Posts Tagged ‘Omeka’

Final Thoughts

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Would have had this written earlier, but I got distracted poking around everyone’s finished sites and musing over how impressive they are, especially when considering we all started only three months ago with vague project outlines and a bunch of technological tools we didn’t know how to use. The Alumni Images group hit the ground running with our project; our collective enthusiasm for what we were working on helped us bond as a group and kept us on track to meet all of our deadlines while our now novel-length Google.doc allowed for easy collaboration, serving as a space where each member of the group could contribute her or his ideas.

Our contract underwent several edits within the first few weeks of the semester as we worked to define exactly what our project would be, but the contract we settled on gave us a solid base for all of the work we’ve done since that point. We met all of our deadlines, most importantly the site launch date. We used Omeka, with only minor difficulties, to organize and lay out our site, and we used other technology that fit with the purpose and goals of our site, such as our Google Map and Guest Book, which allow alumni to interact with the site, and our slideshow that provides a general overview of the images.

As for our primary goals for our site, to collect information from alumni and to create a place for alumni to enjoy the images, I believe we met those to the best of our ability. We intended the, admittedly unwieldy, Omeka plug-in Contribute to allow visitors to submit their own images and information about the photos we already have, but so far only Dr. McClurken has done so (thanks!). But that is not to say that we haven’t learned a lot. Various people have left Facebook messages, emailed us, or contacted us in some way or another to share what they know. We’ve also had several offers of significant contributions, including newspaper articles from a scrapbook, a video of the 75th anniversary of the school, and photos from various alumni who worked for the Bullet or other school organizations. We’ve done our best to communicate with everyone who has contacted us and sincerely hope that they will be able to get their items onto the site. We’ve also done a good deal of our own research and learned a lot about the photos we chose from the archive as well as fun facts about our school. We didn’t quite reach our goal of uploading 200 images, but we do have a spreadsheet full of data to add to the archive’s records. As for whether we’ve created a site that alumni enjoy visiting, our Google Analytics records seem to indicate that we succeeded. We’ve had hundreds of hits, and visitors as of now spend an average of more than five minutes clicking through the images. I couldn’t be more thrilled that people are taking the time to view this site we’ve worked so hard on throughout the semester.

It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to this project because our site has the potential to continue growing, something that each of us hopes will happen in one way or another. All in all, this class has been unlike any other I’ve taken at Mary Washington. I’ve learned the importance of having a sense of humor and experimentation when it comes to using technology (and map groups), of considering your audience, of teamwork based on individual talents, and the satisfaction of having something to show that we built from the URL up. Thanks to my group members and all of the other wonderful people who have helped make our site what it has become.

Let the Data Collecting Commence!

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

I’ll start with the obligatory hooray for getting our site (which is super awesome and you all should visit it and pass it on to your other UMW friends) launched! Megan flipped the switch on Sunday night at midnight, so though we’ve already checked the guestbook enough times that it feels like weeks, Mary Washington Images Throughout the Years has been in actual existence for less than 48 hours at this point. Hopefully as word gets out the number of submissions will start to grow. So the site launch has been the highlight of late. But a lot of work went into it and continues to go into it. On Friday Jonathan, Megan, and I met with Jim Groom to talk about how to incorporate some of the tools we wanted to use but hadn’t been sure how to make function properly. I’m pretty sure Megan and I squealed with happiness when he showed us how to use a Google spreadsheet as our guestbook. He also agreed to change the header font size for us to put the focus more on the images and to add a slideshow. Highly productive meeting.

Over the course of the rest of the weekend I put together the slideshow so that Jim could add it, Jonathan created the guestbook for us, and Caryn tackled all sorts of crazy HTML code so that the different simple pages on our site would look neat and organized. We also worked out a brief explanation of how to contribute something to our site. We were good to go! Or so we thought, because of course Dr. McClurken was ready with his suggestions a mere five or so hours after we made the site public. But his hints were very helpful, and I put together a new and much more thorough How-to page for the site. Hopefully now even people not very comfortable with picking their way around the internet will be able to submit the things that they wish. Ideally, people would be able to comment directly on an individual image’s page, but until/unless Jim Groom works some internet magic, Omeka just doesn’t seem to be able to handle that sort of thing.

