David Patrick McKenzie

Historian working in academic, digital, and public forms

Author: David McKenzie (page 5 of 10)

It’s 3 a.m. … Do you know where your CSV columns are?

Tomorrow, or technically today, I’m presenting in Clio 3 on Data Manipulation.

As Professor Gibbs and I defined it on Monday, my presentation on this potentially broad topic is twofold:

  • Using SQL commands in PHPMyAdmin to merge and split fields; e.g., merge or split names;
  • Using PHP to switch a CSV file’s date format into an acceptable one for input into a MySQL database.

The first is one with which I feel rather comfortable, and ready to present.

The second, on the other hand… I spent a few hours last night dealing with that (and a bad allergy attack), and I’ve spent all evening tonight on it. After a lot of trial and error, I have much of it working. I can get the file open, and even write back into it. The problem is the middle–switching the order of the dates.

Here is what I have:

The middle parts are the problem.

I am most thankful to this blog post by Evan Cordulack, an American Studies graduate student at William & Mary; after looking at many sites that gave me parts of what I needed, his helped me crystalize most of what I needed.

I tried a few different things: getting slightly familiar with PHP functions (via these two posts that gave functions for changing order of numbers), and using Sasha’s code for her form. The latest version (as posted below, next to the original) reflects Sasha’s code (thanks for going over it with Megan and me on Monday! Hey, look, alliteration!).

I get the feeling that part of my issue is trying to change the data in just one column. Here’s what arouses my suspicions: I get a variation of the jumbled data each time I try.

So… I’ve reached a point where I’m not sure what else to do. There’s something that I’m clearly missing here. Since I’m having too hard of a time figuring out what I’m doing wrong in that middle part, I’m writing this post. Any suggestions are most appreciated.

Dr. Gibbs–if I am able to get off work early (a big if), will you be around? Otherwise, may I make figuring this out part of my presentation? :)

This is what the CSV file originally looked like. I stripped out everything else except for the case number.

Eeep. Other times, it’s changing my initial numbers.

Misrepresenting plantation life

Today’s Washington Post Magazine contains an interesting story about the deterioration of the mansion at Carter’s Grove, a 1750 James River plantation whose opulent mansion now faces ruin due to neglect. This story, which I would otherwise recommend, begins with wrong history that perpetuates plantation nostalgia and stereotypes about Native American savagery.

The lede describes the exquisite detail of the plantation master’s mansion, considered one of the finest examples of plantation architecture. The author then states that Carter Burwell, of the Virginia gentry Carters, wanted his mansion “to awe visitors with physical evidence of the bountiful riches that could be wrung from the New World wilderness.”

This sentence is problematic, to put it mildly. For one thing, the writer ignores and/or mistakes from what, or more accurately whom, Burwell and his fellow gentry extracted their wealth. While an English visitor in 1750 may have thought that the Virginia Tidewater was a wilderness, what could legitimately be considered that loaded term was much further west by then.

Most importantly, this statement, combined with the lede, romanticizes plantation life. Burwell wrung his wealth–note the article’s passive voice–from the enslaved persons (47 in 1783) who lived and toiled at Carter’s Grove every day for undernourishing rations and pitiful housing.

Sadly, this is not the first time I’ve seen such romanticization of plantation life in The Post‘s pages. Last year the paper ran a travel story about a 1778 plantation-turned-inn near Orange, Virginia, where the writer imagined herself and her husband as “lord and lady of the manor,” talked about the other “buildings” on the “estate,” and included a joke that a mannequin in a tux was “the original butler.” Never mind that while Virginia’s gentry fancied themselves as English, they were running (sometimes) profitable slave-labor operations; some of the buildings on the plantation may be former slave quarters, if such flimsily-built housing even survives; and that the original butler would not be the well-paid and attired Mr. Jeeves but an enslaved person.

