Top Navigation Bar Insights: Collaboration is Cool

This week on the APLA site, I have been working on drafting text for the top navigation bar items of the exhibition home page, i.e. “About the Project,” ” Contributors,” “Sources,” “For Educators,” “Contact Us,” and “Search.” In other words, I have been organizing the general exhibition background information,  in contrast to the side menu items, which will link to the different exhibition sections (I will describe these in later posts).

This may sound tedious, but I actually have found this standard information step to be really enjoyable, because it reminded me of the innovative collaborative potential of this online exhibition.  Most educational exhibitions, physical or digital, require a team effort, but what I find exciting about APLA is that its mission (see About the Project on this blog) connects to the public history goals of numerous entities in South Carolina. Through linking sites online and combining resources, our contributors will not only support the project, but will also be an interconnected part of it. So for this blog I will write about a few of our established and potential contributors, and how collaboration is essential to APLA.

Let’s start with the host institutions– the Lowcountry Digital Library and CLAW. The purpose of LCDL is to collaboratively work with local partner institutions such as museums, universities, and historical societies in the South Carolina Lowcountry (we’re up to 11 at this point) to provide scholarly and technical resources in digitizing archival collections, and making information about them accessible through our website. The resources and digital storage LCDL provides saves these institutions thousands of dollars annually. But rather than just list local archival materials online, a follow-up goal of LCDL, in partnership with the outreach efforts of CLAW, is to generate curated access to these materials– to organize and activate them as educational resources, through digital projects such as African Passages, Lowcountry Adaptations (also see LCDL and CLAW’s current digital projects). To help make this additional research possible, staff then applied for and received a generous grant from the Humanities Council SC.

Simultaneously, the developing International African American Museum in Charleston has been forced to reconsider how it will function as a museum in the current economic crisis. This museum project began its planning stages in 2000, but had to significantly downsize its proposed multimillion dollar budget after the economy crashed in 2008. While this was a tragic blow the museum’s plans, it also forced IAAM developers to get creative, and seek more cost-effective options for making information about Charleston’s significant African American history available the general public. Along with designing a smaller museum building, focusing on the landscape surrounding the structure, and connecting with existing historic sites that address African American history, IAAM is also looking into ways to function as a virtual museum. With limited staff time, partnering with LCDL on APLA will combine academic and museum resources for making this online exhibition open to a range of public audiences.

And finally, our most recent potential partnership will be working with City Slicker! The idea in current discussions is that City Slicker will provide the technology resources to generate online tours and augmented reality features for APLA, we just have to provide the curated content.

So in summary, all of these entities are interested in making Charleston’s African American history more visible and accessible to the public, but rather than reinventing multiple wheels in isolation, we are hoping to work together and collaboratively benefit from the resources APLA will connect and organize through an online exhibition structure.

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