Reflections on my site

Now that my site is nearly finished I can say that I have been looking forward to being completed very much…This has been a tough class for me on many levels – not the least because I have never done of any of this before including scanning, photoshop, let alone CSS or HTML – other than what I had done in Clio I. On some levels it was easier than I expected and on others just as difficult as I thought it would be. I enjoyed the planning and it is good to see the end result. There are many more things that could be done to the site to make it much more informative and interesting but I am reasonably satisfied with what I have accomplished. I still need to add more text to the home page and a few of the tables have to be completed. Making the tables was very time consuming but they were necessary to present the text in a coherent way. You can view my site here

I am afraid that I won’t be switching careers to become a web designer but I am glad to have had the exposure to the process. I may have the opportunity to work on the design or content of other sites in the future and I will certainly have a greater understanding of what it takes to create a site that fulfills the needs of the client. It’s also been interesting to see how all of you have taken your ideas and transformed them in such a variety of different ways.


This week’s readings covered a topic that hadn’t occurred to me with regards to web design, but of course it makes total sense. Making web content available to people who use screen readers and therefore include a greater part of the population is an important consideration. It also creates another level of information on the site that should really be considered from the very beginning in the design process.

I think that describing the images and any videos or other interactions that will appear on the site could make the designer think more deeply about the content from the very beginning. It could make choices about which images “tell the story” even more complex but ultimately help to decide which images, graphics, etc. are the most important.

The articles on Javascript were a little less “accessible” to me. I don’t quite understand how it interacts with HTML – I tried to find a site that would illuminate the topic for me but most seemed geared toward people already working with it. I guess I will find out more in class! – another layer to apply to our sites…

Design rationale draft

Here is a draft logo link and also the design rationale file

The most difficult part of this was working with the colors – I was working in both Open Office’s equivalent to Powerpoint and Photoshop Elements and each works a little differently. I spent a lot of time going in circles until seemingly magically the color would appear. For someone who is working at my level, too many choices can be a bad thing. I don’t know which application is going to give me the result I want until I spend too much time figuring it out. The good news is that I now know how to upload files to my blog without tearing out my hair. Anything is easy when you know what you are doing.

Readings for 3/23

This week’s readings cover some of the fine points of web design. Luke Wroblewski discusses the importance of the both the technical and the visual in web design. Technical aspects are importance to the way the site works, but the visual is what will draw in the viewer and keep them interested in the site.  Mark Boulton takes up the creative side of design work and stresses the importance of a team’s input and the ability to take a fresh look, what he calls the 4 Rs – revolution, re-expression, related worlds, and related links.  Once you are into a project it can be difficult to take a step back and look at it in a completely new way.

I found Dave Shea’s article on color palettes the most interesting and his illustrations were visually convincing.  He showed that different color choices make a big difference in the appearance of a page and is relatively easy to achieve.  There were also some other interesting items on the website – 24 ways to impress your friends – especially Veerle Pieters’ piece on geometric backgrounds.

The overall message I gleaned from all of this is that web design is a multi-layered process.  On one level it can seem pretty simple but there are so many decisions to make which impact the finished product.   I still have lots of work to do on my site! but some of this was helpful – and inspiring.

Site map

I have a site map – I used a program called Lovely Charts found at this link . I can’t remember now how I found it – I think through the readings the week we did site maps and wireframes. It was fairly easy to use – has a good intro video that explains the basics.  It allows you to do a fair amount of customizing and it was actually sort of fun once I got the fine points mastered. store-book-site-map1

Modifying CMS

This has been by far the toughest assignment for me. I finally decided to use Omeka and got that installed. I selected the dark theme. I have the most trouble with the FTP and am still having problems moving things back and forth – I think I need some remedial help. However, I was able to accomplish a few things and have found this all helpful in planning how I want to arrange the information.

Since the main information that I am sharing here are essentially journal entries I am presenting the information in two ways. I will scan each page (actually two pages as the book is really small so there will be a verso and recto) and that will appear as an item where I will provide a transcription for that entire page. In the header I have added tabs for simple pages – Into Store, Out of Store and Rum but now that I am into this I think it makes more sense to arrange these by month. I am going to change the tabs to August, September, October. I may just do the whole book – but for these early assignments I am just going to focus on a few months.

I created a collection – store book – and so far just one item with a few tags but additional items will be more pages of the store book covering the months that I am featuring. Other collections will be George Washington’s diary entries that correspond to the same months and a collection for letters.