This year’s magazine story further presents a faulty interpretation of Virginia’s past when it discusses Wolstenholme, a colonial settlement that “was destroyed during a native Powhatan massacre of English settlers in 1622.” The Encyclopedia of Virginia‘s blog tackles this point. The individual act could be described as a massacre, as it was the opening act of a war. The Powhatan leader Opechancanough led his tribe in an attack upon English settlements, killing hundreds of men, women, and children. Again, though, the context that the article’s statement lacks is important. The Powhatans’ 1622 uprising came after 15 years of continuous depredations on the part of English colonists. Omitting that portion of the story perpetuates the trope of savage Indians.

Both articles are not specifically about the history of the places. This week’s magazine story focuses on the destruction by neglect of what is not just an architectural gem but a significant archaeological site. I would otherwise recommend it as an interesting look at historic preservation issues. To be fair, the author does write further in the article about the former slave quarters, formerly maintained (along with the big house) by Colonial Williamsburg, and mentions excavations of a Powhatan village on the site.  Meanwhile, the travel story from last year is a light-hearted look at an inn.

Nonetheless, the tone of both of these stories presents a whimsical look at plantation life–a life that was hardly whimsical for the majority of a plantation’s inhabitants. The historical pictures presented in both stories lack context, perpetuating toxic myths that form the heart of this country’s fraught racial and ethnic relations.

I realize that the writers of both stories were likely working with limited word counts, and the scopes of their stories were beyond these historical statements. But I don’t think I’m going out on a limb saying many more people will read these articles than will read the latest monographs on colonist-Indian relations or slavery in colonial Virginia. As such, these statements matter. It behooves any writer to get his or her history right.

Update: The Encyclopedia Virginia’s blog rightfully responded to this post by pointing out the important difference between getting history right and certain interpretations of history right. An important distinction here, and one that the Encyclopedia Virginia makes well. Thanks!

Informal education, museums, and the Peace Corps

“Peace Corps and the Alamo. I never thought I’d hear that combination.”

That was the reaction of a professor several years ago when I mentioned where I had worked. In March, when I attended the Symposium on Informal Learning, sponsored by the American Association of Museums and The George Washington University Museum Education Program, I remembered that statement.

Listening to the speakers discuss informal education and learning (related but different concepts) reminded me how much my experience in El Salvador with the Peace Corps has overlapped with the career I’ve begun in the museum world. Yet to many, this overlap has seemed surprising. Perhaps this stems from seemingly (at least to my own eyes) little overlap in personnel. In my short time in the Peace Corps, I met no one who was planning a museum or public history career. Although I’ve heard of people in museums and public history who once served in Peace Corps, I haven’t yet met any in person (although I mutually tweet with a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who is in a library program).

Thus, I share my experiences here in hope of provoking dialogue and connections between museums and the Peace Corps, both of which are engaged in the common objective of creative education outside of a classroom setting and share a lot more in common than may meet the eye.

My initial encounter with informal education

Although I had worked as a history interpreter at the Alamo for several months prior to leaving for El Salvador, Peace Corps training was the first place that I encountered the term informal education.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Peace Corps strongly emphasizes that concept. Many volunteers–in my case, all of my training class besides a 56-year-old engineer–are either fresh out of college or a few years removed. We had spent most of our lives in the formal education system, yet were going to  work with people who often had little contact with their country’s formal educational system.

In my community, many adults had not gone past early elementary school. But lack of education does not mean lack of intelligence. During the next several months I interacted with some of the smartest people I’ve met in my life. Many people–whether Salvadoran campesinos (country folk, loosely translated) or gringos with multiple degrees–do not always learn best in formal settings. Informal education does not mean dumbing down; it simply means teaching with different, “informal,” methods.

So, to reach our audiences, we had to break the habits we had acquired from the formal education system. Gone were lectures. In El Salvador, we gave charlas (“chats,” as compared with “talks”), often at meetings of various community organizations.

Although I didn’t realize it until I returned to the Alamo after early-terminating from Peace Corps, I had also been engaging in informal education there. I have done the same in my museum internships and jobs since. After all, much of what a museum does is informal education, whether it be through lectures, tours, exhibitions, new media activities, and even publications.


