Digital public history is taking the interpretive elements of digital history and building on them through community outreach. By taking advantage of the virtual landscape, a museum pushes their educational boundaries beyond the scope of a gallery. History is framed by questions, but more often than not those inquiries are asked by scholars and curators – leaving the public with a stunted view and unanswered questions. One way to alleviate this disparity is to include the public in the creative process. By listening to the community, an exhibit could become more diverse and well-rounded. The great thing about digital public history is its flexibility. Once a physical exhibit is built it is very difficult to update, but its online counterpart could be seen more as a prototype. The exhibit can be updated once visitor input and contributions are received from the online community. By acknowledging the community you can empower people to participate in documenting history and create a larger history minded public through transparency.
The possibility for online engagement is a wonderful tool but can be very labor and time intensive. As the museum professionals in “Grappling with the Concept of Radical Trust,” point out there are many things to consider before allowing users to add content. A museum is trusted as an authority on their subject matter, therefore to protect the brand, a certain level of staffing is needed to police incoming materials to ensure historical accuracy.
As internet usage continues its meteoric rise, virtual tourism is an obvious step to reach visitors across the globe. Drawing in the remote access visitor is a study in recognizing potential audiences. Creating our own personas for possible website visitors helped me form the basis of my design. I learned that a critical potential audience would be lost if I dove straight into the newest tools and non-linear navigation. To reach the next generation and gain new audiences, the conversation needs to expand to multiple web platforms and be available in mobile format. The ability for users to create content interactions and build their own version of the narrative can serve as a gateway to visitation. Since my project is an extension of a physical place, there needs to be visitation information in addition to the primary education elements. Additionally, my interpretive narrative, and the mission need to mirror the physical location.
The readings this week helped me realize that our museum’s website has a long way to go. We do the best we can, but we are constrained by the host network and a small (mostly computer novice) staff. Our class interpretive projects websites are great options to link to and help start the conversation.
Here is the link to my draft exhibit: Naval Academy Class Rings