The process of creating a Then & Now digital history site began with four major questions: 1) Which Content Management System do we want to use: WordPress or Omeka? 2) Do we want to limit Then & Now to UMW, or do we want to include Fredericksburg? 3) Are we going to use both printed and online copies of “then” photos or are we going to just use “then” photos from online collections? 4) How do we want to display our Then & Now Pairs? First, we chose to make our website WordPress based because everyone in the group was familiar with it and it allows for more customizations. Second, in an effort to maximize the quantity without sacrificing the quality of our site, we chose to limit Then & Now to UMW’s campus with exclusion of buildings built within the last five years and anything located outside of the perimeter of campus or anything that is not iconic to the campus. Third, we chose to obtain “then” photos from online collections that were either readily accessible from the Simpson Library’s digital archives or from the computers within Special Collections that way we knew we would be able to access the photos at any time and from anywhere with internet. Lastly, we chose to display our Then & Now pairs side by side in an effort to maximize the quantity of content on our website.
Our mission was to create and display a digital exhibit of then and now photos depicting the University of Mary Washington’s Fredericksburg campus dating from the University’s establishment in 1908 through the present time. We also did our best to provide context for each of the photos in an effort to portray the evolution of student life and campus structure. Our site features Then & Now posts that range from the 1910s to the present day and extend into the future. On each post we have a brief history about the subject and what the subject is like today in 2014 in order to show how the subject has changed over the years. As stated in our contract, we organized the site into two main collections, Structural and Student Life, and created sub-collections, Academic Buildings, Residence Buildings, Other Buildings and Locations, and Events and Extracurricular Activities within the two major collections. In our contract we estimated having about sixty pairs of photos and the finished website has sixty-four pairs of photos. We included a post for every single Structural item on the contract and created posts that are very similar to the Student Life items we listed. We also added Mercer to the website because we had forgotten it on the contract, and with the news of its renovation, we felt we could not ignore it. Furthermore, our contract stated that our website would include an introductory video and an interactive map, both of which exist on the finished website. Additionally, we created a special collection called “Blends,” which has six posts with blended Then & Now photos. Lastly, to add more dynamic to our website’s navigation we added a tag cloud featuring decade tags ranging from the 1910s to 2010s.
As a group, we met the eight of our nine milestones on time. The only milestone we struggled with was the part of the April 6th milestone that stated we would have all pairs of photos uploaded with captions and metadata. Although we did have all of the photos uploaded with captions to the website, we did not have all of the descriptions written for all of the posts. However, we did completely finish those before the website was due.
We utilized every single tool and resource listed on our contract with the exceptions of scanners and the UMW Buildings Blog. Instead, for the “now” part of the descriptions we used the UMW Residence Life webpages for basic facts about residence buildings. The two resources we used that were not listed on the contract were Vice President Rick Pierce who gave us permission to go on the rooftops to take “now” photos and Harold Williams who took us on the rooftops.
Finally, in terms of Division of Labor, our contract stated that each group member would be assigned twelve to fifteen pairs of “then” and “now” photos to format and write captions and descriptions for. Ultimately, I authored thirteen posts, Carly authored twelve posts, Meaghan authored posts, Connor authored twelve pairs posts, and Alex authored eleven posts. Nevertheless, if one group member was having trouble with their posts, another group member always offered to help. Carly completed the map, Connor completed the introductory video, Alex was the head photographer, Meaghan created and organized the Master List, and I built the website. Connor also created two blended posts and I created four blended posts. After all of the content was officially placed on the website, Connor and Alex combed through every post’s description and footnote citations, Carly went through the tags to make sure each post adhered to our tag vocabulary and had decade tags, Meaghan went through all of the image citations in the photos’ captions, and I went through to make sure all of the pages were responsive, all of the posts were in tables, and that the images were aligned properly and opened their links in a new tab or window. We started this project together as a group and we finished this project together as group and I can confidently say that we are very proud of our UMW Then & Now website.