Update on Traces of Western Illinois’ Underground Railroad Project

A challenge to this project remains adding items to exhibits, and learning whether incorporating a user-feedback aspect to the website, and a page showing relevant reference information, are feasible with Omeka. Additionally there appear some problems with the site’s navigation and paucity of information about the Underground Railroad (UGRR) in general and about specific items in the collection. Recently I asked two people, one a teenager and one an adult, to look at the project website and give me feedback. Neither person looked at the items through the exhibits, and instead viewed the items individually. A summary of their feedback:

  • The exhibit theme of “misrepresentations and myths” is confusing.
  • The recollection of a family member about their ancestor’s role in the UGRR is interesting, but cuts off abruptly since only one page is shown.
  • The picture of the UGRR quilt is poor, and information about it is interesting but too short.
  • The term “exhibit” is confusing-the visitor assumes it references an exhibit in an actual museum.
  • Why is the statement that the UGRR operated after the Civil War incorrect?
  • Need more biographical information about people involved, especially fugitive slaves
  • Did Harriet Tubman travel on the Western Illinois UGRR?
  • Did Frederick Douglass travel on the Western Illinois UGRR?
  • There should be more images of operators’ houses
  • The Map should be more prominent, and it’s not clear what the significance is of locations of certain of the items, such as the quilt – is its location on the Map where it is today, or where it was made?

Based on this feedback, I feel I need to reorganize the project’s first page to make the exhibits more prominent; provide more background information about the UGRR, concerning its existence both beyond and within Western Illinois, on the site’s introductory page; explain more thoroughly the significance of the exhibit themes; and add more items to the project, especially items about known people involved in the region’s UGRR.

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