Thus, based on my experiences of 10 months in the Peace Corps and now nearly 10 intermittent years in the museum/public history field, I offer some more specific commonalities, with anecdotes to illustrate the points. Since my M.A. is in Museum Studies, and I have not held a specific museum education job (although my jobs have involved some of the same functions), this is by no means a comprehensive list, just some examples that come to mind.


This is the most basic, and general, idea of informal education. The talking head, in both museum settings and the Peace Corps, is the kiss of death to learning. Informal education in both settings is interactive; at its most basic, a dialogue between educator and audience. In Peace Corps, we were rightfully admonished not to be up in front of a group just yakking away, but to engage the audience. This could be through any means, but the most important thing was having a dialogue–a charla.

Guided discovery

One form of interactive informal education that I’ve seen in both museums and Peace Corps is guided discovery–the idea that we guide our audiences to the learning objectives, rather than just telling them. In Peace Corps, volunteers are trained to fade into the background and guide their audiences.

For example, in my community, people complained about how long and scattered community council meetings could be–so much so that it was a disincentive to attendance (other volunteers reported the same). So I decided to try a charla on parliamentary procedure. It was a challenge; parliamentary procedure is not easy to teach in a classroom, much less an informal setting. So, based on what I had learned in training, I worked with that particular meeting’s attendees to draw up rules for how to conduct meetings more efficiently. I put up a piece of butcher paper and worked with the community members to create two lists: essentially, characteristics of good meetings and characteristics of bad meetings. I asked some leading questions. Even when I didn’t, people came up with great suggestions. In the end, we had a list that community members, not the gringo, had created.

Just the same, in museums we guide people to come to the conclusions we are trying to teach. During a tour, rather than telling people what is on a building, we have them look for themselves. Then, we guide them to deduce the building’s history from those clues. Thus, our audience members feel like they have come up with the solution for themselves, and are more likely to have that lesson sink in.

Physical motion, even games

Peace Corps training strongly emphasizes games; I was lucky to have a program director who had co-authored an entire book on games to use in water, health, and sanitation education. What I saw there, and have since seen in museums, convinced me that games are not just for children.

In my community, I watched a nongovernmental organization worker use a game from that book to great effect to teach about the importance of preventative health practices–not always well-known in rural El Salvador. She gave each participant a certain amount of “money.” Then she read out different scenarios for the next several days, reflecting decisions people could make about preventative health. Each participant either received more money (for a day’s work) or lost money (for expenses) for each day. For example, someone did not wash his/her hands before handling food and got amoebas (not a pleasant experience). The person lost a day’s work (in a country where sick leave is rare) and also had to buy medicine. Someone else who did practice preventative health, meanwhile, gained a day’s wage. In the end, the person who had taken the most responsibility for prevention had the most money.

Sure, she could have gotten up and just lectured on the importance of preventative health. But by showing it through this game, she drove the point home; the followup discussion clearly reflected that.

Just the same, in museums we frequently have people act out scenarios. There has recently been a great deal of discussion about gaming in learning–not just in museums, but broadly. Participants in that discussion should look to the Peace Corps for inspiration; Peace Corps has been using games to teach for decades.

Final thoughts

I hope this post might provoke dialogue between museums and the Peace Corps, two of the most established types of informal education institutions. In my brief experiences, I’ve seen a lot of connection between their methodologies. Museum educators would make great Peace Corps volunteers, and vice versa. Both have a lot to learn from each other. I hope that both will do so.

I hope that in the future, people won’t be so surprised when I say that I’ve served as a Peace Corps volunteer and made a career in museums.

Do you have experiences in informal education, whether in the Peace Corps, museums, or another setting? Please share those in the comments. I would love for people with more experience in both to compare notes.

Contingency, Foreshadowing, and Real-Time Tweeting

When I catch up on my overextensive Twitter feeds at the end of the day, I always savor the Real Time World War II feed. Although I’ve moved my historical study toward the 18th and 19th centuries in the Americas, that conflict has a hold on me.

