Posted & filed under Classes.




Martin R. Kalfatovic, Creating a Winning Online Exhibition: A Guide for Libraries, Archives, and Museums (Chicago: Amer Library Assn Editions, 2002)

Representative projects:

Sublime Anxiety: The Gothic Family and the Outsider

U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 45 in the Great War

Virginia Chronicle

Unknown No Longer



Image Editors

online options

Google Draw – basic

program options

GIMP – high power
Irfanview – basic (PC only)

Industry standard: Photoshop

Keep in mind that many programs offer image/drawing options (and people do amazing work with things like Excel). PPT and Keynote have some really good options.

Collections management



How do we read historical photographs?
Colorized History – source of this post’s image
Back in 2013 I messed around with photo repair for the Costica Acsinte Flickr account.

Some Example sites

The featured image is a colorized historical photo based on this original by Lewis Hine. It was posted in a reddit called Colorized History which is entirely devoted to “colorizing” black and white historical photos.

28 Responses to “Class Four”

  1. cathedralplace

    Kalfatovic reading – lots more discussion of affordances vs. cautions of digital tools. Must be an obligatory move for such authors. Feels like growing pains, a relic that the field will grow out of in 30 years. Nobody then will be talking about what we gain and what we lose by mounting online exhibitions, will they?

  2. cathedralplace

    Kalfatovic quotes, since I can’t use
    “As we move to provide increased access to our collections in the form of online exhibitions, it is important to remember why we are creating exhibitions in the first place,” p. xvi.
    “The picture of an object on a computer monitor does not have the same level of reality, the same gravitas, as the physical object itself has in front of a visitor’s eyes,” p. xvi.

  3. historygeek

    I felt that this book helped me to somewhat clarify how I would like to do my project. The author broke down the topic in a way that was very helpful to me, someone who has never run a blog/website/ or other digital project to that scale. While some of the advice regarding the use of colors and font were almost a no-brainer, I had not thought at all really about the availability issues for people who are blind, deaf, or disabled in some other way. This book touches on that in a way that the other book or articles haven’t. It reminds the reader in a way that if you want many people to be able to see and spread the news about your exhibition, then you need to take the steps for them to do that.
    I also appreciated how the author would touch on a topic and then give links to websites that, at least in 2002, would be helpful to those trying to create an online exhibition. It would be interesting to know whether these sites were still running. I may have to check them out when working on my project.
    I do have some questions on some of the subjects such as image file types, markup languages, and screen resolution mainly because of the amount of time since the book was published. My main questions are:
    1. Of all the file formats given for images is jpeg still the best option or is there something new?
    2. The book talks about XHTML and that it should be widely used in 2002, but is this still what is used today or has it evolved into something new?
    3. Do computers even come with a screen resolution below 720×480? Do we still need to be overly concerned with screen resolution as the book makes it out to be? Or is it the same issue, but now with larger numbers of pixels?

    • cathedralplace

      I liked the constant use of examples, too, even if they are 2002. More digital unearthing from Tom on that front. Good questions raised here for in-class discussion.
      Kalfatovic’s emphasis on _process_/guide seems like it is coming at a good time in the semester, as we begin to think about the shape of our final projects.

    • Tom Woodward

      1 -The “best” image compression format depends on purpose and the image itself. JPG for instance can’t have transparent areas. GIFs and PNGs can. Web vs archival work is also a consideration. JPG/GIF tend to be much smaller in size and so they load faster on websites. This is at the cost of image data so it’s a poor choice for archival copies. This Stack Overflow answer is actually really good. We can also get into more in class if you’d like.

      2 -I started to write a very long response to this. My short response is focus instead on two basic concepts – display and data. The formats may change HTML, HTML5, XML, JSON etc. They are less important for you at this point. The difference between XHTML is HTML are probably more nuanced than you’d want to appreciate. Plus HTML5 is the new flavor!

      3 -Screen resolution still matters but is usually more related to the idea that phones and tables will use the same site that might be seen on a 30 inch monitor or a giant flatscreen TV. Retina displays also come into play as they show imperfections in image compression that you wouldn’t see otherwise. So you’re not dealing with 720×480 so much as a spectrum of devices. This has resulted in a push to responsive design. The image at the top of that page will give you a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about.

