Minnesotans Getting Collections Online

Posted on February 22, 2007 under digital history, minnesota, museums, museums and the web

A recent post on the MN Local History Professionals Blog* asks what’s the rush in getting collections online? What do we need to take into consideration? What are we neglecting? Interesting conversation ensues, and I run off at the mouth about exciting possibilities. Check it out.

*Now that I type that whole thing out, I’m starting to think it needs a neat before-the-colon title, ex: L’etoile du nord: MN Local History Professionals Blog. It’s undeniably descriptive, though.

5 Comments on “Minnesotans Getting Collections Online”

  1. Hi, Suzanne – I’ve followed you here from the MHS blog. Nice blog you have here. It’s, as my grandpa would say, easy on the eyes. Translation: Good-looking, interesting posts, and plenty of white space. Although, my grandpa wasn’t referring to blogs when he used that phrase.

    So, about low-cost ways to get local history museums online – I’ve been investigating open source software online and found some cool applications. After struggling to built a website from scratch – teaching myself html out of a Dummies guide – I realized that small museums need some web design applications that are more intuitive than building things from scratch. The web apps need to be modular, so if a museum wants an online store, or a photo gallery, or a blog, or whatever, these can be added to the site with very little effort. As I find programs that might fit the bill, I bookmark them. There’s a web app called Squidoo, created by a team led by Seth Godin, that has the ease of use I’m thinking of. (http://www.squidoo.com/) Users sign in and can build “lens” on whatever topic they choose. I’ve created two lens and am working on a third. Museum professionals are simply too busy to get programming degrees, but many of us want to get into the digital game and widen our audience. What are your thoughts on creating a modular application? Do you have a consolidated list of possible web apps?

  2. Thanks for your comment, Mary.

    As for modular history museum apps, the basic answer is there aren’t any. You might check out the tools on the CHNM’s digital history tools wiki. I do think the basic blogging platforms have a lot of potential for museum websites. The TC Archives roundtable page (ok, not a museum) is written in Blogger, for instance.

    This is definitely something that needs more attention and development, and there are no great answers right now.

    That said, I think it’s important for museum folks to know at least some HTML and CSS. There’s no way to customize your history site in Blogger or WordPress if you can’t hack the template. Also, if you know or can at least recognize programming languages, you can look at other museum pages and understand how they’re doing what they’re doing, for instance, realizing that that neat-looking drop-down menu is just a list in HTML with half the items invisible till mouseover. Hey, I can do that! you might say. Hmm, maybe we should develop some training sessions and take them across the state.

    Anyway, I didn’t quite answer your question, but this is definitely an ongoing conversation.

  3. Here’s one open source app I found that has website templates: http://www.oswd.org/designs/browse/
    Can we find a bunch of this stuff and put it together for the museum community? At least give people something to work off of, instead of hunting and pecking like we are doing right now? (I just downloaded OpenOffice on our museum laptop. Works like a dream & it wasn’t $200.)

    You’re right about needing to know at least a bit of html and css. I changed up the color scheme on my Blogger blog by fussing with the template. I can also add whatever sidebar info I need doing this.

  4. Yes, that’s a great idea, Mary. I think a wiki would be excellent for this purpose. I’ll go set one up some time next week (after I finish revising Chapter 4).

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