I was fortunate enough to discover this project last fall, not long after it started tweeting events as they happened in 1939 in Europe. I have now followed, day-by-day, the Russo-Finnish War, the Katyn Massacre, a period of relative calm in Western Europe, and the Nazi invasion of Scandinavia. Now we’ve reached May 1940, when the Wehrmacht burst into the Low Countries and France.

This isn’t the only real-time historical Twitter feed that I follow, but it’s my unabashed favorite. Tonight, two tweets got me thinking about the nature of real-time historical tweeting, and more generally how we present the past. The first tweet noted France’s recall of the World War I hero Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain from his post as ambassador to Spain. The subsequent noted Pétain’s friendship with Spain’s Fascist dictator, Francisco Franco.

My question: if Twitter had been around in 1940 and I was tweeting the important events of the day–i.e., if I didn’t know of Petain’s leadership of France’s surrender and the subsequent Vichy regime–would someone have tweeted about that event? Perhaps the return; a quick check of the ProQuest historical newspapers database for those dates reveals that Marshal Pétain’s return to France did receive some coverage in the United States. But none noted his friendship with Franco. Instead, he was seen as a potential savior of France, one who had already kept Franco from casting Spain’s lot with the Axis.

From the present day, the more intriguing aspect of these two tweets is Pétain’s admiration for Franco. But that is only important in hindsight. Pétain’s sympathy for Fascism, not seemingly important at the time, had far-reaching consequences. This is the historical concept of contingency, which Jon Christensen, of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, succinctly defined on Twitter the other night. What if Pétain hadn’t had that sympathy? Even if he did have that sympathy, what if he had not led the Vichy government? Would that detail then have been important for this particular Twitter feed?

So, that raises what must be a tricky question for someone doing a real-time Twitter feed. How do you show, in real-time, the future impact that a detail, seemingly minor at the actual time, would have?

Or do you show that detail? Do you want to get your reader/follower into the time period completely, if such a thing is possible, and surprise him or her? This is the dilemma that faces any writer of history, particularly narrative history. How much do you foreshadow? How do you express the seemingly minor events on which things hinge?

Would omission of that detail about Marshal Pétain lead to surprise for an otherwise-unaware reader two months later, when Pétain leads France’s surrender? Is surprise what we want, to show how events can be unexpected when they occur and only obvious in hindsight? Or do we want to convey an understanding of why events happened as they did? Why was the detail of Pétain’s relationship with Franco ultimately important, even if it may not have seemed so on May 17, 1940?

I will be curious to see how real-time tweeting of historical events develops. Will the dominant method of real-time tweeting of historical events be foreshadowing or surprise? For those who real-time tweet historical events, what is your approach?

And now, it is done…

At least for now. At least for the sake of Dr. Petrik’s gradebook. You can see my final assignment, “Santa Anna Goes to Washington.”

There is still more that I would like to do. In spite of Geoff and Sheri’s helpful advice, I never got around to learning how to make an image map. So, my map is not clickable, as was my original plan. I simply ran out of time with the content. Nonetheless, it is here for all to see.

Overall, I’m happy that I worked with Omeka, as it will help me to build upon this site in the future. Part of me wished that I had worked with regular HTML and CSS for the sake of the class assignment, as I would have needed to do less tinkering, but in the end, I was happy with the flexibility to add more pages and objects. As I continue on my overall project, I will continue to add objects and information. I’m also excited to learn more about using PHP in Clio 3 this fall.

But for now, I am going to sleep.

To all of my classmates and Dr. Petrik, thank you for a great semester. I have learned a lot, and have particularly enjoyed getting to know a dynamic, intelligent, and nice bunch of fellow historians and art historians. Thanks to everyone for your help this semester. I will look forward to continuing to learn from, and with, all of you.

