Zotero, Omeka, and Websites! Oh my!

This week in class we had a brief introduction to Zotero, a digital bibliography tool, and Omeka, another element that we can choose to use for our project websites.  My first thought when Peter gave us the demonstration on Zotero was that I wish I had known about Zotero when I was writing my thesis! I wouldn’t necessarily just use Zotero for scholastic things either.  I have that problem of reading something online, then trying to go back and read more about it later, only to have no clue who the article was by, or where it was posted/published, or what year it was written, or really anything useful that would help me find it again.  With Zotero, you can just create multiple folders for anything and everything that would catch your interest and put all the information into a nice little collection of knowledge :)

Omeka is something that I can definitely see myself using for the project, but not much else.  Especially since we will be making some sort of (hopefully) interactive exhibit, Omeka seems to be the logical choice, especially if we can figure out a way to put the scans we do directly into Omeka for the viewers to play with on the website.

For class this week, we were also asked to evaluate some websites and the different elements that worked or didn’t for the overall presentation of the website.

1) The Valley of the Shadow
I actually thought that the layout of this website was really clever, especially the way that they had the timeline set up as a blueprint of a house.  Because the website was following two communities, using houses to walk the viewer through the site kept some of my attention on the fact that they were talking about communities the entire time.  I also liked the color coding on the three different time periods in the timeline.

2) Gilded Age Murder
This site was also really interesting, easy to navigate, and had lots of interactive elements.  The title was what drew me into the page, and I could tell that there was a lot of information in the site, but it was hard to stay focused on the text because there was so much of it.  I think something they could have done differently is to break up the text a little.  They have large headings and then multiple subheadings under each heading.  Maybe breaking up some of the categories into smaller sections would have made it easier to make my way through the whole site.

3) Mapping the Republic of Letters
This site did a very good job at keeping an interactive interface in the “short and sweet” category.  Each individual that they focused on had a picture that linked to a separate page about that person, which had information about the individual and their letters.  Some of the pages had charts, short presentations or graphs which was a nice way to break up the text on the other pages.  It felt almost like a treasure hunt trying to find which pages had which kind of interactive element.

4) Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database
This site had all the interactive elements that I really enjoy in informative websites, but there was also a lot of text on the pages.  A LOT of text.  And it was mostly in a very small font which made it hard to read.  I think that the amount of small text actually detracted from the overall website, because I didn’t really get a lot out of the text.  There was just so much there that I ended up skimming it and didn’t find the text in and of itself very useful.

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