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Content Management

Selecting a content management system to fit your DH project is crucial; and, as pointed out in the “Choosing a platform” essay for this weeks reading is determined by several things: functionality, familiarity, community, support, and cost. Personally, I have the most experience with WordPress (which I’m using for this blog) and Omeka (which I’m using for a digital collections grant I’m working on)–although I do have some experience with Scalar, which I feel works nicely for more free form projects and is easy to use with students who are new to developing digital projects.

I had not heard of Mukurtu before, and I was surprised that was the case. With Mukurtu’s ethical considerations regarding how to treat collections containing sensitive material taken from indigenous communities, it seems like a good choice for collections that include material from communities that are not part of the university or library structure. Kimberly Christen et al. developed Mukurtu when, following their exploration of other content management systems, “discovered a set of unmet needs, including: cultural protocol driven metadata fields, differential user access based on cultural and social relationships, and functionality to include layered narratives at the item level.” As such, this CMS has attempted to addressing these issues by providing space for knowledge from the community to be included alongside more “traditional” metadata and distinctions as to who can access certain material based on their position in the community (or as an outsider).

Additionally, Christen discusses the creation of Traditional Knowledge licenses and labels in “Tribal Archives, Traditional Knowledge, and Local Contexts.” Since, in many instances, copyright law works against Indigenous communities or falls on the side of public domain, these licenses help contributors and users be more mindful in the way they produce and consume products of digital archives using this material. While they do not provide legal protection, I feel they do important work–especially considering the level of detail included in helping users determine what they need when creating them.

Lauren G. Kilroy-Ewbank’s essay “Doing Digital Art History in a Pre-Columbian Art Survey Class” was extraordinarily helpful in envisioning how to incorporate the use of content management systems into the undergraduate classroom in a way that scaffolds toward a final project while accepting the various limitations of this kind of project. In the past, I have seen undergraduate literature classes try and use both Omeka and Scalar for final projects, but without proper context students and professors alike felt frustrated at the lack of progress. While I am not a historian–or art historian for that matter–I’m hoping that I can use some of Kilroy-Ewbank’s strategies in the summer online class I will be teaching that requires students to curate a kind of digital anthology that includes a variety of multimedia materials.

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