Critique: Amber’s Final Project

When I put out a call on Facebook for suggestions on improving my final project website, Amber suggested a great idea: a mutual critique of each other’s. For me, the critiques by friends and classmates, whether in class or via social media, have been really helpful (thanks, all!). So in that spirit, my thought’s on Amber’s final project, Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Hand Is Where the Art Is.

  • The title: I like the title. I really do, especially after occasions of seeing people from Michigan use their hands as maps. However–in this iteration of the website, without the map of Michigan in the header, I’m not sure that it makes as much sense. I agree with the decision to remove the map from the header, as we talked about in class. Perhaps on the front page, “above the fold” as they say but in the content area instead of the header, include a map with Grand Rapids highlighted? That might help make the connection more clear.
  • Header art: I like the sculpture. It helps give the visitor a greater sense of the site’s content. I like how you’ve floated it so that it’s not in the header box–in fact, I was inspired by how you did that with the Michigan map, and did the same with Santa Anna for my site (coincidence: the newspapers I looked at for Santa Anna’s time in Washington also were talking about Michigan statehood). The piece needs some work to make it lighter and more visible, though (nice that you took the picture!). You could also float it over the menu bar, perhaps by decreasing the space between the items and making the sculpture larger. I think that would help it stand out more, and give your viewer the idea that, hey, there’s some cool art in Grand Rapids!
  • Nav bar: Ah yes, navigation. I think I have spent more time on this than anything else in this class! I think it works really well here to have each section under the header bar, rather than on the left side. It’s very clear what your visitors are navigating. I think it would be more clear, though, to use the font you use in the body text for the menu bar. You use the decorative font, to nice effect, for the header and for the headers in the body, so I think you can use the body font here–that might also help with opening up some space to make your great sculpture photo even bigger, for all the world to see your photography skills!
  • Color scheme: I think the gray palette works for readability, especially with the blues thrown in. However, I do think, since you are discussing art (granted, what do I know, I’m a historian rather than art historian!), perhaps you could go to using, say, the red from the wonderful photo of the Calder sculpture? I like how you put the pull quote at the beginning–I think that could benefit from a nice, light-red background to help it stand out more. I can imagine, though, that it must be tough trying to decide what colors to incorporate since there is such a variety of colorful artworks in your site.
  • Repetition: Since this flows from the previous entry, I’ll start CARP with repetition (that, and I misremembered the C and started an entry for consistency!). The site has benefitted from you using a consistent color scheme throughout. You’ve really nailed consistency/repetition with one color scheme, one header design, etc. At the same time, your use of different header images on each page adds some extra visual interest. You do this in a consistent way, a way that doesn’t distract from what you are trying to do–each piece is in the same place, and aligned the same way. The main part that could be more consistent, though: The header. It might be better to keep the site title at top, even if in some way besides the header. Otherwise, although the color scheme tells the visitor he/she is on the same site, the headers don’t as much. Tough dilemma, though, where to put the different page titles. Perhaps have them highlighted in the menu bar, and then an extra level of heading above what you have?
  • Contrast:  Your contrast is good. In each section you contrast the different elements from each other, so that they flow together but you do a good job showing your visitor what is what.
  • Alignment: Unfortunately, not all of your paragraphs in your body copy align. Some are to the left of others. Can be tough to nail in the CSS! Otherwise, the alignment works nicely. Everything flows together.
  • Proximity: You do good work with putting things close enough together that they flow, without scrunching them too closely. I think your line spacing, in particular, is good. The one place that could be improved is in your captions. Sometimes the image credit is too far from the rest of the caption.

So all in all, great work, Amber! I think this site is coming along well, and I hope that my suggestions are helpful but aren’t too time-consuming. Thanks for the thought of a critique exchange!

Final Project Revision

Based on comments from everyone last week, I’ve gone back and revised my final project. A lot. Perhaps it’s not a bad thing that my wife is gone for the next week at the American Association of Museums conference in Minneapolis.

At least, I’ve been revising the design. At first, I was reluctant to depart too far from the Omeka template. Now that I have, though, I’m happier with the result. I made the header and footer fit within the center, rather than take up the whole screen. I also used the border-radius command in the CSS to round out the edges of each of those portions.

