Digital Project Draft: Using PixStori for Collections

The first draft of my digital project has mainly involved setting up a framework that I am in the process of filling in with simulated visitor contributions. As a refresher, my goal for this project is to experiment with how to bring community collaboration directly into the process of curating and interpreting material collections. I’m thinking about this in the context of a particular museum (read why in my proposal post). This project is built through PixStori Plus, the web version of an app that combines photos with captions in the form of audio recordings.

The landing page for my test collection is a gallery of all of the objects in the collection. This will be the first page that visitors see and they can chose an object based on its name and photo. After selecting an image, visitors are directed to that item’s page. Here, they can view the item’s full picture and metadata or a description written by the museum’s collections staff. The examples I’m using are drawn from both the museum’s Instagram and a partial digitization of its full holdings by East Carolina University. Luckily this collection was already available online and the museum’s collections specialist was able to direct me to it, since the museum is closed for to the ongoing quarantine. The description for this example is drawn from that digital collection; since I’m still tinkering with PixStori to figure out how to display metadata in an easy-to-read way, I used a paragraph-form description for this example.

Below the photo and metadata is where the comment thread begins. Visitors simply click on the microphone to record a story, or they have the option to add a text comment. They can listen to or read other stories in the thread here as well, to be in conversation with their own.

I envision this project being accessible from a kiosk set up inside the exhibit gallery, so that visitors can see a physical object, then walk to the kiosk and access the item’s page to learn more about it and to add their own stories. Over the screen, a sign reading “See anything familiar?” will draw visitors over while prompting them to think about the artifacts they see in an explicitly personal lens. Further directions will ask them to share stories about why an object they saw in the exhibits is meaningful to them. They should start the recording with their name and where they’re from, then tell a short story related to the object; a written example will be given either on a small sign or on the screen.  Since PixStori is an Internet application, the collection could be accessed remotely if community members want to contribute stories without visiting in person.

My next steps in this project are to fill out the examples in my test collection more thoroughly. I plan to add metadata for each of them, and (hopefully) solicit a few recorded stories to start comment threads. Additionally, I need to think through incorporating some oral history best practices in some form. What kind of informed consent is necessary for this type of recording? How can transcripts of comments be incorporated? The more I think through those questions, the more clear the limitations of PixStori as a platform become, but I need to consider those questions even I can’t implement the solutions. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

2 Replies to “Digital Project Draft: Using PixStori for Collections”

  1. Hi Kimberley, great to see how your project is developing! I have not seen much of PixStori before, so it’s interesting to see you exploring how that platform works for the purpose you are working on.

    I clicked the link to your test collection but didn’t see the content. Not sure if it is set to private or something. In any event, the images in your post give a good sense of what you have pulled together so far.

    In terms of consent, it would be good to look at the PixStori site itself for things like it’s terms of service. My guess is that the site itself already sets terms that lay out what users can expect to have happen to their recordings. With that said, given that you are thinking through the concept of deploying this in a kiosk environment at the physical site of the exhibit I think you are in a situation where it would make a lot of sense to also think about how to build in informing participants through how that kiosk itself would be set up.

    Given that you’ve already had some interaction with the collections specialist from the museum that works with this material, it may also be interesting to see if they would look at the draft of your project and give you feedback on how they thing their visitors might respond to it. In an ideal world with a lot more time and resources it would be great to try and actually deploy something like this in the space of the museum as a pilot, but given that you have access to someone that knows the space and the visitors well I imagine you could get a lot from just getting more feedback from someone who works with these users.

    As you start to identify more about the limitations and affordances of the PixStory platform, it’s worth noting that all that information is good material to think about for your reflection post at the end of the semester for the project. A bit part of our work on this is exploring how these tools do and don’t work for public history purposes and even just documenting and reporting on that for a tool like this is really useful work.

  2. Very glad you are using PixStory! Although there are definitely some ways where the platform can further develop, I think it is a super awesome tool for communities to post and share their stories. I think your project proves that this could be super useful for museums to engage directly with their visitors and share those stories alongside their material objects.

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