Thanks for the feedback guys! Since I spent this weekend working for the museum, I thought about my projects a lot. I met more women to invite to the IRL forum (including the first National Guardswoman to graduate from the Army War College) and I got some info on the digital collection software the museum already has. The museum has technology that will allow for a digitized collection, but for bureaucratic reasons it hasn’t been implemented yet. The good news is, I don’t necessarily have to work within their bureaucracy for this project, although that would be nice. Also, as the weekend progressed (and I continued my readings) I realized the audience I’d be trying to reach with both of these projects won’t go in for an archive. They’re looking for something cool and fun. NGEF’s tried to get an online presence but the results have been less than stellar, certainly not cool and fun enough for 26 year olds just back from Iraq. I was trying for a more “academic” or even “ivory-tower” project, but, honestly, without reaching out to John Q. Public we’ll be out of a job. And public history is a lot of fun, too! At least I’m really enjoying it.
In response to the comments:
Dave – yes, it would be a moderated forum, which is what makes it so intimidating! I’ve been to so many sites where the moderator is just overwhelmed and nothing new is added for months at a time. I’d prefer it to be more of a discussion site, but to also have room for their histories. The IRL forum is designed much more to collect general histories with an eye to getting more specific histories. There’s no reason to not link the two together, though, and have access between day to day life and oral histories. There’s also a lot going for linking the IRL and digital forums together.
Lynn – I found the discussion in “The Promise of Digital History” really helpful and thought provoking. I haven’t figured out how to deal with the issue of scale – how do we present both something large, like a plane, alongside something small, like a book of blue-star stamps from WWI, with equality? Regarding the section for visitors, we have a kiosk in the museum with unit photos from the current conflict, as well as a listing of Guardsman KIA in the current conflict. It doesn’t work right. We can’t seem to get it updated past about a year ago, there’s something wrong with the software. HOWEVER, putting it online seems to be an excellent temporary solution, at least for photos. I’m going to try to run with that as well.
Carl – it’s a big enough idea for us both! (Unless Dr. Cohen says otherwise.) As I said above, I’ve moved away from a digital archive to something more accessible to the public in general and Guard members specifically. More like a digital museum, as you stated.
One final problem I have is that I end up going down the road of trying to solve the detail problems before I really solidify the big picture basis for the project. So thanks for the help here and if anyone has any further thoughts based on my original post or on this one, please let me know. I work much better with someone to bounce ideas off of, and I’m already making DH’s eyes cross.