  4. Tom Woodward

    The “collections vs exhibitions” theme sounds a lot like “archives vs argument” from last week.

    The didactic exhibitions seem to be pretty loose in terms of learning outcome specificity- at least as conferred.

    “In many ways, it is the element of entertainment that separates an exhibition from a textbook or lecture.”

    That’s a big statement in so very many ways.

    After a bit of effort I found a surviving partial archive of the “Project Jumbo” exhibition. I am not sure it meets the level of expectation set by Kalfatovic.

    I can’t tell if caveats like “or, in the case of an online exhibit, images” are a relic of the times or limited thinking. I’ve been struggling with that repeatedly with these older essays.

  5. cathedralplace

    What is an exhibition?
    Unlike libraries and archives, “The museum… exists to serve the exhibition,” p. xvi.
    “When objects are carefully chosen to illustrate a theme… tied together by a narrative,” p. 1
    A “connection between idea, object, and script,” p. 3
    “Showing for a purpose,” p. 16

    Contrast with:
    “collections online,” p. 2.

    Agree with Tom that it sounds a lot like “argument vs. stuff” from last time.

  6. hrhczarnivek07

    In thinking how to develop a web site I feel that this is a very good book. The first half of the book covers your basic business 201 class things on doing a project. Things like what type of exhibition do you want to have, what emotions do you want the view to have, the general steps to making an exhibition, the proposal for the exhibition, people involved in developing and overseeing exhibition, etc. Many of these things are very similar to the development of a business or how to do a business project. The things that are different cover how you are going to present objects on your web site, the layout of the pages, links to other pages, how digitalize items for display, and then the writing of the script. What then becomes confusing, for me at least, is the next several chapters that cover all the “Technological” Issues. Having to learn a variety of alphabet soup terms (DPI, GIF, TIFF, HTML, GUI, etc.), their meaning and what they are used for can be very challenging to someone that is “Technology” challenged. I did lean some things when reading these terms but am still a bit baffled by all of them.

    Overall this book lays out the total process of how to do a website, as an individual or as part of a company. Each step discussed is something that needs to be done to advance to the next step and a successful site. It brings up factors that if you have not done this before need to be considered.

    I do disagree with the Emil Horn quote on page 26 where he states that “Museum exhibitions remind one of a quick-lunch bar, where the guests see not only what they consume, but can also discern the ingredients of which the food is being prepared.” I think it is more like dinner at home where you eat (view) what is presented or go hungry because a museum usually has so much more to offer but only shows a certain number of items. This limit of display (in a museum or online) can be due to the theme of the exhibition and/or floor/storage limits. You do not get to see all that there is.

    In chapter 4, The Staff, it says not to forget about volunteers, interns, and student help during the exhibition process. Word of advice. Volunteers are just that, volunteers. Do not give them major assignments in the process unless you know that they can do it and that they will be around from beginning to end. Same with interns and student help. Too many times, I have experienced volunteers either signing up to help or no volunteers signing up at all.

    In chapter 7 the issue of security is addressed. While addressing this topic the author states “Taking common-sense steps, such as not running your web server as root and placing all executable CGI scripts in a unique history …” What does he mean by using the term “root?” Got lost here. Also, why would you let people be able to “View Source?” Doesn’t this lead to hacking? (page 64)

    On page 68 there is a section titled “Accessible Band-Aids for the Bleeding Edge.” Here is another location where the author has gone over my head. Can anyone explain in non-tech terms what he means by this? Thanks.

    Not sure what is going on with Appendix F, Dublin Core Metadata of an Online Exhibition. Anyone care to explain this one to me?

    Overall I enjoyed the first half of the book because I have lived and worked projects that required a team to do all these things. The second half of the book I felt like Vince Vaughn’s character in the movie “The Internship” when he tries to get ready for the Call Center Challenge. At least he had someone to help him understand each letter, I am still trying to figure out which alphabet I am trying to learn (Greek, Arabic, Chinese, etc.)

