Activist Agriculture: Farm Protest in Iowa, 1929-1969 (digital version)

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As Rachel posted last week on Cardinal Tales, the library has just launched a new exhibit on agricultural activism in Iowa. You can see the physical version of the exhibit on the fourth floor of the library from now until January 2019. The digital version will be available in the long term.


Check out the Digital Exhibit


The digital and physical exhibits were part of the same project – we coordinated our research efforts, bounced ideas off each other until they formed something cohesive, divvied up tasks, read and commented on each others work, and parsed the exhibit themes, our curatorial stances, and how we would represent them online and in-person.

A screenshot of the landing page for the Activist Agriculture
Major themes of the online exhibit.

The result is one project with four outputs — the physical exhibit, the digital exhibit, the exhibit catalog, and the associated digital collection.

Both forms of the exhibit are curated selections of historical material presented alongside interpretive text. The exhibit catalog provides a brief overview of the physical exhibit and lists the contents of the exhibit cases. The digital collection provides full versions of the some of the items appearing in either version of the exhibit in addition to materials we discovered while researching the topic that we did not have room for in either exhibit. Due to copyright restrictions, some items do not appear in the digital collection.

The basic ideas are the same across the physical and digital exhibits, but the mediums affect the way we present the stories in each.

In the digital exhibit we do not have physical structures to work within. So, we don’t have cases to limit us, but we also don’t have physical spaces that provide us with visual groupings. Our solution was to build a cross-walk of the exhibit themes and how they would be represented physically and online.

A screenshot of an spreadsheet showing themes and their corresponding physical cases and webpages.
A portion of our crosswalk between themes, the physical cases, and the digital pages. We also had lists that enabled us to see these sorted by webpage or by case number. Our url stem changed from farm-protest to activist-agriculture as the project progressed, but the basic groupings of content remained roughly the same once we had this crosswalk in place.

This enabled us to see how exhibit materials made thematic sense in multiple places, which helped us figure out how to reuse label content online, as well as where we needed to write text only for the physical space or only for the digital space.

Some of the exhibit items were able to be more fully presented in one medium versus the other. The items on loan really only work in the physical space. However, original items that we have to leave open to a particular page in the physical exhibit can be viewed in their entirety in the accompanying digital collection.

Image of a physical exhibit case within the Special Collections and University Archives reading room at Iowa State University.
A view of the physical exhibit from within the digital exhibit’s “About the Exhibit” page. The comic book on display on the left side of the middle shelf can be fully viewed online.

This was a joint effort across all the units in the Curation Services Division of the library.

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