Berenson & Harvard Exhibit Evaluation
The Berenson & Harvard Exhibit contains three main sections detailing Bernard Berenson’s and Mary Whitall Smith’s time at Harvard University. The two later went on to be the founders of the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. The exhibit was made to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the center. The exhibit is extremely user friendly and incredibly easy to navigate. It consists of four sections (all in tab form) the Introduction, Bernard Berenson, Mary Whitall Smith, and Cast of Characters.
We found this exhibit via an index of sites using Omeka, found on Omeka.org. We thought that it would be interesting to view a completed project on Omeka because it is a platform that we have become fairly adept at through the creation of our own exhibit, A Million Blue Objects. This allowed for a greater understanding and appreciation of the skill and time that went into the creation of Berenson & Harvard.
According to Serrell’s work in Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach, an exhibit should allow visitors to, “…understand what an element is about, grasp its context in the whole exhibition (i.e., within the big idea), and find it personally meaningful and useful”. Using this standard as our basis, we have found that the Berenson and Harvard exhibit more that lives up to Serrell’s big idea. The project clearly states that they wish to explore the lives of Berenson and Whitall Smith as seen from their time spent at Harvard.
Serrell also recommends that an exhibit should create an environment where visitors, upon exit, should be able to, “easily, unhesitatingly, and thoroughly, answer the question, What was that exhibition about?” (Serrell, 5). Judging by the ease of access we experienced, the Harvard exhibit also succeeds with regard to this suggestion. When one leaves the exhibit it is clear what the big idea was and how each part of the exhibit connects to this big idea, or main purpose.
One potential limitation we discussed is the exhibit’s narrow focus – as it deals very specifically with Harvard – which we feel that that could potentially narrow the audience the site brings in or retains. That being said, such narrow focus seems necessary for exhibits in order to qualify for Serrell’s “big idea.” One might explore ways to better relate the site content with a general user not affiliated with Harvard, though the site’s original intentions may not have been as public an audience as it has reached.
Overall, we found this site very successful. It was not directly related to us, as we do not attend Harvard, nor did we have any previous knowledge or ties to Berenson or Whitall Smith. However, this exhibit really did pique our interest from a historical perspective. The site was incredibly easy to use and navigate which made it very welcoming to a first time user and encouraged further exploration. As we explored the site we were very impressed and intrigued by the multitude of historical artifacts we had access to because of the platform. The plethora of historical documents and pictures alone make this site a “Must See” for anyone interested in making a digital or public humanities exhibit. We would both highly recommend others to check out the exhibit, and we might explore it a bit more as well.
-Danielle Brocker and Katie Hobbs
Nelson, Johnathon K. “Berenson and Harvard: Bernard and Mary as Students.” Omeka RSS. The President and Fellows of Harvard College, n.d. Web. 08 May 2014.
Serrell, Beverly. Exhibit Labels: An Interpretive Approach. Walnut Creek: Alta Mira, 1996. Print.