Effective Redundancy?: Using WordPress as an interface for CONTENTdm

In a partnership between the libraries of Vanderbilt University and Middle Tennessee State University, my colleagues and I produced a website entitled Shades of Gray and Blue: Reflections of Life in Civil War Tennessee. [www.civilwarshades.org] The website was done in WordPress, with themes and stories created as Pages, and objects added as Posts. It was designed by an interactive design company with the intention that we can manage it, tweak, continue to add posts, etc. in future. All good.

The original idea was to create a virtual thematic collection/exhibition of primary visual objects, with accompanying lesson plans, which would be valuable for teachers since it gathered usable images (72dpi) for teaching and presentations into one place, included curriculum standards in the lesson plans, and presented the conflict with easy entry points (as a series of human stories). For this, we hope the Shades of Gray and Blue  website will fulfill its purpose.

[More on our rationale for those who are interested: We want teachers and students to also use the digitized objects to create their own themes and stories, hope it might spark additional local research and also communicate on a meta level that: 1) history is composed from many stories and points of view, 2) history is written by a variety of scholars, and 3) previous narrative histories of Civil War Tennessee (particularly those written during the “Lost Cause” decades) did not convey the very random divisions of sympathy in all pockets of the state, the all out chaos and deprivations on the homefront, and the many ways of dealing with societal transitions during and after the war.]

BUT, because the creators were libraries who wanted to make certain that the site was eminently searchable and would function as a prominent “publication” on the world wide web, it was decided that we should also created a permanent digital collection in CONTENTdm as we gathered the digital images. CONTENTdm is recognizable as a valuable resource for scholars and we thought it would make many Tennessee objects “visible” for the first time. Shades of Gray and Blue, the CONTENTdm Collection, now accessible directly from the website on the Search/Research tab, will soon be accessed directly through MTSU’s Digital Collections home page.

While I had suggested we look into using Omeka since it seemed to be being developed for just this type of usage, the library folks felt strongly that we wanted to use this dual approach.
I wonder how effective or necessary this redundancy was? The two web locations serve somewhat different purposes and audiences and also function differently, but they are part of an essential whole. However, because the numbering, labeling systems differ for WordPress and CONTENTdm (not sure if there might have been a way to anticipate this and design a one-size-fits-all log of objects?) it has created some confusion and a little frustration among those of us who are working on the back end.

Has anyone worked with a similar situation and solved it differently?

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About Susan

I am a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Public History at Middle Tennessee State University and an independent curator. My museum background is in Art History so I have a particular interest in visual learning. In the digital realm, the arts and humanities are crossing paths. The challenge is how to work together to do digital history most effectively.

One thought on “Effective Redundancy?: Using WordPress as an interface for CONTENTdm

  1. This is the kind of moment where I feel that I need to know more of what librarians know. I have the sense that there is a growing dislike of ContentDM, and that it is not very flexible (parts, but not ll, of my Bllue Ridge Parkway site are held there). What, from your library colleagues’ standpoint, was the advantage of mirroring your project in CDM?

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