Reading Response: Collections

I now have a new installation of Omeka, with a very basic digital collection (that is, items with metadata – items are not grouped into collections and there is no narrative accompanying the items). While I do think that having some sort of narrative will better engage my audience in thinking about the past, there are some activities this basic digital collection can enable. The first thing is that users might get a sense of what sorts of digitized materials are available. Most of the collection is from Wayne State University’s Virtual Motor City, but I have also included a film from the Internet Archive, and I could include more materials from the Internet Archive, DPLA, Flickr Commons, and others. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out which repositories to search, and sometimes Google doesn’t do the best job of searching those repositories, so the basic digital collection I’ve created might help my target audience with this. Having a basic digital collection with metadata also allows users to search for items and discover basic information (e.g. date) about the items. Sherratt’s article also revealed that it’s not always possible to predict what users will do with digital items; obviously, he and his research partner are doing pretty advanced scholarly work with digital collections, but I do think it’s important to keep in mind that even when designing for an audience you know a fair amount about, it’s not possible to predict all of the possible uses and interests.

As for how I might use my Omeka items to engage my target audience, I’m guessing that this section of my project will be the 1.0 section, as described by Brennan and Kelly. That is, after finishing the next module, it will provide a sort of broad narrative about the history of Detroit after 1945. This will provide the broader context for user submissions of materials related to the history of Old Redford (a neighborhood in Detroit), which is the 1.5 section of my project. After reading Sherratt and Whitelaw, I am much more aware of the drawbacks of a basic digital collection set up like this – it doesn’t allow browsing beyond a list of the items, it doesn’t allow for horizontal and vertical engagement across multiple axes of metadata categories, it privileges some materials, collections, epistemologies, etc. over others – but I hope the collection of materials from users complicates both my narrative and the items from institutional collections.   

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