Monthly Archives: September 2015

Collections Conundrum

The Naval Academy Class Ring kiosk has been a longstanding intended project primarily researched by Mr. Gregg Overbeck, a US Naval Academy (USNA) 1969 graduate and museum volunteer. I am very lucky that Gregg has been so dedicated and transferred a fairly complete research project. Since my project is focusing on the actual ring, their owners, and their context in history, Gregg’s work is critical to the textual portion. He placed the images he found in a Microsoft Word document, which made for a wonderful presentation but created issues when I began attempting to upload. Therefore, the bulk of the images currently uploaded onto my Omeka site will have to be redone. Naturally, my hope is to utilize as many US Naval Academy Museum (USNAM) records and items as possible. In the coming weeks I plan on scanning any pertinent documents and photographing multiple angles of each ring. I also want to take advantage of other resources within the Naval Academy if the museum does not have certain documentation. For instance, for any graduate that is buried at the Naval Academy Cemetery I plan on linking to their inventoried burial plot pdf file.

Trying to wrap my head around the collection organization was a tall order. Since items can only be attached to a single collection, it was hard to pinpoint my primary navigation route so early in my project. After trying to map my collections I decided to organize by year since alumni are primarily interested in classes surrounding their graduation. When inputting new items I found that working backwards from tags and files helped organize my thoughts before diving into the Dublin Core fields. In class we talked about how the categories are somewhat subjective. I created my own definitions for any fields that were not straightforward enough that I plan on using.

Subject: The graduate who owned the ring.

Source: Original source, in most instances the donor.

Publisher: The platform from where it was pulled, likely the museum or special collections.

Creator: Who made the item originally, such as Tiffany Jewelers.

Contributor: Any researcher, or the photographer of the ring.

I also waffled between adding more inputs under source (combining donor and platform item pulled) and not using publisher. I understand that the more categories used tends to increase the metadata’s usability, so that is why I want to continue using publisher and additional fields as I get more information. In that same vein, I was playing around with whether or not Dublin Core’s category fields looked better all in one field or by adding input to create multiple fields. How do multiple fields within a category change the metadata’s capabilities?

Tagging is another navigation route I started to use. I like how Omeka automatically makes searching or browsing by tag possible.  I plan on standardizing  by only allowing one spelling/format for tags. So far I have been plugging in class year, last name of individual, and the wars or conflicts they were involved in.

After comparing how I am organizing my “collection” to the sample born digital archives and our readings I recognize that my project falls under the grouping of like materials instead of collections. As a museum we have a number of collections in the archival sense, but we do not have comprehensive collections to describe the primary focus of my project: class rings and their owners. Therefore, I must pull from a variety of sources to create the aforementioned groupings.

Comparatively, the Baltimore Uprising website is literal in its archival documentation. Under the collection tree or browse collections tab, the items all fall under an individual donor’s collection. The similar items list is somewhat comparable to tagging, but the non-standardized wording makes this listing unnecessary and inapplicable to other posts. The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank also falls under the true definition of an archival collection, but has better options for searching non-linearly. I see my project following the Hurricane Digital site because of its additional organizational routes and variety of media options.


Design Newbie

Receiving a US Naval Academy class ring is a right of passage for any graduate. The basic ring design includes crests from the Naval Academy and graduating class flanking the center stone, with name engraved on the inside. Traditionally, the ring is worn on your left ring finger with the class crest facing in (to be closer to your heart). After graduating, the Naval Academy crest faces inward.  It is customary for the family of the first deceased member of a class to donate his/her ring to be displayed at the Naval Academy Museum. With rings from the 1870s to unfortunately 2009, the museum has been looking for a better way to tell the individuals’ stories and get passed the confines of the display case.

My hope is to create an interactive online exhibit that can be eventually transferred to a kiosk for museum display. I would like to have multiple themed navigational routes. The best plugin available through Omeka seems to be Exhibit Builder. Google Open Gallery and Open Exhibit offer similar interfaces, but I don’t know how to integrate either with Omeka.

Four possible navigation avenues:

  1. Navigation by Gallery of thumbnail images
  2. Navigation by Year
  3. Navigation by Class Crest/Motto
  4. Search by name

I want my primary screen to look very much like the actual exhibit display, about 10 rings across, as a thumbnail gallery. Cohen and Rosenzweig described this view as small multiples, forcing users  to compare the rings. Once clicked on, perhaps another page would open with larger images from multiple angles.

I was very excited at the prospect of 3D images that revolve on command, but I did not have much luck finding any tools. The few examples I did discover call for 3D cameras or are only capable of drawing the item like seen on Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History Mystery skull game. One of the main points of the kiosk is to really get close to the object – see the inscription and details, without it leaving the display case.

I want to include a short description of the ring to include the maker, provenance, accession number, and anything unique in its design. I’d like to link the graduate’s information to the page.  Their page will include a short biography, a couple of photographs, and links to either offsite or loaded primary documents. For instance, if they earned a Medal of Honor, then there would be a link to the citation.

