Sunday, April 20, 2008

Online exhibitions continued

Story-boarding this online exhibition was relatively straight forward. The main section is the story of the expedition which is divided into eight stages - Melbourne to Adelaide, Adelaide to Perth, Perth to Broome etc. A number of pages cover each stage and much of the story is told using images from the albums. In the early stages of the trip only a few photographs were taken but further into the trip a number of images were taken of sites of interest. In this case a link to a separate page provides more detailed information about the town or event.

The introduction section provides background information about the expedition and also information about material used for the online exhibition.

The daily reports section provides access to the actual reports made by the expedition party regarding the journey and can be read in stages or searches can be made for specific information using the Advanced Search option of the database in which the pages of the daily reports are stored.

Further sections of the website will include information about MacPherson Robertson and also about his confectionary business using a selection of images from the boxes of glass negatives in the MacPherson Robertson archive.

The further information section will include a bibliography and websites relating to MacPherson Robertson.

The design of the online exhibition was kept relatively simple using tables. The background colour is the same for all pages but the colour of the borders is changed for each section of the expedition. A cascading style sheet is used to control the uniformity of print style and size throughout the site. A small version of the MacRobertson map is located in the top left hand corner of each page and serves as the link back to the home page.

On the home page there are two options for navigating the following pages - a map of the expedition containing links to the beginning of each stage and hyper text links to each stage beneath the map.

The information about the expedition is progressively being added to the web pages and database following the timeline of the original journey 80 years ago. The first stage was added on 12 April, the second stage on 18 April etc. The additional stage links become 'live' as each new stage is added.

For this project choosing the material to use and to leave out was a major consideration. Especially in the initial stages time was spent carrying out additional research for the project especially checking background information about people met during the journey and events described.

When it came to putting the material together a number of options were tried. Initially the story was summarised with images but increasingly the text of the daily reports was used to tell the story using the words of the participants. That is when the decision was made to make the complete text of the journey available in a database and use the images and a summary of the text to tell the story in the main section of the online exhibition.

Checking the content is an ongoing process, especially checking that the hyperlinks link to the correct pages. The pages have been read and reread to try and eliminate typing and other errors. Misspelling the word expedition in the main heading and then cutting and pasting the error for multiple pages was an initial embarasing error. At least it is easier to make minor alterations in an online exhibition than in a traditional exhibition.

A major challenge when designing anything for the web is that those viewing the pages use different browsers and often change the settings on their computers resulting in different sized print on the screen. The pages were checked in Internet Explorer and in Mozilla Firefox browsers and a number of alterations were required before the pages would work as required in both browsers. It is rather disconcerting to view pages that work well on one computer screen not looking as designed on another screen (even using the same browser) because the screen settings have been changed from the default.

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