Curation Note 8: Optimizing Dissertation Text Chapters Presentation

Activity Summary: 

  • Loaded text chapters of the dissertation to the existing site
  • Linked “Archiving the Archive” preface text to thumbnail from Research page 
  • Linked “Reciprocal Gifts” introduction and chapter contents to thumbnail from the preface
  • Created pages for each major section of the “Reciprocal Gifts” chapter and linked to chapter contents
  • Used accordion blocks to format content on each page and create a clean page with collapsible sub-sections for each section
  • Created an autoethnographic chapters introduction page with thumbnail images in grid pattern for each of the six chapters
  • Created pages for each of the six autoethnographic chapters and linked to thumbnails from the introduction page
  • Loaded text on autoethnographic chapter pages using accordion blocks to collapse the Introduction, Narrative, and Considerations, organized by topic


This session has been primarily about working with the text-based chapters of the dissertation and determining how to load them into the site. There are several pages that comprise the text chapters’ interface, but it begins with a single image titled “Archiving the Archive.” Clicking this link takes users to a preface page that describes the project’s purpose as a dissertation and offer users four additional links to select: Reciprocal Gifts, Curatorial Decisions, Fieldwork to Formalization, and Acknowledgements. Reciprocal Gifts is the section that provides the theoretical framework for the project by exploring how archival studies, rhetoric, and interface studies understand the archive and the role of the archivist and how these fields can be usefully merged to deepen our understanding of the archive. The Curatorial Decisions section provides access to the six autoethnographic data chapters that contain process narratives and considerations for how those experiences align with current scholarship. 

In this session, I focused on creating the two landing pages for these two sections and organizing the text in manageable ways. I started with the introduction for Reciprocal Gifts, which originally had a series of links to the major sections of the chapter with bullet points for each of the sub-sections, as shown below:

I never felt comfortable with the aesthetics of this page’s layout, particularly the way the bullet point items could not be indented underneath the headings. I tried to collapse the sub-sections underneath the main sections headings, but that format precluded linking out to the text pages. I discuss the solution in the narrated screencast below, which entailed using headings to maintain the links. I also discuss the tension between the ideal vision for how the archive could look and function with what is possible in a reasonable time constraint and within my own knowledge of code and WordPress functionality. 

Once I was more satisfied with the landing page for Reciprocal Gifts, I turned my attention to the landing page for the Curatorial Decisions autoethnographic chapters. I had a text-heavy page with bullet points for each chapter with a link over the chapter title. I show this page at the end of the screencast in its unedited form, but I decided to shift the look of the page by adding a thumbnail image for each autoethnographic chapter that users can click to link out to the pages. I still have the chapter descriptions that I had initially, but I moved them below the image grid. The grid is more aesthetically pleasing, but it also mirrors the structure of the exhibit, which I think subtly hints at the nature of the autoethnographic chapters as a kind of artifact, not of Azorean culture but of archival processes. 

Lastly, I spent the majority of the session, spread over two days and numerous hours, creating accordion blocks for the text chapters. Rather than loading the chapters as a single page, I used individual headings that, when clicked, open to reveal the text for that sections. Once finished, they can be collapsed down again to minimize how much text is on the screen at one time. It also makes all the sub-sections visible on the same page at the same time, giving users more effective access and to more easily locate the discussions they might be interested in reading. I also spent another few hours adding cross-page links to easily direct users to other chapters where relevant. This is incredibly important since I recognize that the chapters are in some ways artificially imposed divisions when the reality is that making processes are recursive. Funding is impacted by institutional influence, for example, or the way participants share information can shape the concept of the project. By using the embedded links, I can identify this places where the overlaps occur and direct users to where those conversations are also being taken up in the chapters.

Discussing Dissertation Chapters Layout and Function:

Like other sections of this exhibit, the current iteration of these pages is adequate and functions well. However, it does not necessarily look the way it would if I was not constrained by the WordPress theme and editing platform. If I could design it anyway I wanted, I would embed much more specific connections. For example, I often reference a specific part of a chapter, such as the discussion of critical-making in the considerations section of the Data Collection and Management chapter. However, I am not able to link specifically to that one section from another page as a result of using the accordion blocks. The best I can do is link to the considerations section as a whole, but not jumping to sections on a more granular level. Again, it comes down to what works and gets cultural stakeholders access to the site versus what the ideal design might look like. My priorities are to provide preservation services and an opportunity to share in the cultural markers, and it is not to prioritize the design elements. It is something I am already seeing pay off as I shared the link to the site online, and thanked the participants for their contributions. The response has been overwhelmingly positive with family and friends commenting and sharing, reaching out to express appreciation and enjoyment, even participating by describing artifacts or identifying individuals in photographs. Whatever function or aesthetics I could add do not detract from what the exhibit already can do. 

Follow-Up on Curation Notes 7 Next Steps:

  • Convert WAV files to MP3 files to enable tagging.
    • I still need to work on this step, but I feel it is something I can do after the dissertation defense and for the time being I need to focus on revising the dissertation chapters and preparing for the defense. I feel I can run the file conversions and tag by the end of November.
  • Add transcriptions and detailed descriptions to audio files.
    • Working more with the audio files is something that clearly needs to happen. It is already proving to be the most valuable aspect of the archive based on user feedback, so making them more dynamic and searchable needs to be a priority. I think I can keep working on these files, and will probably continue to improve them over time, but I have found the need to prioritize other aspects of the project.
  • Link and connect artifacts to one another and to external content. 
    • Linking to artifacts is possible, but time consuming work. The tag search will need to suffice until I can dedicate more time to the project, but it may also me something I table pending considering other content management systems that may be better suited for archival work altogether. Purchasing the upgraded site is renewable for $300 annually, so I have a year to determine whether to continue using WordPress or migrate to a new system. It would not be worth the time to add so much interconnectivity if it would need to be redone in a transfer. 
  • Loading text chapters, linking content, using accordion/collapsible text, and exploring anchor links.
    • This has been completed in this session.

Next Steps:

  • Continue to update and maintain the Task List to keep track of additional changes and additions needed. 
  • Prioritize the depth of description for audio files.
  • Pursue other options for content management or potential collaborations with institutions that could house the archive.
  • Identify additional participants and gather more artifacts. Continue to grow the archive and invest in the community.


  • Accomplishing and reaccomplishing design elements as I add accordion blocks and remove them, reformat sections to be headers with active links, and adjust the aesthetics of pages from text-heavy to image-based.
  • Constraints of time and desire to deliver a usable product
  • The tension between an imagined ideal and a realistic product
  • Ongoing work of digital product maintenance and growth
  • Limitations of expertise 
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