Museum on Main Street
This project is working to bring the experience of the Smithsonian to rural communities all across the United States. The Smithsonian works directly with local government and humanity councils to provide quality education to towns with populations under 10,000 individuals. This project also helps to inspire more local history by providing resources to collect oral histories and physical archives to curate exhibits on both small and large scale.
This website has six main goals:
Share the Smithsonian, Inspire Communities, Broaden Interest, Motivate Museums, Collect/Curate/Share for Rural America, Provide Resources.
The website is easy to navigate, depending on what you want to do on the site. They have resources like exhibitions, resource center, and an educators tab front and center on the site. If you are interested in visiting an exhibit near you, or want to see what has been done in the past, all the information is quickly accessible.
One of the most successful parts of the website is the individual exhibit pages. They are thoughtfully structured and provide a snapshot of all the different components. You can see an overview of the content, images, a touring schedule, and on some a video trailer with community members who donated the primary sources. Each page ends with an exploration of themes that each exhibit covers and gives snapshots examples of why these themes are important.
To upload your story is incredibly intuitive for the user; creating an account and validating it took only five minutes. Once that is created you have access to upload or “tell your story” on the website. Not only will it be archived, but each submission has the potential to be used in a traveling exhibit. Each exhibit will also include components on site to gather additional archives for each town they visit.
I think that Museum on Main Street has lofty goals and yet they still end up meeting them. How would you condense their six main goals into only a few that better portray what the organization does for communities across the country?
The Will to Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity
This is an app based digital project from the Smithsonian that is working to catalogue the stylistic choices of member in the African American community. It’s basically an oral history app where you can upload your own interviews and listen to the archive stored on the apps database. The project is in conjunction with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 2013. They felt this research would help to explore the diversity behind every day American experiences.
I’ve downloaded it on my phone to see how it works and unfortunately it is clunky, slow, and awful to use. The website itself that links you to download the app is sparse, and has broken links imbedded in the text, which is never a good sign.
So you open the app, and it looks like this. You have the option to share your story or listen to stories that had already been submitted.
If you are listening to stories make sure you have headphones in, or are in a place where you don’t mind that audio is playing. As soon as you hit that button stories start playing, and you cannot choose them. You can pause or start them and that’s it – which can be very frustrating on an app that is slow and sometimes unresponsive. You can narrow down the stories based on a few different variables including gender, geographical location, and age.
To share your story is simple, you input the demographics or yourself or the person you are recording and then go ahead and answer one of the prompts you can see below.
While I love the idea of this app, it’s better in theory than in practice. It seems like the database is hard to navigate, and while it is good for casual use I would be interested to see how researchers could gain access to the archives.
Is this an app you would download and use?