designer complain that anyone with a copy of Photoshop can now market themselves as amateur web designers and take business away from (the far more expensive) professionals.

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Web turning social

“Recent analysis by the Internet monitoring firm Netcraft places the number of autonomous Internet sites available online at over 210 million (Netcraft, 2010). According to predictions by Guo-Qing Zhang et al. (2008), this number is set to grow exponentially, doubling approximately every 5.32 years. With this growth, the Internet is evolving from being a “collection of hyperlinked documents to a hyperlinked Web of Data,” (Ding et al., 2009) and concurrently, is moving towards what has been coined ‘Web2.0′ (also known as the ‘Social Web’ (Gruber, 2008)).”

As a web designer I agree that the web is turning more towards social websites. Many people are turning to social media sites instead of developing their own personal websites because of the ability to reach a far greater audience with much more ease. Instead of hoping that people will randomly come across your website on a Google search (if it’s even near the top of the listings), it is easier to advertise on a website such as Facebook. Being able to ask your friends to “like” your “fan page” or to join your group is easy, then they can advertise your page to their friends and it spreads outwards much more easily.

“In creating tags, users include information that they personally think is significant about a museum object, and also that seems important for the retrieval process.”

It is an invaluable tool to let users tag items because it gives people the ability to come up with tags that the original creators may never have thought of.

“Because no specific skills are required to apply tags to museum objects, folksonomies are inclusive by their very nature. As such, they can provide members and groups who are traditionally left out of the descriptive process with a voice, and an opportunity to reflect their own experiences of an object (Jorgensen, 2004).”

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Digital Collections

I was impressed with the article about the online Hurricane Katrina collection that, “at this writing the HDMB database contains almost 1,300 personal reflections, more than 13,700 digital images, and more than 7,000 other files (everything from newspaper articles to PowerPoint briefings given by the National Guard units). With more than 25,000 digital objects in its archive (some not available for public browsing), the HDMB project is one of the largest repositories of sources on the hurricanes of 2005.” The same goes for archivists who collected information on the aftermath of September 11, 2001.

In many of my classes people are unable to do research on what they would like simply because the information is not there, or easily accessible to them. With online collections, generations of future historians will have even more resources than we do today. This is assuming that the websites and collections that collect this wealth of information are still around in the years ahead.  According to Daniel Cohen, ” Electronic resources are profoundly unstable, far more unstable than such paper records. On the simplest level, many of us have experienced the loss of a floppy’s or hard drive’s worth of scholarship. The foremost American authority on the longevity of various media, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), still cannot give a precise timeline for the deterioration of many of the formats we currently rely on to store precious digital records. A recent report by NIST researcher Fred R. Byers notes that estimates vary from 20 to 200 years for popular media such as the CD and DVD, and even the low end of these estimates may be possible only under ideal environmental conditions that few historians are likely to reproduce in their homes or offices.”

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The impact of the Web

How does the Web impact the way that we do historical research? How does it change the way that we think about sources?

With hundreds of online databases available through various university libraries, research is now easier than ever. The databases cover many different topics. Also, thousands of books are now being digitized and put online by Google books. Many websites with scholarly articles and blogs written by professionals are now available to readers.In the post by William Thomas of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, online articles do create friction with those stuck in the rigid ways of old-style scholarly articles, printed in journals. Online sources make reseach easier because the information is at your fingertips, right on your screen, rather than spending hours in a library, going through books and photocopying or writing down the information that you need. Books are keyword searchable and now you can find books that you may have never previously though of. Popular sites such as Amazon can help you find books as well through their recomendations.

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Wikipedia

I find Wikipedia a valuable resource. No, I do not use it as a source for my school papers, but I feel it is invaluable as a jumping off point when looking for ideas for research. As stated in The New Yorker article: “The Encyclopædia Britannica, which for more than two centuries has been considered the gold standard for reference works, has only a hundred and twenty thousand entries in its most comprehensive edition,” whereas Wikipedia currently has over 3,700,000 articles. Many of these articles site their sources which then can be looked at for further information when doing research on a topic, I have done this many times and it has helped me greatly when writing papers. If only there were a scholarly version of Wikipedia that we could all rely on.

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Digital Copyright

I have had a few experiences with digital copyright issues. As an artist with an online portfolio, it is always tricky when dealing with people stealing your art, especially with photographs. Members on several popular art sites such as Deviantart.com have left the site because they feel that their work is not protected enough against web surfers who want to steal it and use it for their own purposes. One photograph a friend of mine took actually ended up in an image on ebay for a company selling a product.

Nothing is really fully safe on the internet. Especially images, music, software and video files. I for one can’t remember the last time I purchased a CD, DVD or computer software… why would I spend $500 on a piece of computer software I can get it for free online? It’s sad but true.When Napster was shutdown in the early 2000’s, many more person to person file sharing programs cropped up to replace it. Audio and video can even be ripped straight off of youtube now using certain websites. Watermarks on images can easily be photoshopped off if one really desires an image. However, when building websites professionally, I always create my own graphics for the site, because I would not want to run into any issues as far as that goes.

I’ve also dealt with copyright a little bit during my time interning at the Connecticut Historical society. When entering graphics into TMS (The Museum System), I had to be sure to put the copyright information on ever photo.

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