I also took Santa Anna out of the header image itself, and placed a different picture of him–in civilian clothing (taken from an 1850 book)–floating over the header map and the primary navigation bar. I chose this particular image because he would have traveled in civilian clothing, not his uniform. Also, it depicts Santa Anna as a younger man (he was 42 at the time of the journey) than any other images that I could find. His look in this image is comparable to that in the previous image of him in a military uniform.

Because I changed the overall color scheme, I also got rid of the color filter for the header map. Instead, I simply lightened the map quite a bit from the original, and changed the color of the route.

Perhaps the largest change, though, is how I got rid of the borders, and indeed the left and right colors. Now the entire background is a lighter version of the faded yellow that I used before. In the end, I’m happy with this change. The bold color on the sides distracted from the content. I hope, however, that this has kept its 19th-century feel.

The lack of borders made the secondary navigation more difficult. After first removing the bottom borders and experimenting with, essentially, buttons, I simply made the secondary navigation into a list, with the active page highlighted the same way the active section is in the main navigation.

So, this is where I am at this point. Please feel free to give me your thoughts! I’m always looking for feedback.

And now, on to putting in more of the content. I also need to figure out skip nav in Omeka. And add an about page…

Preliminary final project

My preliminary final project is live: http://davidmckenzie.info/projects/exhibits/show/santa-anna-goes-to-washington

I feel like it’s coming along. It’s coming along a bit more slowly than I had hoped, but it is coming along. Thus far I’ve found working with Omeka both challenging and rewarding. Rewarding, because it’s taken a learning curve to crack, and because it will give me more flexibility to include more items, particularly as the design solidifies. Challenging, for those same reasons. I have gone back to my CSS repeatedly, as I’ve added more items and realized, oh wait, that didn’t work so well. Not long ago, I expanded my main content container to give everything more breathing room.

A couple continuing issues:

  • The secondary navigation, i.e., the left menu bar. Overall I’m happy with how it’s turned out, except that some page titles get cut off. I’m not sure if it’s an issue with my padding and margins; anyone have thoughts?
  • I may need to go into Omeka’s exhibit page layouts and make some alterations. I haven’t been happy with how some of the layouts are turning out, such as this one. It’s meant to have two columns worth of items on the right side. Right now, it’s only displaying one, but some room for a second. I may need to make it so that it just wants to display one, as I feel the main text is too narrow.

Because of my continuing tinkering with the design (which has been really helped by blog comments from Claire and Lindsey, Twitter comments from program classmates Lynn and Erin, and in-person comments from my wife), I haven’t put in as much of the content as I’d like. There is more to come–but I hope where I am now gives a taste of what will be there.

I will look forward to receiving feedback from my classmates tomorrow night (or tonight, now that I’m writing past midnight). Anyone else that cares to comment, please feel free!

Critique: Design Assignment

For class we are each offering friendly critiques of one person’s design assignment (here is Claire’s insightful critique of my assignment). I am critiquing Amber’s assignment, about sites in Athens.


  • This is, overall, a really nice site. The color scheme works extremely well here–it’s muted, thus not taking away from the content. It matches well with the bust that you have at the top.
  • Your header font works well. It immediately invokes Greece, without exoticizing it too much. The headlines are consistent throughout the page. Although it’s a fun font, it’s also readable.
  • Your font throughout the page works really well, too. The serif is a nice choice, particularly since you are emphasizing ancient Athens. Also, you leave plenty of space between the lines.
  • Good choice of pictures. I especially like the bust hanging over the header.
  • The margins are nice–there is enough “white” space, without it being overwhelming. All in all, things are nicely spaced.

