I’m in love with the look and usability of New Roots/Nuevas Raíces, which is mostly an oral history project with Latin American immigrants in North Carolina. The conceptual organization of the website and the graphic design are excellent. It makes the site visual appealing and intuitive. I found this website through www.omeka.org as one of their “showcase” websites. I was originally interested in the multilingual feature of the site. I’ve been trying to do something similar with my own website, but it’s not easy to do with Omeka. If you click on either the English or Spanish links, the path is either https://newroots.lib.unc.edu/explore or https://newroots.lib.unc.edu/explora. So I think that means they just English and Spanish copies of each page within a single directory? . . . rather than having a sub-directory with the translated pages. I want to know how they did this, because I think it works great.
The Veterans History Project is OK, but I’m calling it bad in comparison with New Roots/Nuevas Raíces. Aesthetically, the website is very plain. However, I don’t find the design to be ideologically neutral. The flags and the smiling veterans feel a bit celebratory to me, and that raises questions for me about the intentions of this archive. Browsing through some of the interviews, I feel a real lack of critical investigation into the experiences of these veterans. Most of the interviewers seem very unprepared, and their questions are meatballs that allow these vets to respond with canned narratives. I also find the search function to be off putting to the casual user. With an advanced search tool like this one, I think you have to know what you’re looking for. With my oral history archive, I want to make more of an effort to highlight the interesting themes in my collection, rather than letting visitors sift through fields of metadata.
While the Veterans History Project is visually uglier, History is a Weapon is in many ways worse. The first and biggest problem is that it’s not clear at all what this website is about. It has the look and feel of a left-wing activist website; but apart from it’s radical tone, there doesn’t appear to be much coherence to the many essays and links on the sidebar. There is no “About” or “Who We Are” page. And the Home page links to a “Starter Page,” which says, “If this is your first time at the site, it can look a little daunting. To help you navigate . . .” with instructions following. Assuming a visitor made it this far, the instructions are then a bit helpful. However, I think it is a bad strategy to have a long list of materials with no apparent organization on the homepage. The site describes itself as a reader; however, the chapter titles are incredibly vague. For example, the chapter titled “Learning to Surrender,” links to a collection of essays by authors such as Malcolm X and Noam Chomsky on education and indoctrination. It’s unclear how what one should expect to find in each chapter, let alone how one should use this material. In my opinion, this website completely fails to contextualize the materials it makes available.