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.


3 thoughts on “Design Newbie

  1. This is a very cool project. It seems like Omeka will be a great venue for you. Will you take pictures of the rings yourself, or are they already digitized?

  2. Just a thought: for the bibliography of the ring’s owner, I think it would be really cool to have accompanying audio of someone reading the text, to give the impression that the owner him or herself is “telling” their story.

  3. First off, I want to say that the Naval Academy museum is one of my favorites! I got to take a tour with the staff two summers ago while I was interning with the Marine Corps museum.

    One thing I thought of while reading your entry was adding two additional navigation pathways. I think if I was a casual museum goer, I might like to look at rings categorized by conflict or even individual battles and then another pathway for medal citations. So anyone who won a Medal of Honor or the Navy Cross would appear in a group. Those citations, as you know, contain so many incredible stories that would be a good introduction to members of the Navy by way of their class ring. But just a suggestion!

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