    • cathedralplace

      I hear you on the technology vocab issues above. I wonder if reading through these types of terms/acronyms gets any easier over time (from Cohen to last week to now)? Or if this is a different type of process than, say, a non-military historian learning military terms to understand a reading in that field, or economic history, etc.?

      • tarheel2011

        There were several places where I felt the terminology/subject was over my head. I have to admit, I felt that the HTML and Java chapters were out of my realm…..

    • cathedralplace

      I would like to talk about “view source,” “accessible band-aids,” and Dublin Core, etc. in class – easier there than here. Good discussion fodder and life experience above.

    • Tom Woodward

      There is far less chance in today’s world that you will be a server admin – which is where that root stuff comes into play. My metaphor would be that most of the time you cut things with scissors. That’s normal. Scissors would be a normal user’s level of power/rights/commands. Root would be the equivalent of a nuclear laser. You may need it at some point but you would not want to use something with that much power all the time and especially not to trim a thread.

      View Source
      You can “view source” on any page loaded in your browser. Right-click or ctrl-click and you should see it on the menu that pops up. There are ways to obscure this certainly and what shows up here varies widely depending how the page was written. Most of the elements (server-side) involved in hacking would be invisible here (rendered in browser). However you might see things like the version of WordPress or other clues that might help in a hacking attempt.

      “Accessible Band-Aids for the Bleeding Edge”
      Conceptually some of this stuff matters but his specifics are so very far out of date now. For instance, Java (in the browser anyway) is far, far from bleeding edge and is on a significant decline with javascript and html5 taking the lead. Accessibility still matters a great deal but how you go about it is different.

      Dublin Core Metadata
      Ha! Ryan and I were talking about this yesterday. Omeka loves the Dublin Core. It’s a structure for information about digital objects (info on info) so that machines might better catalog/navigate/organize items. Think highly structured taxonomies and rules and boxes.

  7. Clare

    Leaping in I have to admit a slight allergic reaction to the breaking down of the exhibition, in this context online, in such solid and dry terms and accompanied by examples that were probably not that exciting in the day. It’s a great introductory text but the Internet gave scope for so much more in terms of interactivity and connectivity even in 2002. Might I suggest that some more innovative museological practice was happening online in the UK as opposed to the USA. Controversial I know but indicative of our respective cultural funders at the time.
    I’m still having to be disciplined about going through all the content, however it does create a neat backbone for thinking about the online project and mine will definitely be some form of micro online exhibition of art/life encounters over these past 5 years. I shall see it as a personal challenge to blur his categories or create new ones.

    • Tom Woodward

      Interesting to think about the geographic origin of the authors that way. No right/wrong but I tend to think of things as being on the Internet rather than from the USA/UK. I’m pretty sure they were out of touch with all but a small part of the Internet (the library clan) but don’t want to be too hard on them.

      And I’ve never met a category I liked (including that statement – too binary).

    • cathedralplace

      The Science and the Artist’s Book exhibit from the well-funded Smithsonian seems to be his primary example, including tapping its curator to write the forward of the book. It would be useful to compare that with UK sites from the era.

      Tom’s iconoclasm toward categories has me thinking about counter-arguments to his point. So far, the best I’ve got is that it all boils down to 1’s and 0’s, categories underlying everything we do online. There’s no way to navigate the current state of things without them, so in this way, they seem useful. Does this make a case?

      • Tom Woodward

        Maybe . . . “Learn the rules well so you know how to break them properly.”

        It feels like people in new spaces like rules and neat lines. That may also be part of librarian training (and self-selection) while also being an aspect of academia. Combine those things and you’ll get lots and lots of neatly drawn squares. Very tiny, very crisply drawn squares. With standard structures for defining them.

        Sometimes categories help me. So I don’t always hate them. Sometimes I like to define things . . . but often it’s more about getting down to some details for general guidance. I feel like over-reliance ends up with self-constructed (or adopted) walls that confine progress.

