In my previous post, I mentioned that part of my motivation for wanting to learn more about digital exhibits was to better tell the story of Rastovich Family Farm, Deschutes County’s first Century Farm. During my recent 4-week internship at the University of Oregon, we set aside time to for me to explore ways of doing that and creating my own website to host my resume and CV and showcase my work.
During my conversations with Kate Thornhill, the Digital Scholarship Librarian, she mentioned Reclaim Hosting as a way to host your own website or Omeka. Reclaim Hosting offers domains and web hosting, primarily to institutions, educators, and students. Reclaim Hosting is a good way to host digital projects and it’s a solid introduction to web hosting and FTP. I found working with Reclaim Hosting to be quite easy, thanks to Kate Thornhill’s “Owning Your Omeka” LibGuide. The LibGuide contains resources and instructions on setting up your own domain along with valuable instructional videos done by Reclaim Hosting. Installing WordPress and Omeka Classic was as easy as a few clicks of the mouse. WordPress is a fairly user-friendly platform; while with Omeka Classic, you might need to click around a bit to find just what you’re looking for.
I began by installing WordPress onto my new domain, emilyrastovich.com, and got to work editing my main website. I wanted to include my Resume and CV, work samples from my MLIS program and this internship, information about my volunteer work with the River Road/Santa Clara Volunteer Library in Eugene, OR, and my digitization project in the summer of 2018 wherein I digitized over 14,000 historic photos and documents that were stored in my family’s 99-year-old farmhouse.
On the surface, it seems that many WordPress themes give users a certain amount of flexibility regarding the appearance of their webpage, when in reality, they offer more flexibility than some people think. For instance, I was adjusting the colors on my homepage and found I wanted to change the color of the site’s navigation and footer, but the only option I was given was to change the background and change the heading color. At Kate’s suggestion, I brought up my published page in Chrome, right-clicked on the navigation bar, and clicked “Inspect.” This brings up the source code for the web page. You can scroll through the code, and when you hover your mouse over a line of code, it highlights the area on the webpage that line of code is controlling. I was able to find the CSS code for the navigation bar and the footer and put that code into the “Additional CSS” portion of the WordPress, thus being able to make the navigation bar and footer whatever color I wanted.
Having created an Omeka.net digital exhibit for coursework (Army Service of Bob Rastovich), I had a working knowledge of Omeka Classic as a content management platform coming into this project. With this knowledge, I installed Omeka on one of my subdomains, archives.emilyrastovich.com, a place to display selections from my aforementioned digitization project and to create a few basic digital exhibits of historic family photos and documents. The second domain I set up is farmtour.emilyrastovich.com for a self-guided walking tour around Rastovich Family Farm. For the Farm Tour, I used Curatescape, a mobile-friendly Omeka Classic theme with a geolocation plugin. There are a number of Curatescape sites out there, used mostly by historical societies to map historic sites and locations. Examples include Cleveland Historical, Adelaide City Explorer, and Rhode Tour.
The Farm Tour can be taken locally or remotely. Visitors can use their cellphones to view historic photos of that space while looking around and exploring the physical space. As they explore the physical space, they can listen to an audio file attached to that location which narrates a description of that area and its historical use and any notable events that occurred there.
Curatescape uses OpenStreetMap for the geolocation plugin. OpenStreetMap is an open data world map built by volunteer mappers. I noticed on OpenStreetMap (as well as Apple Maps and GoogleMaps), that the farm’s quarter-mile driveway was shown, but there is a large network of private service roads and trails all around the farm that were not shown. I wanted users to use these roads and trails on the tour and be able to use the map to navigate their way to the different stops on the tour; so I went into OpenStreetMap and began adding service roads and trails to the property. Later, the roads appeared on my Curatescape.
My work during this internship, specifically as it pertained to creating exhibits and sites for my family’s farm, made me more thoughtful about how items in a digital exhibit are displayed to tell a story. Creating a digital exhibit is not just picking the best digital objects and putting them up for the world to see. Thought must be put into the digital displays themselves. Just as thought is put into curating objects and photographs for a physical display and the physical arrangement of the objects, the same thought process must be present when creating a digital exhibit. Exhibits – whether physical or digital – require storytelling. It would do no good for someone to wander into a story and go from the inciting incident to the resolution, then wander back to the first line, and then jump to the climax. Of course there are spaces in exhibits where we want viewers to have the freedom to wander and view at their leisure, taking as much time with each piece as they want, but they still want and need to be lead.
In addition to the Spotlight User Manual, Spotlight LibGuide, and Spotlight training session that I created, I am also walking away from my internship with a personal website containing my resume, CV, work samples, and Omeka Classic sites that are not only useful things to have experience building, but will hold value for my family long after this.
Emily Rastovich is a recent graduate of the University of Alabama’s Bama by Distance MLIS program. She currently resides in Oregon and can be found on Twitter at @MLISellaneous.