Today in class we got the exhibits up which was great, we just need to tweak our descriptions of them. The issue of having multiple pages actually isn’t a big deal so for some of you guys who have been worrying about it I’d say try putting up some materials and seeing what the finished product looks like from the front end of your site. I feel like our site has already changed so much since we launched, and hopefully we can keep adding materials and submissions for the rest of the semester. Now we turn to the research side of our project, we’re sort of working backwards from what the rest of the groups seem to be doing, and we’re going to be pouring over yearbooks and the like in the days to come attempting to place the pile of photos that we do not yet have a year or even a decade for. And we each have responsibility for two or three collections worth of pictures, so as any identifying materials come in, we’re going to be updating the image information to reflect the new submissions. Okay, have to go check the guestbook again!

PS- Just came from the Career Night panel for the History Department, and there was a big emphasis on digital skills and knowing how to work within digital history. This class may help us in the real world after all 🙂

Countdown to Launch Date

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

So the images group got back from spring break with the terrifying realization that our site is going to up and running in less than a week! We each spent lots of time over our week off uploading photos into our chronological collections and transferring the data that the library currently has about each picture onto our site. It was quite the time consuming process, but that was one of the largest components of the project that we can now check off the list. We had a few issues initially with making sure that we were all being consistent in our methods of labeling things, but once we talked to Patrick and consulted with the instructions that Carolyn Parsons at the library had given us those issues worked themselves out. We’re still unsure as to how to add images to the special themed collections that we created, but hopefully we can resolve that soon. We have a huge incentive to have everything organized by Monday the 15th (Mark your calenders!) because our group got featured in the top position of the March alumni e-newsletter. Pretty schnazzy.

On Tuesday we met with the geography students charged with making our idea of a map into reality. They had some really good ideas and were able to make our thoughts more concrete in terms of what a map of campus expansion throughout the years would really look like. We provided them a link to a helpful UMW site that has the construction dates of all of the buildings on campus and told they’re going to work from those dates to create a color coded map of the UMW campus, beginning with the three original structures in one color and then working their way out through the different building and acquisition phases. I’m excited to see what they come up with. They’re also looking into MapLink and seeing what they might be able to create for us as far as a simple US map to track the location of the alumni contributing to the site. We know we’re going to be largely on our own for that one though, so we’re going to be doing some experimenting over the next few days.

We’re working on finalizing the things that we absolutely want in place before alumni start visiting the site, so I’ve been looking up things to include in a glossary of sorts to help people identify things that may have changed names over the years, primarily the different buildings on campus. It will both help alumni to search among the photos currently on the site and help us as current students to sort through photos that alumni may update with their own labels. I’m also working on a brief write up that will explain the site and how to contribute to it so that visiting alumni feel comfortable getting involved and interacting with our site. So much to do in so little time!

The Alumni Group Meets Real Live Alumni

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Saturday morning the four of us in the Alumni Images group sat in on a meeting of the Alumni Board meeting that was not nearly as boring as it sounds. When the time finally rolled around for our mini presentation we showed the members of the board our Omeka site where we had thrown up a handful of photos to demonstrate what our site will look like when launched. Our presentation basically mirrored the one we gave in class last week, though we left out some of the technical tools involved and focused more on the site itself. Everyone seemed pretty excited about the idea, and Caryn was awesome and made business cards with the URL and launch date of our site that she passed around as reminders to them all to help us out after we get our site up and running. The board members had a few helpful suggestions, such as that we should take into consideration the fact that many alumni have different names for places and buildings on campus (i.e. Arrington Hall was New Hall way back when), so we’ve decided to include a glossary of sorts in our site to help visitors find and identify the places they are looking for. It was great to present to such a receptive audience, and it definitely built our enthusiasm for the project even further. We’ve got people counting on us to make something of this site. And we got a free lunch and some stories about life at UMW in the ’90s out of the deal, so not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

Since the meeting we’ve all been pretty swamped with midterms and whatnot, but we divided up our two hundred images by decade and assigned group members to each decade, so we now know which groups of images we’ll each be responsible for uploading to the site and researching for further information. We also picked the four categories we’ll have as special, thematic exhibits on the site so that not everything is simply divided by decade. We worked out a pretty solid plan for the map and are now just waiting for the input of the geography students as to what they can and cannot do with our ideas. We hope to have all of the images uploaded after break and then we can start researching and working on additional items like our guestbook and a slideshow for the front page. Counting the days until our site’s launch!

