For my digital project, I created a website focused on recreating the patient experience at the Washington D.C. St. Elizabeth’s Asylum. The site (http://stelizabethspatients.wordpress.com/) is multidimensional, in that it includes primary source collections but also has background information on the asylum, academic information on the state of mental health in the 19th century, and a bit of interaction for the website visitor in testing out diagnoses and symptoms. I’m quite excited about my site, but also know it’s still a work in progress and there is more I want to do with it.
Initially, I took on too large of a project, as I wanted to create an academic/collections site as well as a blog. One of the most important components of designing the site for me was to keep the patient experience at the front. What I ultimately did, and will continue to develop, is create individual patient profiles for each patient and have certain links (like if the site visitor clicks on “ingrown toenails” as a symptom, it will bring them to Jennie Fowler’s page). I also included parts of the patient story that affected their treatment, such as race, ethnicity, religion, and class. While I tried to design the site as if the site visitor was a newly-admitted patient, I found it very difficult to balance the interactive aspects of the pages with the academic/research parts, so I do think that component gets a little lost at times.
Future plans I have for the site include selecting a few female patients from various backgrounds and having the site visitor “travel” along with them throughout the pages. Each page will have it’s academic information, but also will have little quips from the patients that can be found in their patient records. With this aspect, the patient voices will be most prominent, but also site visitors will simultaneously be getting an entire person’s story, similar to when you go to a museum and they give you a card with a person and you follow along with them.
Overall, I am very pleased with the progress of this site and want to expand it further as I continue researching patient files.