Internship Reflection – Part 3

In my previous two post, I described my progress for my internship and project with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. The goal of this project has been to create a digital edition for the papers of Warren M. Robbins, founder of the National Museum of Art. I have previously described the trip to Smithsonian Archives to photograph materials from the collection, as well as some of the steps taken to organize some of the material and begin the development of the site, which has since progressed and the prototype can be found at

The creation of the site started with much planning. I needed to figure out which fields to capture, how content would relate to each other, and consider how people would interact with it, as well as browse and search the site. However, while I planned out this information using a wireframe, I still ran into a few hiccups. These issues mainly revolved around importing the content from my original spreadsheet as well as some of the search facets.

The importation problem had mainly in regards to the dates and the automatic generation of the titles. The dates imported into the appropriate field perfectly. It was when the date was displayed in the title that the issue arose. It took on fully numeric format that included hours, minutes, and seconds. Which in turn provided a rather clunky title, for example: Joan Hodous to Warren M. Robbins, 1980-09-12 00:00:00. I have been going through and cleaning up the titles but there are still a number of them that need to be fixed.

Another issue that came up after the import was on the Catalog page. I wanted users to be able to filter their searches by document genre, collection box number, and by people and organizations. I had already assigned a sender/recipient/creator, etc. to each document and thought to combine those fields to within the filter settings. However, after much testing, changes, and data manipulation, it just wasn’t going to work in a way that would be useful. This left me with two options: either use 3 different filters for each field or create a new field to capture all people mentioned within the document. I eventually went with the second option have been updating the information as I also correct the titles.

Other work that has gone into the site, has been to display the content related to specific terms and individuals on their individual pages. For example, if a use clicks on Betsy Graves Reyneau, they will be taken to her page and see all content related to her. An additional issue arose with this however due to changes in the underlying data structure of some of the modules being used. While the issue was eventually resolved, it was an unforeseen problem, especially since it had never been an issue before on other sites that I have worked on.

While the site is currently using a generic theme and layout, I did have the time to work on some potential theme designs. After selecting a few potential color pallets earlier in the semester, I used on of them to design possible layouts in Photoshop. The homepage and possible document layout can be seen here. Furthermore, I have also been working on a document to follow to establish the editorial methodology for the transcribed, and to be transcribed documents so that decisions are made consistently from document to document.

Warren Robbins Home Page




There are still several things to do for this project which I am looking forward to doing this upcoming semester. Some of these tasks will include transcribing more of the correspondence, researching and drafting bios for the individuals mentioned, and implementing the site design or a variation of it. I am hoping that the correspondence, especially the letters between Robbins and Maya Angelou, will provide interesting, and maybe even new, information that can highlight more about Robbins but also the female artists he was associated with and interacted with.

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