Making Progress

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

We finally got our Advanced Omeka lesson this week, and rather than scare us I think it only further convinced our Images group that Omeka is the best route for our project. Because we’re working with so many photos, we’ve agreed that 50 per person should be workable, we’re going to have to be exceptionally thorough in planning out our site before we start building it. Hopefully an Omeka test site will let us play around with different ways to present and organize the pictures. But we’re excited about all of the possibilities for creating different collections and exhibits as well as the plugins that will let us add annotations to the images and enable alumni to contribute information about each picture. Should definitely work out.

We’ve been working on getting our contract finalized as well, and I think we have the parts in place, they just need to be polished a bit. After that is finished, our next steps will be to begin reaching out to alumni as well as narrowing down our pool of 200 photos from the 750 we have to choose from. We’ve all been looking through the archive (when it’s working) and making note of our favorite photos and potential categories for organizing them. Jonathan and I met with Mrs. Parsons at the library last week for an overview of how the archive process works from the library end. She showed us how to navigate the site and how to download the images, something that will save us lots of time because we can use the photos without having to rescan all of them. She gave us a list of photos she thinks have sufficient information as well as ones she thinks would benefit from our contact with alumni. She’s hoping that our project collects quite a bit of information and can then maybe be expanded because she has about 1,000 more images waiting to be put into the archive, some well documented others not. She also gave us a list of data that the library tries to collect for every photo and instructions as to how to label the photos (i.e. whether we use graduation or commencement for that diploma awarding ceremony held every spring) so we can maintain consistency in our work.

Basically, we’ve laid a lot of the foundations for our project, and now it’s time to compile all of the pieces and all of the help from our different resource people and get to work actually creating.

An Education in WordPress and Widgets

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Everyone threw a wide variety of tools at us over the past week or so, and now it’s up to us to decide the best way to utilize all of this technology in the best interest of our group projects. I had experimented with some of the tools before, but others were completely new. My group definitely ran with the idea of using Google Docs for collaboration, choosing to use it during class on Tuesday to collectively jot down our initial impressions throughout the rapid fire introduction of the technology. Now when we next meet as a group we can move beyond first impressions into what we think would be most valuable for our photos project. We’ve got a Google Calendar up and running as well, helping us keep track of meetings and potential alumni events. Obviously one of the tools that stuck out the most to our group was the NexGen slideshow feature that we could easily incorporate into UMW Blogs. After all, a blog need not be a constantly updated journal of sorts, but with the right content and layout can serve as a means of presenting our final project. What we haven’t discovered yet but hope to find is a possible widget/plugin that would allow alumni viewing the photos online to click and instantly contribute their knowledge about the pictures. Unfortunately, as far as I know, Google Analytics doesn’t track specific visitors to a site so we wouldn’t be able to find alumni that way, but I think we’ll all be intrigued to see how people navigate to the collection.

But just as everyone was excited about creating a slideshow using UMW Blogs and NexGen, Omeka got thrown into the mix. Omeka I think would be the more complicated option on our end, but the final result very well might be better. Omeka’s ability to present epic numbers of images is exactly what we’re going to need even after we manage to scale down the number of photos we’re dealing with. According to the Omeka Wikipedia entry, the Missouri School of Journalism uses Omeka to store their collection of 38,000 photos. If they can manage to organize and present that many pictures with Omeka, we shouldn’t complain too much about our couple of hundred 🙂

Whatever we decide to go ahead with, one thing is pretty obvious: the current UMW photo archive could use a bit of improvement. After poking through it for a while I understood the frustration caused by the different labels and categories for the pictures pretty well. We’ll need to figure out a standard labeling system, and then I think a tool that allows people to easily search for photos by putting in keywords would be ideal. And maybe we could incorporate an RSS feed of a current UMW news page, contrasting old pictures with contemporary goings-on on campus. Or we could include a delicious page with links to school news/alumni event related sites. People might be interested in seeing what a 21st century Devil-Goat Day looks like after seeing pictures of one from decades ago. Anyway, I’m sure there are many, many, more uses for these tools out there. Here’s to hoping we find the ones we need to help us create a good final product!