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 this last installment of our series on user-centered design and the national WWI App, now titled Remembering WWI, we look at our initial public launch, workshops with cultural heritage partners, and the process of continued feedback and iteration.
Together with our content partners the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, we made our first major public announcement at the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) Fest in April. As part of this gathering, we held a number of user workshops to continue fine tuning the user experience of the app’s first public iteration, which will debut in beta this fall. We also gave two presentations on the collaborative process of building Remembering WWI: “Smithsonian, Library of Congress, and National Archives: Opportunities and Challenges for Working Together”, and “Historypin and the National Archives: APIs, Apps, and Audiences.”
Working closely with our national content partners, and with thematic guidance from the National WWI Museum and Memorial, we started to identify WWI content that each could feature from their own collections. This was an opportunity to focus on the diversity of narratives and paint a more complete picture of the American experience during WWI. Looking for geo-locatable content played a role in this as well, as we wanted to make sure that we could surface content from a wide variety of regions. Since many institutions do not prioritize location as part of their metadata, this also gave us an opportunity to note some partner content that could potentially benefit from crowdsourced user input once the app is live.
Throughout development, we’ve never stopped seeking and building upon feedback from our target audiences. In June, we held a workshop in Kansas City in which teachers had a hands-on opportunity to review updated designs. For this intimate workshop, educators from across the country gathered at the National WWI Museum and Memorial to help test the app and explore realistic scenarios for how it could be used in a classroom setting. Workshops like the one in Kansas City play an important role in helping us maintain relationships with key external representatives who will follow our progress and feed it as we iterate.
Moving forward, Remembering WWI will allow users to undertake deep exploration of NARA WWI content and create their own collections. We are seeding as much content as possible through the location-based Historypin platform, where we are also working to create themed collections based on WWI subjects recommended during the Kansas City workshop. These collections will provide jumping-off points for content discovery, and can serve as inspiration for app users. As the resources and community within Remembering WWI continue to grow, we plan to work with our user-design partners to introduce additional features such as helpful resource text for both teachers and curators.
As we reach the end of the initial development stage and prepare to share the product of this work with the public, we look forward to hearing your reactions. How will you use the app as a teacher or as a cultural institution? What are you hoping to learn, and how can we help to enrich the experience? This is just the first step in our collaborative goal of Remembering WWI and we hope you’ll join us.