“JFK, Blown Away, What Else Do I Have to Say?”
For our online exhibit evaluation we looked at the President’s Desk, an interactive look at president John F. Kennedy’s Oval Office. While we found this exhibit interesting it was not exactly memorable. The way the information was presented was what stuck with us the most; as far as content goes, there was an overwhelming amount of information. Because we are not largely interested in JFK as a historical subject, this site did not hold our attention for long enough to look through all of the content in one sitting.
Based on the content of this exhibit, we feel it is geared toward history buffs or historians interested in the presidency of JFK rather than his assassination. There is a plethora of engaging information available and though it does a good job of pairing audio and visual content with text, there is still too much “stuff” going on. As discussed by Frost, “the direct interaction with information makes it easier to connect to resources at our own convenience…”(238). Although there is a lot of information available to visitors, each individual is able to choose what content they look at and what preliminary content (video previews and overview screens) they disregard. Those responsible for curating the page do not allow for visitor contribution to the page and we are unsure abut whether or not the page is regularly updated or maintained. In our opinion, there is no need for user contribution or updates to the existing information.
The President’s Desk provides links to other sites containing information about additional American historical events referenced within the exhibit. This broadens the reach of the audience to include those interested in further examining an understanding the world by which JFK was surrounded. Frost writes that “access to objects and information about them is available to both novice and expert users alike; however, the impact of the object may diminish significantly without the surrounding background necessary to understand its origins. This heightens the need for contextual resources to accompany the object” (239). Frost would agree with us in saying that this exhibit does a great job of including all types of audiences.
In regards to the formatting of this exhibit, we were impressed with the variety of ways in which content is presented from video and audio to pictures and text. Unlike visual labels meant to allow the viewer ” to participate by anticipating where the story is going” (Serrell 12), the layout of the items on the desk is user friendly (but noticeably animated) and provides some intrigue about the remaining content. While visitors are able to skip through some materials, there are other things on the site such as the “Secret Tapes” which do not allow for pausing of audio and video files. We looked at the exhibit in more than one web browser and noticed inconsistencies when toggling between pages. Occasionally the “back” button requires users to return to the main page rather than just the content of one of the items on the desk. This may cause visitors to lose interest more quickly because it is frustrating and inefficient to continually re-navigate the same paths, rather than just explore without interruptions.
Overall we had mixed feelings regarding this exhibit. While we appreciated the variety in presentation methods, we felt there was too much information for us to be completely engaged in the content. We would like to see the toggling glitches fixed in order to make navigation easier. We feel that in order to fully comprehend everything in this exhibit, one would need to set aside a few hours or make several trips to the desk.
(Post created by Rebecca Rasmussen and Kenda Vedvik)