The Wartime Films Project: Narrowing the Focus of our User-Centered Design Pilot

This post comes from the team working on the Wartime Films engagement project, and is part of a series outlining how NARA is using design thinking to reach new and existing audiences. This project was made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation and a generous gift from an anonymous donor. Read the whole series here.

Two weeks ago we introduced the user-centered approach NARA is taking to engage existing and new audiences with our Wartime Films holdings. This week we look at how research and analysis has helped us narrow our focus on particular audiences and a subset of relevant content.

Of course, one of the major challenges at a cultural heritage institution with the size and scale of the National Archives is narrowing the scope of a project like this so that it’s not completely overwhelming. Because we were in the middle of the 100-year commemoration of World War I (from 2014-2018), and had enough lead time to be prepared for the United States entering the War in 1917, we felt that the 2017 anniversary was a natural kickoff for our engagement efforts. In addition to the films, about 100,000 rarely seen WWI images are being digitized and cataloged, all amounting to a lot of new metadata that can be combed for new data analysis.

Grid charting engagement and impact levels for all audiences

From the nine target audiences we identified earlier, we narrowed it down to three different audiences that we thought we could either effectively reach or could develop a deeper level of engagement with. We settled on: educators, museums, and digital humanist/coders. NARA has an amazing education team who works with teachers in regional locations and online through DocsTeach, and can help guide development of teaching aids and curriculum using this newly available content. For the museum partner segment, we are taking full advantage of the fact that all of the content being released for this project is in the public domain. We hope to get the digitized films and photos into the hands of regional and local community museums,helping them to find ways to reuse content in their own exhibits and community events. The NARA exhibits unit has started to lend their expertise toward that end, as well as to make available a WWI-themed traveling exhibit. Finally, we intend to reach out to digital humanists and coders that will have an interest in the metadata about the photos and films for their own uses and scholarly research. For instance, we are exploring how this audience might help parse out names of U.S. training camps and locations mentioned, or whether it’s possible to break out films by scene and compare them with newly-digitized shot lists that provide detailed metadata about each shot.

The three groups we chose to focus on represent the biggest potential for helping NARA reach new audiences and amplify local community efforts.

Persona summary for teachersEducators: This group includes teachers and teacher trainers working at the
K-12 level. Currently, NARA provides strong support to this group through our Education Department and a network of Education Specialists across our regional branches, the
DocsTeach program, and educational publications. There is potential for heavy engagement with this group by collaborating with education staff to complement their programs and getting the wartime film archives into teaching materials.


Museums: This group includes history museums nationwide of varying sizes. There is potential to grow engagement with this group, some of whom, have previously searched for NARA content to utilize in exhibits or in their own programming. We can increase museum engagement by tapping
into existing networks and promoting the wartime films as a seed to open up local collections and personal connections in diverse communities around the country.

Personas-CodersDigital Humanists/Coders (originally called History Enthusiasts):  This group currently has limited interaction with NARA and represents a challenge for us to reach. However, close collaboration with NARA’s Innovation Hub offers the potential for high-return results.


You can read in-depth personas for each groups’ primary needs, behaviors, and ultimate goals for sharing NARA content in this report.

In the next post in this series, we’ll explore the specific goals and outcomes identified for this pilot.

2 thoughts on “The Wartime Films Project: Narrowing the Focus of our User-Centered Design Pilot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *