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.
In our last post, we took a look at how we built our evaluation framework for the Wartime Films project, including coming up with audience-focused outcomes that we wanted to see as a result of engagement. The next step was to create a product that will meet the needs of our target audiences while helping us achieve as many desired outcomes as possible.
Of course, the heart of this project is hundreds of wartime moving images and about 100,000 photographs being expertly preserved and digitized by NARA curators, many never-before-seen. In light of the upcoming 100-year anniversary of the US entering World War I in 2017, we can tie into renewed interest in the conflict and local and national efforts focused on the centenary.
The first step of our product design required us to assess what products and tools might address the existing needs of our target audiences. When we thought about teachers and museums in particular, we considered the proliferation of digitally accessible primary sources, the challenge of discoverability, and the availability of textbooks and guides for studying WWI. We began to imagine a product that could not only bring NARA’s WWI content to light in a dynamic and tactile way, but also to create a tool that could help to enable real exchange, where teachers and local museums could help to shape the product we create.
With WWI as our focus, our priority was to gather collections together in a way that would enable people to tell stories. Teachers and museums place significant importance on understanding historical documents, constructing theses, and finding documents to help explain those theses. Understanding this helped us to start identifying goals for an application that would speak to both these target audiences and the ways in which they want to engage with the records.
At the same time, we also wanted to try and enrich the collections themselves. We thought there might be an opportunity for tagging photos and segmenting moving images, with the goal of recontextualizing the WWI content through a local lens and highlighting often underrepresented narratives. Our aim is to develop an app that allows communities to easily interact with these primary source records and use them to tell their own local stories.
In our next post, we will talk about our user-design process for the app, and how representatives from our audience groups are helping us make the key connections between content and users.