I don’t know how feasible or evident multiple navigation routes would be for the user, but another option might be a similar gallery page for class crests. It would also be linked from the zoomed in ring image page. Each class votes on their crest and motto (in Latin), therefore, I was thinking of having a breakdown of common crest elements and Latin words used.  Individual crests would be described much like the ring images with provenance, accession number, and motto meaning. I was also throwing around the idea of a game matching class motto to meaning or to class year, but I was not able to find a tool that fit the bill.

With large numbers of older alumni returning, I recognize that accessibility and ease of navigation are critical. The large number of images and possible documents  need to be well organized and Collection Tree 2.0 would be a good tool. If I understand it correctly it could serve as the most straight forward way to navigate; for searching by year and name. Also a coworker swears by Dublin Core for metadata formatting, which I look forward to exploring once I better understand applying metadata.

One additional plugin that seems like a great tool for nonlinear navigation is Neatline. While I’m not certain on how to integrate it for my use, NeatlineText and NeatlineTime seem like the best options. Perhaps a nice added feature could be a timeline with conflicts the graduates participated in.

I had a lot of fun conceptualizing my project, but I realize I am very much a website design newbie. In reading plugin information, the basic understanding is there, but the practical application will be a huge learning experience.


Field or Method?

This week’s readings covered the unfathomably slow adoption (still happening) of digital history and the issue of its categorization. Every generation has its innovators; those people who instinctively recognize the possibilities of rising technologies or ventures. Coming from a generation that grew up with the ever rising omnipresence of computers, it is easy to understand the old guard’s aversion to digital tools.

The fact that many of the readings dated around 2004 proves that despite the technological value, the academic community still faces hard questions that reach the history field’s core. How can future history scholars both recognize the digital realm’s place in cutting edge interpretation and have hope for a good job? As Susan Hockey predicted the scholarly community is making massive strides in acceptance as more and more top tier universities devote positions to the study of digital history. And as more aged professors retire, more opportunities will arise.

As I start thinking about what I want to do my project on, Dr. William Thomas’s article “Writing A Digital History Journal Article from Scratch: An Account” presented a perfect conceptual look at the hindsight of building a completely new historical space online. Once you have a general subject matter, it is important to think conceptually in presentation terms from the beginning to properly utilize all the available tools for your argument. Others wrote of coming to terms with having less overall control of the narrative once a site is live. Digital scholars need to reconcile loss of control with navigational choices to ensure the argument is not lost.

I believe the study of digital history is a field because of the need to reconstruct the monographic idea of a narrative from a project’s start, which conflicts with the most basic constructs of historic methods. However, I also agree with the Journal of American History’s article, “The Promise of Digital History,” in its observations that today digital history is seen as new and different, but in the future the tools primarily used in digital history now will be naturally used in everyday studies. New methods take time to master, thus it’s only natural to initially need a wider scope, i.e. its own field, to build a knowledge base.


Reviews for Military Multimedia Websites

The use of websites dedicated to the interpretation of military centric videos from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan are still very hard to find at this stage. The wars’ recent proximity places their interpretation into the strategic and political affairs arenas instead of history. Despite the wars on terrorism surpassing a decade and becoming the longest-running conflicts in American history, it will still be a number of years before we can look at them through a historic lens.

The most interpretative example utilizing military videos of OIF and OEF is a digital history project created by Jennifer Terry and designed by Raegan Kelly called Killer Entertainments.

Killer Entertainments addresses the role of video in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The project attempts to answer the question of how to present and analyze videos taken by combat troops without diminishing or sensationalizing their contribution. The situations in Iraq and Afghanistan have become an afterthought for much of the American public. Killer Entertainments presents site visitors with the necessary scholarship to draw their own conclusions about the conflicts.

The site is dated with videos from 2007 and earlier, and a less than user friendly interface, but the nonlinear presentation and innovative design still hold relevance. A three frame horizontal format allows for indiscriminate viewing of the selected videos in single, double or triple playback mode. Depending on the level of action in individual videos, viewing three videos simultaneously alludes to the perception of chaos in war, suggestive of the variety of viewpoints available in a warzone.

As you watch, key frames trigger access to concepts, analysis, and contextual information. The scholarly points connected to each video literally strafe across the display with a changeover in footage. Only by participating are readers able to control the links that puncture the screen much like a bullet. After extensive exploration of the project, the page takes on the sight of a battlefield, littered with red tracers, dried blood spots and bullet holes.

Killer Entertainments’ greatest weakness is not in its presentation, but in its accessibility. Even though the site is not barred through means of membership, it is linked to less than five websites. Moreover, I had little success in my attempts to access the project through a keyword search using words used within the project, such as viral or military video.

