Crowdsourcing African American History

The National Museum of African American History and Culture has launched a Web presence years before the museum itself will open its doors in Washington. The idea is, partly, to crowdsource black history.

Soliciting historical material from visitors to virtual museums is not new, but the content already, less than a week into the adventure, is quite powerful. Twenty-two items were posted as of this writing, some including wonderful family photos. Read I Thought They Were Going to Kill Us All,  a first-person report by Joey Robinson reflecting on a singular, tragic experience in Newark in 1967. This stuff passes the user-generated-content quality bar easily.

IBM donated the technology, and having a (relatively) strong tech partner has already paid off.

The main pages feature threadmaps that illustrate links between content contributions. The display on the home page isn’t very well-settled, but click to open up the map on an inside page for a fascinating way to engage with the stuff.

Threadmaps are familiar to information architecture geeks and 2.0 communitarians. But this is the most mainstream use of this technology I’ve seen. With few entries so far the map navigates well. We’ll see what happens when the social network builds and hundreds and thousands of content items pile up.

The public contribution effort, called Memory Book, asks people to geotag and date submissions for eventual display via maps and timelines.

One timeline is already in progress. I have no idea what you call the navigation scheme is uses. It combines a slider with two timelines, one static, full-span timeline from the 1600s to today and another detail-view timeline below. Both lines use transparent graphics to indicate volume of material available at each period. Once you click on a year or period, a text box below spools out details about each event. That’s a lousy description, so check it out yourself. Frankly the usability is not very good.

Saddest detail: All public contributions be vetted for, among other things,  content that incites racial or ethnic hatred.

Explore posts in the same categories: African American history, crowdsourcing, information architecture, museums, threadmaps

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