  8. tarheel2011

    As I was reading, I kept thinking about the idea of physical space. In undergrad, I took a Museum Studies class and we focused a lot on the physical layout of exhibits and how they guide the viewer through what the curator wants you to experience. Even the colors of the walls are important, as well as font and word choice on labels and entrance/exit points. How do online exhibits use “physical space”? In a physical museum, you have to see one piece of an exhibit before another, as it all builds on each other – how do you create the same space online? Can you? Does that change the meaning, feeling and experience of the exhibit? How do curators overcome this? Are there certain “exhibits” that are better suited online? Can physical space be recreated?

    I also kept thinking about time. Is there a set time for an online exhibit? Does an online exhibit ever get stale? Is there a certain point in which an online exhibit draws less traffic? More traffic?

    • Tom Woodward

      All of the things you mention are things that web designers think and talk about (The amount of energy and time spent arguing about fonts would astound you.) with the additional complexities of having to build the building and have it play nicely on various devices, with various settings, with various screen sizes, with various pixel sizes, in various browsers, with various internet speeds, on various operating systems . . . for various humans. I think the onus to control and modify elements is heavier in web design because it’s less constrained by physical/financial limits around what you can change.

      Guiding someone through a website is no different than guiding someone through a physical space. You can only go where there are doors and you’re in control of where those doors are (expect you don’t have to worry about fire codes). There are patterns like this (that’s a single page parallax – just scroll down – that technique was very popular ~2 or 3 years ago). That’s super controlled and probably isn’t a bad way to think about lots of things. It has an argument and narrative. There are elements that are required and some supporting elements that are there but are optional (require user action). I think it uses space in a variety of ways and attempts to create different types of immersive media elements (going full width/tying action to mouse actions).

      I can’t speak to whether the meaning of something changes if it’s physical or virtual.

      It’s tricky to say now whether we’ll be able to create immersive virtual environments that are indistinguishable from the real thing but I don’t think it’s impossible. We can do amazing things now that trick the human mind. Give it ten or fifteen years. Perhaps smell-o-vision will come back . . .

      They are interesting questions and may be worth flipping . . . How do physical exhibits use online space? In a virtual museum you don’t have to see one piece of an exhibit before the other – how do you create the same option physically?* . . .

      The time and space limits do seem less applicable to virtual elements but that may not necessarily be the case. You’re going to be limited by the central site itself (assuming there is one) and the subsequent complexities of navigation, upkeep etc. As to staleness – what makes a physical exhibit stale? Does it have traffic patterns? You’ve got a longer-tail to deal with but the same concepts apply.

      *my own experience with museums differs here – there are usually a few paths/doors and the control of the curator on what I see and how I engage with it is semi-structured

      • cathedralplace

        For my money, the Lost Museum (skip the intro video to get into the navigational frame) does the best job of “virtualizing” the physical space of a museum. Kalfatovic gets close to this when he talks about gallery circulation patterns on p. 84.
        I don’t see anywhere where he really dug into your question of time, though. Cohen/Rosenzweig did a little of this in terms of the 9/11 project’s usage in 2002. Judging from the Wayback Machine (see Tom’s post on Project Jumbo above), none of these online exhibitions seem to intend to fully close. Cohen/Rosenzweig’s point about capacity: “why delete anything from the current historical record if it costs so little to save it?” But I suppose your question on time is focused more on the curator’s intention. When does an exhibit cease to be an active exhibit, and start its new life as historical artifact?

    • Tom Woodward

      Thanks for that. It’s a bit obscure but sometimes I get my class readings crossed. The portion that I thought was relevant was . . .

      There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial. — V.Bush

      and keeping in mind that’s in 1945.

      Sometimes reading some of the older stuff about what people hoped technology would do helps me get out of the mundane aspects of most of what it does now. V. Bush is more than a bit dry and boring but he’s got some good points.

      I really like Papert (Children’s Machine) and Ted Nelson (computer lib/dream machine) for interesting and inspiring stuff. If any of you are vaguely interested, skimming either (Nelson is even zine-like- with cartoons!) is worth it.

      Other than Papert, these were all people I read when I helped build the #thoughtvectors course we ran at VCU for a few years.


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