Waterfront Project - Added Value And Search

The Welcome Page
The Welcome Page will do its best to direct users to different parts of the site with a brief introduction to the site. Here is an approximation of what the Welcome Page text will look like and it should give you an approximation of what added value there should be for the website:

In Brief: Conflict On The Waterfront attempts to look at a portion of New York and American Labor history and address the ideas and issues surrounding it through both scholarly and amateur interaction.

Extended: What comes to mind when you think of New York’s waterfront in the Cold-War period? Is it Marlon Brando’s portrayal via Elia Kazan’s “On The Waterfront”? But how much of this story of violence and criminal corruption the truth and how much of the true story of New York’s Labor History are we forgetting? And what else can we learn from this part of our history aside from We know that Hollywood stretches and massages the truth, but we rarely stop to analyze the difference. History and collective public memory are not always one and the same and Conflict On The Waterfront attempts to address this divide through public history and user involvement in the history process.

Look through some of the online exhibits of the material and get a better idea of the background surrounding these documents.

Browse or search the documents themselves in a variety of manners and begin to construct your own idea of the contemporary voices involved in this history.

Share more historically relevant documents or share your ideas in the forums with other amateur or professional historians. Don’t be afraid to pose questions and ideas that pop up in your reading.

Teachers will also be interested in our Teaching Resources section where we have provided sample teaching tools and a communication module to submit questions or ideas.

Visit our About section to find out more about the project, it’s creators, and how to contact us.


The intro text could alternately be moved into a thicker description in the “About” section or as the first intro into the “Exhibit” section, leaving a cleaner front-page directory. I feel that these decisions might be dictated by the final design of the site.

Annotations
The site will, at least upon inception, have little use for annotations. Aside from the provided metadata and information provided via exhibits (which will be plenty of surrounding and contextual information in the first place), there will be little need for annotations on top of all this. Rather than put another step in the way for the project to launch and become available, annotations can be put on the backburner. As time goes on and as the project grows, the people working with the project can try appending annotations to certain documents. In fact, it would be interesting to test a way to have user input toward annotations, something akin to the user-community on the Pepys Diary and how annotations work there.

It has been my experience as and avid user and observer of Websites, Web-apps and general Internet trends that the more successful websites out there are those which launch as clean, simple, accessible, and easy to use with an emphasis on community and Web2.0-like applications. Websites of this kind that sustain are those which have successfully added further (and non-interfering) applications to the existing structure. This is the method out of which I see annotations coming about. Furthermore, this adds to the feel of user involvement which creates a richer environment, return visits, and general buzz all of which I will speak towards further in “Added Value.”

Added Value
Digital history exhibits and collections often have the automatic added value of creating access, preservation, and exposure. The aspect of access comes from allowing people from potentially all over the world to view materials they would have otherwise had to travel to see. The aspect of preservation comes from having a digital copy which itself can be preserved and having a digital copy which serves as an access copy in place of the original being handled. The aspect of exposure comes from having these materials published in an open and viewable atmosphere (of sorts) without the usual gated access of archives. Also, exposure is heightened on the Internet as items and ideas travel across the medium built for such efficient communication and meme propagation.

Added value should go beyond this, of course and hopefully this project will manage to do that. For one, the project should capitalize on hypertext. Text can by a very powerful medium, but many websites (particularly history websites) rely on big blocks of text without taking advantage of the capabilities of hypertext. Links should be provided for major figures, major concepts, or other important details within the history. Links should connect to pages within the project as well as relevant pages elsewhere on the Internet.

Also, added value can be given through a search mechanism. Here is a mockup of what a search page for this project might look like:

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Due to metadata tagging, filters users should be capable of searching through a simple keyword search or through tag, type, and time period filters. The aspects of such a search will become more refined as the project moves along and as more documents are tagged and find their ways into exhibits. Also, a “Search Help” page should be provided to clarify the use of tagging, nomenclature, and ways to maximize the search capability of the website. This is slightly different from a “Browse” option (which the project should also offer) where the user can move about through the entire collection or select categories (similar to these tag divisions) or even randomly generate an object from the collection to look at.

The random generator is an option I’ve seen on several Omeka sites and even more added value should also come about via the use of Omeka. Omeka enables web-based interaction from the front or back end. This would enable this particular project to work with partners on the West Coast (Such is the ILWU or institutions in California with ILWU collections or labor and leftist history interests) virtually. This interaction could happen through very close collaboration in web-site control (back-end) or through a less formal agreement where West Coast (or other) partners act as virtual donators of material through Omeka’s virtual drop-box features (front-end).

Finally, a major aspect of the added value which this project will offer is moderated but wiki-style exhibits. Ideas and suggestion made within the forums and community in the site will be taken into consideration and popular/progressive ideas will be used to alter the exhibit space on the website to portray a more well rounded view of the history on display. The actual changes themselves will only be made by approved staff and users to prohibit vandalism. A change-log will be kept to track the changes. This is of course important in terms of transparency and credibility but this will also be proof of community involvement in the writing of history. Also, the change-log will be an interesting example as to how our understanding of history itself changes over time. Overall, this component of the project is also a major factor in hopefully preventing stagnation on the site and encouraging reusability and user involvement.

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