Visitors are forced to actively participate in order to discover everything the project has to offer. Through the combination of music, voice, and visual interactive structures, visitors gain knowledge through experiences. The raw footage captures the full range of human emotions be it fear, panic, excitement, adrenaline, and calm. Viral videos allow the user to bear witness to combat in its truest form through the sights captured on film and the sounds of gunfire, commands and profanity. Although content is over 80 percent U.S., the use of insurgent video made by the Islamic Army of Iraq and locals leads to intriguing discourse against the American-centric view of the war. Visitors reach a new level of understanding while watching insurgent videos of RPG strikes on U.S. aircraft, IED attacks on coalition convoys, and views of dead American troops.

Creators Jenny Terry and Raegan Kelly’s design cultivates the many attributes of the digital medium by making use of its nonlinear capabilities. Simultaneous links and visuals allow the visitor to take in multiple viewpoints without focusing on a single argument, consequently giving the user a greater depth and range of knowledge in which to make their own interpretations. Killer Entertainments is proof that innovation and form do not have to be sacrificed for clear navigation. However, the project’s highly interpretive nature lacks a quantitative thread of commonality. A concept map tracking the number of times specific points were pushed could serve to reinforce their argument. Nevertheless, Killer Entertainments is a great step in the evolving realm of digital scholarship, pushing the envelope of media incorporation with abstract design and giving the visitor interpretive opportunities not afforded in the world of the monograph.

The next most viable options for military multimedia interpretation are military museum or war memorial websites. The National WWII Museum is a prime example of a website that straddles myriad categories.  Its scope of projects varies from oral histories, virtual exhibit tours, teaching resources, a blog, and critical thinking interpretation, all while emitting a community feel. The site’s digital collections area is a valuable resource, linking images and oral histories, but does not make available critical documents or citations for researchers. Scholars have many primary sources available, but will have to search elsewhere for in depth documentation.

Other Interpretive Military museum websites:

-Australian War Memorial

-Navy History and Heritage Command

-National Museum of the Marine Corps

The best options to get the largest selection of military videos and images are the Defense Media Activity (DMA) ( and the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) ( Both are official Department of Defense outlets for frontline public affairs coverage. DMA serves as a database hub for information on a “variety of media platforms, including radio, television, internet, print media and emerging media technologies.” Curated links guide users to the various armed forces websites. DVIDS offers a more modern interface with every discernible media available. Both websites have archival capabilities to draw upon the last 20 years of official information. These websites largest downfall is the restriction of topics to Department of Defense sanctioned information. To explore popular videos posted by individuals and units, YouTube, and LiveLeak are the best options.

Other Military multimedia websites: video section



All of these websites serve an archival purpose but also gives the user a peripheral sense of community. Well known key word search websites offer basic levels of curation, and organization by subject matter assists visitors in their video search. Users have the opportunity to create compilations of the best videos, upload their own, “like” a video, and comment. Only after initial searches do the sites recognize users and offer suggestions for viewing.

Review of Digital History Work Rubric

Part of the digital realm’s draw is that the internet is a space full of innumerable capabilities. With that in mind we need to recognize the applicable categories, but not pinhole works to a single type.

  1. Archival/Database – digitized primary documents or a link based site providing access to other online resources
  2. Community/Forum
  3. Teaching Resource
  4. Blog/Journal
  5. Exhibit – object based, interpretation (the majority)
  6. Virtual Tour­­

By acknowledging the possible categories we can better evaluate the individual sections. In the case of online community forums, how are the forums organized? Is there an overarching theme? Does a moderator regularly police responses and help extend the discussion?

Just as in any scholarly work, the site must have original research and interpretation, as well as a discernable argument. It needs to be more than simply a journal article placed online, it needs to take advantage of the expansive digital tools available to help solidify the argument.­­­ For example, when reviewing a teaching resource, the audience or grade-level should be acknowledged and evaluations should be based on that level.

Telling a story online can be an amazing opportunity to not only extend your audience, but also to explain your reasoning in new and innovative ways. The nature of many of the projects is a post-and-forget mentality, which forces authors to lose some level of control in the interpretation. The ease of navigation becomes critical to correctly guide the discussion. By utilizing the web’s interactive capabilities and multiple communication and media platforms, you present a variety of learning styles to help individualize the experience. For instance, if you can create a game-like atmosphere, learn-by-doing readership get a better chance at understanding your message. Likewise, by linking video of an event or oral history, you draw in the audiophiles.

The democratization of history on the web has led to some great amateur projects, however, the best way to differentiate those with scholarly works are proper citations and access to primary sources. Not only does transparency assist with interpretation but helps other researchers and allays any copyright issues.

Unlike most academic scholarship which tends to be hidden from the public eye, one of the greatest attributes of digital works is their ability to reach the masses. If the project cannot be easily found in a key word search engine or requires a fee.

As with any scholarly review, if faults are found, constructive criticism and a few options for consideration should be offered. Since adaptability is one of digital history’s greatest attributes, suggestions for improvement could easily be adopted.