Just a few areas for improvement:

  • The bust, unfortunately, hangs over a little too far, obscuring some of the text. I know that’s a tough thing to control–perhaps shrink the bust a bit in Photoshop (or specify a smaller footprint in the HTML or the CSS)?
  • The spacing underneath the headline for the Parthenon was smaller than the spacing underneath the other headlines.
  • The captions could be distinguished in some other way from the main text. They are close to the images, and in a smaller font, so that certainly helps; perhaps also italicize, or even put a different color box around the images? That might help them stand out more. Perhaps use the same nice color that you use in the header and the footer?
  • That same color may work better for the pull quotation, as well. However, nice work in putting the pull quotation above the fold!
  • The left menu could be more aligned with the header background. Also, I think it would work to get rid of the left and right margins in both the header and the footer.

So, all in all, nice work! Is your final project going to be about Athens? Looking forward to seeing it!

Design Assignment is Live

You can find it here. Not so coincidentally, this is also the address of my final project. Because I am using Omeka for the project, I went ahead and got the whole site ready–at least with fillers for the pages, to give an idea of the site structure and the navigation.

Working with Omeka for this assignment was a trying but will be, I think, ultimately a rewarding experience. It was trying because I haven’t used PHP before, so I was flying partly blind. That led, for example, to several hours of me trying to figure out how to make my exhibit sections menu my primary menu, while also including a link back to the homepage. I ultimately gave up this pursuit, instead manually putting in each exhibit section into the PHP–hence why every page also shows the homepage as the current section (if anyone has any suggestions for this, please do let me know!). Thankfully, the Omeka Codex came to my rescue more than once.

To create the design for my site, I began with Omeka’s From Scratch theme. After some time, though, I gave up with it; I discovered that it was not structured for the most up-to-date version of Omeka. I also realized that I did not have the most up-to-date version of Omeka.

So I upgraded, and while that was happening I made my header graphic. For that, I took a Library of Congress map from 1837, did some necessary repairs (large parts of Illinois were missing, for example), and recolored it. I then cut out Santa Anna from a background and placed him on the side of the map. Finally, I traced the route of the journey, and added the lettering.

While I made the header graphic, I gave more thought to the color scheme for the overall site. Generally picking colors is not my favorite thing, and I’m not so confident in my skills; when asked to do a poster at work recently, I was relieved when asked to match a certain branding! For this, I was looking for something that evoked early 19th century, and also the United States and Mexico. However, I did not want a Southwestern theme a la Omeka’s Santa Fe theme (which I did use for my final project last semester–the database from which my project this term is drawn). The reason: this project doesn’t specifically focus on the Southwest, and indeed, my dissertation will likely leave out the borderlands (focusing on the “cores” of the United States and Mexico).

Especially after I discarded that “usual suspect” color scheme, I found that picking a color scheme for a transnational project is difficult! Like Beth, I didn’t want to exoticize Mexico, so I didn’t want to go with the national colors or anything that looked like it came from the tourism board. So in the end, I went back to the color scheme I’ve used for the rest of my portfolio: a mellow yellow with a dark red. I added a darker blue, which I hope helps evoke the Early U.S. Republic, and generally that period’s aesthetic, without being overly “patriotic.”

Once I had upgraded Omeka, I went into one of the four themes that came with that new installation: Seasons. I duplicated the folder for that one, and went to town creating my own theme, which I called “Santa Anna Goes to Washington” (creative, I know). I went into the CSS and modified. After a while, a design scheme started to come together. I kept the same fonts that I used in my type assignment, and even used my favorite (one) ornament!

Like when I did my portfolio page, I had trouble getting the menu bar as I wanted it; perhaps I’m overly picky with those? I hoped to have a border between each of the items, but because of my lack of knowledge of PHP I couldn’t figure it out (that awaits next semester). And there is my aforementioned issue with the start page remaining highlighted, no matter what page someone is using. I’m also debating whether I want the secondary navigation (the pages of each section) to have a different background color–I’m unsure whether my ornament is enough division.

So, I’m open to any suggestions! As part of this week’s assignment, we are each critiquing one of our classmates. So tomorrow, I will do my critique of Amber’s. Claire, go to town on mine!

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