Last month I wrote about how stuck I was, and set out a path to move forward in light of my technical frustrations. This month I made a little progress; I wish I made more, but the truth is I was focused more on securing permissions for my dissertation research and preparing my session at the Society for American Archaeology conference.
I have a domain and a basic WordPress setup going at the domain for the Pocumtuck Heritage website. My supervisor has provided me with sample images of objects we can use as entry points on the front page. Each of these objects lives on its own page, and will be accompanied by related bits of information from historical, archaeological, and stakeholder sources.
At this stage, I am mining the materials I prepared for my doctoral exam on the Connecticut River Valley’s archaeology for those bits. I’m trying not to over-edit myself (a bad habit of the dissertation writer) while I identify compelling, relatable content. The key will be to summarize or quote each “bit” in less than 3 sentences so that users building a narrative will not be intimidated or bored by too much text.
During this process I am also revisiting some of the heritage literature relating to historical narrative construction. I am finding the article Reading the Visual: Representation and Narrative in the Construction of Heritage and literature on aesthetic representation in art history (reading from a course with Dr. Pamela Smart) especially useful. Reflecting on my plan in light of these, I need to think further about how to encourage the user to interact with the meanings and interpretations I am urging them to attach to the decontextualized objects I am presenting. Narrative construction is not necessarily desired by casual observers of archaeology or even avocational archaeologists; objects may be viewed and appreciated aesthetically, economically, or as reflections of one’s own values. There must be further incitement to inspire the user to build a story. I am not sure what to do with this yet, but I plan to explore these ideas further when I begin building the WordPress theme. One step at a time.
Lastly, I checked in a lot this month with other participants in the MSUDAI and I found it very rewarding to share resources with them, even if all we could offer one another was an encouraging comment. I am hoping that in the coming months I can have an in-person or virtual group work day so we can all make a push toward finishing our projects. Our community is stronger together, and I am hoping we use that sense of community to push each of us through bumps in the road.