Two Websites: A Review

Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation

This site is very easy to navigate and provides a wide variety of content. The homepage is laid out with links throughout the site to online versions of exhibits (permanent and temporary) though these are unfortunately mostly bare and do not provide significant content for online visitors. It is exclusively meant as a textual introduction to what the exhibit is about and works under the assumption that you will visit the museum proper, limiting what those interested in the museum can glean the further away they live.

The site provides easy and up-to-date access to events taking place through the museum, including exhibit openings and musical performances. The website’s focus is almost entirely on a local audience, though there are some resources of which internet-only visitors can take advantage.

While not extensive, the site does provide high quality pictures and interpretation of select items from the permanent collection, some of which are accompanied by videos explaining and demonstrating how the machine functions.

Some of the finer points of the website include these short, well-produced video clips, the accessibility of relevant information concerning goings-on at the property, and a page dedicated to showing off visitor photographs of site materials. This last one in particular is a great idea though I fear it may be too exclusive as many of these photos appear professional.  Showing amateur photographer’s efforts would be more inclusive and provide a greater variety of perspectives. Most of the shot compositions and subjects are also similar, and it would be interesting to see what an average visitors focuses on in their space. Events could even be hosted to encourage these activities with social media and tagging tie-ins.

Martin Van Buren National Historical Site

After my recent visit to the Martin Van Buren (MAVA) National Historical Site which thoroughly impressed me, I wanted to review their online offerings to see if they were equally impressive. Compared to the Charles River Museum the MAVA site has a LOT more interpretive material, but it is less intuitive to get to, hidden in vaguely worded tabs (which are, to be fair, the categories common to all NPS websites).

The offerings specific to the website are much more plentiful however, providing ample resources and information pertaining to the park site and but tailored for online consumption.

There is also a “Virtual tour” of the site which is in desperate need of reworking. On a technical level it works well and even integrates some well-implemented functions like a “mini-map” that shows where in the house you are currently touring. The interpretation is also solid, but not in keeping with new developments described by Pat West at MAVA, not including many of the new interpretations of slavery, domestic service and agriculture I was introduced to in my recent tour of the physical site. The pictures themselves are also grainy and are pretty small, so while I applaud the idea it needs serious improvement.

3 thoughts on “Two Websites: A Review”

  1. Man, the Charles River Museum’s page on the Boston Associates exhibit is pretty sickening. They “rejected profit at all costs” but supported slavery? They promoted “corporate responsibility” by paternalistically keeping their underpaid teenage female labor force in tightly controlled company dorms? They brought jobs to small New England towns, but also displaced the “farmers and undercapitalized merchants” who were previously there? Ah, but we “must not only celebrate these great venture capitalists of the past,” but also note that they were “fallible” and “imperfect.” Puke. Reads like it was written by a company P.R. firm instead of a historian.

  2. I agree it’s hard to find all the info on the Van Buren site. But what is the purpose of this site? It doesn’t seem like it’s intended to be a serious study aid. The conception of the website as a whole is odd, with info about the museum and info about Van Buren. It seems like the museum wanted to put their hours of operation up on the web and just decided to round out the website with a few pages of info while they were at it.

  3. I agree that the MAVA website suffered from the standard NPS format. Even the site index, which I had hoped would help me in navigating the pages, only listed generic page titles. They have good content, but they could do a lot better by making it more tailored to their specific park. The most informative page I found was for brochures, and this is picky, but I wish the brochures weren’t only available as pdfs. I have a slow computer and loading a file rarely feels worth the bother it makes for me.

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