By Kendall Hallberg
My internship with Digital Collections had me working on a digital exhibit entitled “South Carolina and the Civil War”. These collections are curated in the Visual Materials department at South Caroliniana Library, and are digitized and published online by Digital Collections. This project gave me the opportunity to apply the knowledge I have collected during my Master’s program in library and information science, as well as learning important new skills. This semester in general has been a wonderful chance to work closely with issues related to User Experience (UX). I am glad to have had a role in bringing this collection to the public in a new way.
The research phase of this project allowed me to explore the collection and develop an understanding of what it had to offer to the intended audience. These exhibits are an opportunity to explore the collection unencumbered by the metadata and confusing nature of our collections repository, ContentDM. The items selected for the exhibit reflect this intention by needing little to no interpretation to be explored and understood for their significance. Organizing these items into coherent categories took a bit of consideration. The existing digital exhibits are done either by theme or the type of material. Considering the end user, I had to plan for the ways in which the items would be used. The decision to group by theme was made because it offers better browsing and variation with the pages.
Designing the WordPress site was a chance to learn and explore more about User Design and UX. Learning Adobe XD, I was able to plan the layout and features of the exhibit. Adobe XD is a great, free software for UX when communicating ideas to a programmer. Though I was working with certain limitations, I was also able to explore the look and feel of the site with the prototype I designed. This prototype also meant that I was able to give viewers the chance to see how the exhibit would act. During my pitch (internship requirement to pitch an exhibition mock up), I received helpful feedback and questions that improved the final product. I loved working with Sarah Funk from Library Technology Services and having her bring all of my ideas to fruition.
Loading the content into WordPress (our choice of collections web portal) was simple enough and it was great to see all of the items I had selected really come together and shine in such a visual way. The real challenge in loading came in terms of titles and descriptions. There were many instances, especially regarding the Dr. Robert S. Chamberlain collection of Civil War covers, where the titles needed to better describe the material for the sake of exhibiting. I ended up finding those key elements for titles for each material type and keeping it consistent across all the selected items.
I really enjoyed working with the awesome people in UofSC Digital Collections who helped me make this exhibit. Mēgan really trusted me to do a great job and I think I was able to accomplish that with their input and encouragement. I truly look forward to working with them in the future.*
*We did not pay Kendall to say these wonderful things! 🙂