In a previous post on multimedia assignments, I mentioned some applications for creating online exhibitions. Today I’d like to expand on the topic by looking at the value in having your students create virtual exhibitions as an assignment or class project.
An online exhibition can be created around any topic that involves students making a collection materials or objects, examining and discussing their relationships, and establishing a thesis or argument for the assembly. Online exhibitions are by nature visual, so materials and objects that have visual interest work best. Images must be available or students must be able to create images. Talk to your librarians about resources for high quality images on your campus. At Johns Hopkins we have a great LibGuide on Finding Images that includes resources not just for JHU exclusive use, but also many that are available to all.
Creating these collections involves several skills that are desirable for students to learn and cultivate: writing (text for the exhibition catalog), visual literacy skills, digital literacy skills, and in some cases, a basic understanding of copyright law and fair use guidelines (see more below). Not to mention critical thinking. Depending on your learning objectives, students can be assigned to work in groups, individual students can contribute to a group exhibition, or each student can work on a separate project.
Recommended applications for these projects include: Padlet, Omeka, Google Sites, WordPress, and Tumblr. Your choice will depend on a number of factors.
I’ve written about Padlet in a previous post. It is free and easy to use; the display is basic and functional.
On the other end of the spectrum is Omeka, a free, open-source application designed at George Mason University specifically for online exhibits. See the Omeka showcase for examples. You can download and set up Omeka on a server at Omeka.org, or look at various hosting options at Omeka.net. “Omeka.net is web-publishing platform that allows anyone with an account to create or collaborate on a website to display collections and build digital exhibitions. No technical skills or special server requirements are necessary.” For even more functionality, see the Prof Hacker (The Chronicle of Higher Education) blog post on Neatline and other plugins that can be added to Omeka. Neatline allows for an interactive interpretation with maps and timelines.
Google Sites is technically a wiki application, but it allows users to build websites and is easily adapted to online exhibitions. The Authority of Ruins is a great example created by a former Johns Hopkins assistant professor, Herica Valladares, and her students. Google Sites is free and flexible. You can keep the site private while work is in progress and then choose to make the site public or not later.
Word Press allows you to easily create a website and offers both free and paid hosting depending on your needs. There is also an option to download the application and set it up on a local server. Like Google Sites there are a number of ready-to-use themes and the application is flexible offering users a number of options.
Tumblr is a similar application, but geared towards blogging and the use of multimedia materials. It comes down in the category of social media due to the fact that sharing and commenting are featured components. This is not to say that it has no use in the academic milieu. The Johns Hopkins George Peabody Library’s special collections use Tumblr to showcase materials in their online Wunderkammer.
As a final note, if your students’ exhibitions are going to be publicly accessible, you will want to think about copyright issues. Just because an image is found online does not mean that it is in the public domain and free to use. This can be a good opportunity to teach your students about copyright and fair use. Depending on your institution, there may be library staff able to provide assistance or other resources available, perhaps through the college or university office of legal counsel. We have a great LibGuide entitled Copyright and Fair Use: Trends and Resources for 21st Century Scholars here at JHU to get you started.
Macie Hall, Senior Instructional Designer
Center for Educational Resources
Image source: Screen shot from The Authority of Ruins: Piante del Molo Adriano and Forma del Molo ne la Parte di Fvori