Curation Note 2: Reconsidering Exhibit Pages

Activity Summary: 

  • Changed section names from previous iteration. Original pages were titled: Exploring Artifacts, Search and Finding Aid, Appraisal and Selection, Community, Archival Log. Revised pages titled: Exhibit, Search, Community, Methods, Curation
  • Revised text in the introductions to Methods and Curation pages to align with the new conceptualizations


After the initial design of the exhibit in the previous working section, I began to think very differently about the academic work I was doing to support the development of the archive. In the previous iteration, I was using two sections as the designated space for the text-based discussions of the project. I knew from the research I had been doing in archival studies that transparency in design is an increasingly important component of any archival project, and then including a description and rationale for design decisions is strongly encouraged as a way to counter the invisible influences of archivists’ decisions. In archival studies scholarship [INSERT LINK TO FRAMEWORK], the transparency is generally thought of as giving users’ insights into appraisal and selection criteria, so I initially designed a page with that title to house what I would write in explanation for those specific decisions. I devised the Archival Log page to hold the descriptions of the design decisions I would make about the digital aspects of the project.

However, after creating these two pages, I had a significant realization. The processes of appraisal and selection are only one piece of a much larger set of decisions that the archivist must make that profoundly shape the archive. There were questions about how funding is obtained and how participants are selected. There are questions of how institutional affiliations shape the archivist’s work as well as how the methods of creating new archival records will also affect the outcome of the archive. These were questions that expanded the scope of my thinking about the influential decisions I was making, understanding I would need to be transparent about more than just how specific artifacts were selected. I was beginning to see that I would need to trace more than just the methods of appraisal if I were going to be honest about how the archive came into being. I decided to change the name of the page from “Appraisal and Selection” to “Methods.” This would allow me to place the discussions of all these questions into the digital space, which would create a more radically transparent space that expanded the traditional notions of what decisions are relevant to users in terms of the archivist’s decisions. It allows researchers to view a more complete picture of archivist’s intentions and acts of framing. 

The second revelation that began to coalesce was that there is a distinction between what I was creating as an archive and what I was designing as an exhibit of those archival artifacts. I needed to make a more careful distinction between these two terms, and understand that they are not interchangeable. I started to see the totality of the collected items as the archive. I found participants who were willing to be recorded in interviews about their cultural practices and to allow me to take pictures of cultural objects in their homes. A truly born-digital process, I was capturing these recordings and images with certain equipment and then storing them on an external hard drive. I would eventually develop an accessioning system and rename each digital file to align with this system and enter the artifact on the Accession Log. These raw files that live on the hard drive, neatly ordered and labeled, described in some detail on the accession log, are what comprise the archive. They are the archived content, the preserved artifacts that have been created and appraised as valuable. 

However, that content is not exactly what users will experience on the digital site. That space, the site I am creating with WordPress, is something that seems significantly different from the archive as a whole entity. It is the exhibition of the archive. There is another layer of design that is taking place between the artifacts on the hard drive and what exists in real-time online for users to see and feel. And it is not an insignificant layer. It may be that I do not choose to include every image on the site. Some images in the archive may not be suitable for the exhibit, perhaps by the quality of the image or constraints of allowable media space. Some may be cropped or need color manipulation to have the best appearance online. The image may be too similar to another image, or it may be that there is another reason I may feel the image does not warrant inclusion in the online exhibit. I can already see that the recordings will need some interventions, perhaps creating multiple clips from within the larger conversations that speak to a particular issue or editing to exclude personal and sensitive subjects. Although the complete recording is included in the archive, I doubt that the exhibit will feature that raw audio file. I will also likely want to expand some of the descriptions based on participant feedback and invitations for participatory description. The archive contains a more limited description, so the exhibit will likely add content to further contextualize and frame the artifacts. I envision including links between objects of similar thematic content or links to further discussions about a particular cultural phenomena, like the celebration of Holy Ghost feasts that features prominently in the Areia family artifacts. All of these additions and manipulations represent something other than the archive as a static and cemented set of files. Those archival files will never be edited, maintaining them in the archive exactly as they were created, but the exhibit is a representation of the archive. This representation is likely to change and is generally where I see myself doing some of the most rhetorically significant work in shaping the user experience, communicating and expressing a particular vision of Azorean-American culture from my own interested perspectives. This is the work of curating the archive. By changing “Archival Log” to “Curation,” I am able to reinforce this distinction between the methods used to develop the archive and the decisions made to curate the digital exhibit. 

The images below represent the original iteration of the pages and the current revision. I also simplified the page titles to a single word, changing “Exploring Artifacts” to “Exhibit” and using just “Search” for the second page. 

before section name change.png
after section name change.png

Follow-Up on Curation Notes 1 Next Steps: 

  • Work on the Appraisal and Selection content: This section did undergo some significant changes, including the name change described in this note. It resulted in editing and reframing the introduction that I started and streamlining the subsections.
  • Using the AMP Lab: I visited the AMP (Advanced Media Production Lab) at FAU on 30 August 2017 and met with Charlie Gleek, the graduate assistant assigned to the lab this semester. We talked about the project and the technologies available that might help. He suggested I look at Inscribe, QuickTime, Dedoose, and Adobe to work with the audio files and images prior to posting in the exhibit.
  • Research more about PastPerfect software: The cost of the software is higher than I initially thought. I will discuss this further in the methods section, but the software itself is $870 and would require the purchase of an add-on to manage digital artifacts, which runs an additional $385. It also likely requires the purchase of the software upgrade to access the full features,a s well as training and support services; the total is over $2,000. I feel there would be some benefit to learning how to write accession numbers and organize the archive manually. It is also more software than I need for the size of my archive, and I can gain practice in PastPerfect through volunteer work.  

Next Steps:  

  • Continue refining the overall design. I still question whether the methods and curation pages should be located elsewhere, not across the top menu. I still want to privilege the artifacts, and by placing these two pages in the same line as the exhibit, do I somehow detract from that focus? There may be a way to perhaps embed the discussions of my decisions and relevant scholarship in another area that is less prominent although still accessible. 


  • Accomplishing and reaccomplishing is again an issue in this session as I revise previous work that I considered already “accomplished.”
  • Arrangement communicates significance. I am still concerned about the balance between what is my scholarship about the archive and the archive itself. I want to subsume myself, if there is going to be any sort of hierarchy. I want to channel users’ attention toward the archival images more than my own discussion of that work.
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