After much thought, I have boiled my proposed site down to a fundamental level. The project started out as a virtual “cool stuff” room, and that’s what I’ve proposed here, with a few tweaks from the original concept. Please read and comment if you have any questions or if something needs to be clarified. Thank you!
1. Abstract – I propose a virtual home for the National Guard Memorial Museum’s entire collection. This site will be an internal page on the museum’s home page. The goal of this project is complete digital preservation with minimal risk to the object in question. Objects in the collection will be digitally rendered in three dimensions, so the user will be able to manipulate the object, including lifting, turning, zooming, and rotating it. The user will also be able to compare the object to a similar and more familiar object to understand differences in scale and proportion that are significant to the object.
2. Necessity – This project allows the museum to show the objects we are unable to display from either lack of physical space, discontinuity with existing exhibits, or objects that are too delicate for public display. There are highly significant objects in our collection that should be available for view to both historians and the general public. Examples include a newspaper from 1789 with the full text of George Washington’s Inaugural Address, which is too delicate to display, and a surrendered Japanese officer’s sword that is a saber rather than a katana.
3. Features/Functionality – This will be a straightforward site, with very little fancy animations. The functionality will be the flashy part, with the user able to manipulate objects in three dimensions. There will be very little extraneous information on this page, and it will be a subset of the museum’s website. Those who access the museum site for hours and tour information will see a link to the proposed site.
4. Audience – There are two audiences for this site: military members and buffs and historians. I expect that both groups will want to see the surrendered Japanese sword and manipulate it, although there will be a difference in the amount of information they will want to access. I will attach a small amount of data for the casual user, such as the provenance and the fact that most Japanese officer’s swords were katanas rather than sabers. For the users wanting further information, there will be another page with more specific data. The launch announcement will go through several email lists such as the museum’s list, the National Guard Association of the United States listserv, history listservs such as H-Net, and “buff” sites such as Militaria.com.
5. Technology – The technology required is extensive. A normalized database will need to be created to contain all pertinent data from several disparate objects, which requires both a database developer and a database administrator for staff. (A normalized database has all information broken down to its fundamental parts so the user can pull only the data they need. An example is the real estate database for Fairfax County where I can search for a property by owner name, street name, or house number.) Further required technology will be rendering technology for objects as well as a digital animator/renderer for staff. The rendering technology can be either digital photography or laser scanning. Both will be quite expensive and will be an ongoing expense as the database expands.
6. Interactivity/User Contributions – The purpose of the site is interactivity, as users manipulate rendered objects in digital space. However, this section of the site will not have room for user contributions. There will be space on the museum website for user contributions and comments, but it will be separate from the proposed site.