Exhibit Narrative and Social Media Promotion

My classmates, Ellen and Megan, and I are using some of the skills and knowledge we’ve learned throughout the semester to develop a digital exhibit presenting the life of labor activist Mollie Lieber West.

The Mollie Lieber West Papers at the Women and Leadership Archives provide a great resource for an exhibit like this. Mollie West’s life has a very compelling narrative, full of romance, intrigue, struggle and inspiration. Mollie faced many struggles in her personal life, as well as in her professional career, yet she became an influential figure who fought for the rights of workers and women for nearly a century. The collection is filled with photos, objects, and documents that aid in telling the story in a visually appealing way. We are very excited to use this collection and share the fascinating story of one woman in the context of major historical events throughout the twentieth century.

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Mollie Lieber West Papers, Women and Leadership Archives

We are creating the exhibit with the support of the WLA at Loyola University. We are fortunate to have the use of the LUC library server to support our Omeka exhibit. This gives us more options on plugins we can use to make a more dynamic exhibit.

The WLA currently has plans to use Mollie West’s collection as the center of a larger project centered on women in labor. Our goal is create an exhibit, along with the research performed to create it, that can be a starting point for the WLA’s future phases of the project. The WLA’s website, blog, and Facebook page will be used to promote the exhibit. The Loyola Libraries’ Facebook page often also shares important events at the WLA, broadening the audience throughout the University community. In the past, Trivia Tuesday post’s, which use an image to ask a question that followers can answer, have generated interaction on the WLA Facebook page. These types of posts could be created to ask trivia questions about the exhibit, and share “bonus” photos and information.

The Illinois Labor History Society will be another resource to promote the digital exhibit. Mollie West was a board member and fulltime volunteer for several decades, and the ILHS has shown great interest in WLA plans to promote the West collection. Although their Facebook page does not appear to have a large amount of interaction, it does have over 1,000 followers who will likely be very interested in the subject. I expect that the ILHS will gladly promote the exhibit throughout their own networks.

My group is in a great position, as we are able to work closely with the WLA after we complete our project. We can use the Archives social media resources to begin sharing our exhibit with large audiences.

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Mollie Lieber West Papers, Women and Leadership Archives


Women’s History Online:NWHM digital exhibits

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For this post, I once again explored public history institution websites to see how they presented online exhibitions. This time I looked at the National Women’s History Museum, a privately funded institution working to build a physical structure on the National Mall. As of now, the NWHM researches, collects and shares women’s history through its website. Its exhibits use the collections of other institutions, and several of them take advantage of the LIFE photo collection available through the Google Cultural Institution platform.

The first exhibit, Standing Up For Women: African American Women and the Civil Rights Movement, highlights the contributions of black women to the fight for civil rights throughout American history.

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The striking LIFE magazine photos, along with items from the Library of Congress and the National Archives, feature prominently in the exhibit. Although very simple, I find the design very visually appealing and great for focusing on the women individually and as a group.

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One part of the exhibit highlights individual women who played significant roles in the Civil Rights Movement. Audio recordings or video clips from oral history interviews from these women, or those who knew them and worked with them, would have added another layer to this compelling exhibit. Other exhibits might be able to take advantage of news recordings from the time, but it can be expected that these would be more likely to exist for male leaders than women.

Let’s Play a Story: storytelling and gaming

I spent some time this weekend reading The New Digital Storytelling: Creating Narratives with New Media. In this book, Bryan Alexander explores the new forms of storytelling that have emerged in the age of Web 2.0. From blogs to podcasts and from video games to twitter, these new media do more than create innovative forms of communication. They also provide platforms for people to present narratives and for others to experience and interact with these narratives.

I read the book while sitting on the couch next to my husband as he played games on his Xbox One. I skimmed through the chapters that discussed how podcasts harness the familiar power of the voice and how Twitter allows communities to tell a story together, 44 characters at a time. As I helped my husband to create a character in his game, a mercenary fighting in the Hundred Years’ War, I turned my attentions to the chapters Alexander wrote about video games. It is always more interesting to read and write about things that relate to your life.

Chapter 6 focuses on casual gaming, including the more simple games you play on your computer while procrastinating or on your smartphone. Chapter 7, however talks about the unique nature of PC and console games that create immersive worlds for players. There is no doubt that these games succeed in telling stories in ways that engage players and evoke emotion, but Alexander is most interested in exploring how the unique nature of these large-scale games is used to tell stories.

I am in no way a gamer, but my husband does occasionally pick up a game that we can play together. While he is entertained by almost any game that is challenging, when choosing a game for both of us, he has learned to look for ones with interesting characters and imaginative storylines. Since I spend most of the game trying to figure out what button makes my character shoot whatever weapon its carrying and waiting to be revived after dying for the hundredth time, I require a captivating plot to keep me from quitting.

Alexander found that many games use an element of mystery to keep players interested. Often characters in the game are trying to discover details about events in the past that are now affecting the present. Players learn fragments of the backstory through interactions with other characters or by exploring shadowy territories. The mystery drives them to investigate and explore. Cut scenes are used to show flashbacks or significant events in the present, the technology allowing the manipulation of time to tell stories.

Although these video games take place almost exclusively on a single platform, Alexander points out the many blogs, forums, and other social media platforms in which enthusiasts discuss every aspect of these games. In this form, the story is brought to life in new ways and becomes the center of social interactions.

Some of the most interesting games I’ve found focus on the power of good storytelling. The company Telltale Games has created games such as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us that let players feel like they are part a movie. Much of the game is simply engaging cut scenes that tell a story. At various points, your character is given a decision to make about what to do or what to say to another character. Each decision changes the direction of the story and the relationships you have with other characters in the story. They can even have an impact on which characters live or die. After finishing the game, you can start over and make different decisions, creating a different story. Or, you can visit the many websites where other players share their gaming experiences. This is what we usually do after completing the game, checking to see if we could have saved a beloved character’s life if we had said or done something differently. Online, the experience of the story continues and the experience is shared with a larger community. These games do not represent the most complex ways that video games tell stories, but they do show how even simple game play can be used to create an immersive world.

I doubt I will ever be making video games in my public history career (although someone should), but finding creative ways to communicate a narrative is definitely a useful skill. People connect to the complex characters, the manipulations of time, and the interactive mysteries found in video games. These elements could be brought to exhibits and other presentations of history to get audiences as passionate about history as they are about these imaginary digital worlds.