I also added a simple page for About and added some text. I haven’t uploaded any images so my site is definitely lacking in the wow factor…but here’s the Link

For Edward Tufte fans

For unknown reasons I received a mailing announcing a one-day course being taught by Edward Tufte in Arlington. It will be presented three different days in early April. It is pricey – $380 for regular folks and offered at the low, low price of just $200 if you are a full time student not currently employed. However, you do get copies of 4 of his books included with the fee…If interested, check out the site at

Scope for my project

1787 Mount Vernon Store Book website


The 1787 Mount Vernon Store Book website is an exercise in taking an eighteenth-century text that on the surface appears to be a dry list of items and contextualizing the document to relate a larger story of life on a large Virginia plantation. The book details goods that went in and out of the store house – a physical space that occupied an important part in daily life at Mount Vernon. It housed shoemaking supplies, seeds, tools, and other necessary items, including rum that served as part of the necessary supplies to keep a large agricultural enterprise going as well as supplying George Washington’s family, slaves, and the many other people that worked on the plantation. Daily entries were made which will be linked to George Washington’s diaries and letters from the same year as well as other texts which will assist in explicating the entries.


George Washington was what we might today call a micro-manager. Extensive records remain that show how closely he was involved with the daily activities of his plantations even during the year 1787 when he spent most of his time in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention. In fact, it is serendipitous that he was away from his home much of that year because his letters as well as his diary make references to the activities at the plantations as he corresponded with his farm managers.

The 1787 Store Book was kept by [one of GW’s farm managers – George Augustine Washington?]. In it regular records were kept of supplies that came into the store and supplies that went out as well as disbursements of rum to various people which was given as a form of payment for services rendered and as additional payment to some of the white servants on the plantation. These relatively dry entries actually provide a lot of detail about the workings of an eighteenth century plantation and the interactions of the dozens of people that took part in daily activities.

The intent of the site is to help contextualize the information included in the store book and illustrate how complex the plantation system was and how richly peopled with a variety of hired white workers and neighbors as well as slaves and the Washington family. The scope of activities that occurred on the plantation is comparable to that of a small town today. Every piece of clothing or ingredient for cooking had to be grown, manufactured, or purchased somewhere; often from Boston or Philadelphia.

Environmental Scan:

George Washington Papers Project hosted is by the University of Virginia. The aim of this ongoing project is to reproduce the vast majority of his papers and provide supporting information. The papers are grouped into series and include: Colonial, Revolutionary, Confederation, Presidential, and Retirement. However, most of Washington’s financial records have never been published and that is how our fellowship came about. Mount Vernon has teamed up with George Mason University to begin the process of transcribing and annotating some of these financial records. It has not yet been decided how Mount Vernon will present these records but they will eventually be part of the George Washington Papers project. There are both printed and digital editions of the papers. To my knowledge, there is no other website that covers the same or even similar information that the 1787 Mount Vernon Store Book will.

History and duration of the project:

I am one of two doctoral students in the American History program at George Mason University who were fortunate enough to be offered the opportunity to have a fellowship at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Our task is to transcribe three books that contain financial records of the plantation and in cooperation with the George Washington Papers Project hosted by the University of Virginia, these records will become part of the digital edition of the papers. I have elected to use one of these books as the basis for this project.

Work plan:

March 5 – by this date have made final decision on whether WordPress or Omeka would be the best choice.

March 9 – Have website started

March 16 – CMS modification due – make decision as to what changes to CMS will be necessary

March 23 – Design concept (Sitemap/wireframes due) have all textual content ready for site

March 30 – Photoshop – have all images selected

April 6 – Design rationale due

April 13 – Have all images scanned and ready to be uploaded to site

April 20 – HTML/CSS mockups due

April 27 – Have the bulk of the site together – work on any problems/issues remaining

May – 4 – Project presentation – make final changes after presentation

May 11 – Final project due

Final product and dissemination

The 1787 Store Book site is being created as a stand alone project but there is interest from the Mount Vernon staff in the project and it may serve as an example of a way that the information can be presented to the public to promote interest in some of the lesser known documents associated with George Washington and Mount Vernon. While researchers have utilized these works to some extent the project will help to disseminate the information to the wider public.

Web design

After reading Garrett’s book I decided to take a look at his website – (don’t go to first as I did – I think it’s an online dating site – took me a minute to figure out I was in the wrong place!) It was definitely worth a look as his “diagram that started it all” is there and is much easier to read than the one that appears on page 33 in the book. The explanatory text really helps out here – it is in the book as well but seeing it next to the diagram aided in my understanding of what each part means and contributes to web design.

I’ve already created some “low level” wireframes for my site so I especially appreciated Dan Brown’s coverage of this topic in his book.  I now see what is lacking in my version and how I can improve them to get across the information I want to relay as well as using them to help me see what I am forgetting to consider in my plans for the site.

Getting on with the project

I am eager to get started on the site and I think (fervently hope!) that all that we have been learning will begin to make a lot more sense once I am actually putting it to use. Like Trevor, I am most excited about the design aspect and know how I would like it to look but don’t know how realistic it is. I have been focusing on getting my content together including some images so that I don’t have to spend time on that later when I will surely be struggling with XHTML and CSS… One thing I have been wondering about concerns fonts.  There are some on Open Office that I am thinking of using that I don’t see in Word.  Do all web browsers support all fonts?

I know that Jeremy said that Omeka was more difficult (in terms of code, I think) to use than Word Press but the way it is set up seems a bit more intuitive to me.  And I found a theme that I think will work with the Mount Vernon Store Book site.

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