Kobot has worked with the Edmonton Heritage Council, and its wonderful initiative The Edmonton City As Museum Project (ECAMP), many times over the years. One special outcome of our work with ECAMP was the development of a style of site-within-a-site called “Exhibitions.” In 2020, we incorporated the Armistice 100: Edmonton & the First World War minisite into the ECAMP site as an exhibition. In 2021, ECAMP contacted us again to make another unique digital exhibition experience: And Still We Rise: A Black Presence in Alberta, late 1800s – 1970s.
Letting the work shine
This exhibition was originally researched and created by Dr Jennifer Kelly as an in-person exhibition in 2011. In 2020, she connected with ECAMP and, in concert with Christina Hardie, set about revisiting the exhibition and adapting it to work in an online format. Kobot was tasked with creating the online ECAMP exhibition that would house the project. We saw the prime objective of this project as follows: Providing an engaging and intuitive experience for the users who interact with the material.
- The Challenge We had all this brilliant content and we wanted to think about what we could do to leverage the specific benefits of the web as a medium. Attention spans being what they are, there was some concern about making sure that these important stories get the attention they deserve.
- The Solution We envisioned the way that audiences move through exhibitions IRL. Most exhibits are built with a basic structure for interacting with the material. But being realistic, audiences can experience exhibits however they would like—getting drawn into specific corners, only scanning the visual media, or completely devouring each piece of didactic information. There is no “right” way to visit a museum!
- The Results This exhibition has always been an incredible slice of the story of Black Albertans. Now, its digital iteration has been created in a way that respects and places focus on all the hard work put into sharing this piece of our Albertan history.
We wanted to make full use of the opportunities afforded to us by the internet as a platform. One thing that immediately came to mind was the possibility of integrating interactivity into the exhibit experience.
We ended up creating small ‘alcoves,’ or sections of content that visitors could click into that are differentiated from the rest of the exhibit content. The information in these areas are typically anecdotes or stories of specific families or individuals. These stories are part of the larger tapestry of Black Albertans, and serve as specific examples of the wider themes explored in the exhibition as a whole. The alcoves are designed to give the feeling of stepping into a quiet corner of a museum exhibition, before reentering the larger stream of the story.
A major consideration during the planning stage of this project was: How will the website direct or allow audiences to move through the exhibition? While the information in the exhibition had been laid out in a linear way using time periods as the direction, the ECAMP team expressed that they didn’t want visitors to feel too tied to that structure or bogged down by trying to get a straight shot through the exhibition.
The homepage lays out all the story collections, which gives visitors the scope of how much information is available, and allows them to choose where they start their journey. We give the users options at the bottom of each individual article to help them keep exploring other sections of the exhibition. We use the design to give an implication of “What’s next” once someone finishes a page. So they can go forward to the next piece in chronological order, but they can also go back to the previous piece, or to the homepage of the exhibition.
With these options laid out for them, they can see that there is an ‘order’ if they’re interested in following that, but they’re also free to start wherever they want and take in as much or as little of what interests them as they’d like.
We discussed with ECAMP our wish to engage visitors in a multitude of ways to draw them further into the experience. A common refrain in the digital sphere is that video content is gold and, the times we are in now, it’s more common than ever to get people in front of cameras. And ECAMP and Dr. Kelly absolutely delivered— both by creating new material and sourcing existing videos that enhanced the existing content of the exhibition.
We also proposed that ECAMP develop Guiding Questions for the different exhibit sections. These call the audience to engage with the work and hopefully help visitors connect the ideas presented to their own contemporary experiences.
"By working alongside our curator and subject matter expert, the Kobot team made sure they were always clear on our vision and needs for A Black Presence in Alberta, ECAMP’s second virtual exhibit. We challenged them to push the boundaries on what was possible from decisions about style, layout, and interactivity. It was clear from the project kickoff through to the site launch that bringing our vision to life was something they were passionate about helping us achieve."
— Danielle Dolgoy, Programs and Partnerships Manager, Edmonton Heritage Council
This project was a privilege to work on and something that all the Kobots are honoured to have played our small part in bringing to the web. The stories contained within the exhibition are eye-opening, engaging, and brilliant. It was exciting to brainstorm ways to help the material come to life on the web, and then to work meticulously with the ECAMP team and Dr. Kelly to make it all come to fruition. We hope you all get as much out of this as we did.