A little dip away from Ada for a moment to talk about online collections. In this case I am focusing on a website called ContentDM and how they display their online collections.
To start off I want to say that I’m not a total fan of the way ContentDM is set up for a couple of reasons. First, when googling ContentDM, you get sent to the main part of the website BUT! That is not the collections part. You end up here. Now perhaps I’m just missing something, but I cannot seem to get to the collections page from that page. Yes there are plenty of links (and I do mean plenty) to click on and explore but for the life of me I could not find the one to take me to the collections page. So I had to go find that link again through my class’s syllabus instead. I would say this was just a minor concern, but if I cannot easily find my way to this websites collection database, then what’s the point? It is already shooting itself in the foot if your visitors can’t even get to the main page.
Anyways, I digress. Slightly. My frustrations only grow from here until I get to the collection I chose (which is rather nice and I’ll discuss that in a bit) but getting there is still convoluted after trying to get to the main page itself. When I first visited the site I completely ignored the search button on purpose because I had the feeling it would not help me. I was correct, for the most part. The website as a whole is huge and has many things outside of this collections page. Their search bar sits above the header of “Collections” (it makes more sense when you’re looking at it) which indicates that it is a search bar for the entire site, not just the their collections. That means you can be taken down a completely different avenue than intended when using it. Thus, I originally found my collection just from scrolling down their front page. I later decided to look up the name of the collection in the search bar and found two links, only if I put in the full name of the artist. At this point you’re welcome to follow along with me!
The collection I was searching was a series of watercolors by the artist Edward Stuhl. The actual collection was delightful and the quality of the images for each watercolor was stunning. They did not miss one pixel which I highly appreciated. You could also download the images too which is super nice! I was very impressed. But alas let us get back to the difficulty of getting there.
If you do wish to follow along then copy and paste the artist’s entire name (Edward Stuhl) into the ContentDM’s search bar. You’ll find two links. Go ahead and click the first one. This links you to an article from July 6th, 2016 about the featured collections of July. This is not a direct link to his collection nor does it point you any further than this article. From here you can find his collection, the link being the third one down, but still this was not what I was expecting. So let’s go back and try link two.
Did you click link two? Did you get to the collection? No? Me neither! We are actually at this point thrown back to the first page we started this journey on. Nothing at first glace can indicate why that link sent you here if you’re looking for Edward Stuhl. If you keep scrolling down and are paying attention to the names of the collections you will then find Edward as the 11th collection down the list. You might be saying at this point, “Blair! You’re so lazy, you could just press ctrl+F and enter his name to find where it is on the page, gosh.” You are not wrong, dear reader, I could easily do just that. But what if someone doesn’t know how to find certain text on a website? Or thinks they’ve been redirected to the wrong place then gets lost? It is the fault of the website creators at this point that they did not create something easily navigable without outside aid or at minimum, persistence.
To wrap it up, once you click on the link (in case you also got too lost like myself), you get jettisoned to a completely different website! This honestly shocked me since I was led to believe this information was housed by ContentDM but that is not the case. This collection in particular is held by CSU Chico Digital Collections. Here you can actually begin to find information about the collection, the artist, and go view many of his wildflower watercolors. They really are quite lovely and once you click on them for more information, there is a decent amount you can find about each piece. You can even narrow your search by scientific name, creator, date, and format. The search bar in this case also works within the collection you’re looking at and doesn’t shoot you off somewhere else entirely, thankfully (unless if that’s what you want, then I apologize). For instance if I search ‘berry’ it will pull up all of the works that have berries in them. I rather like this search feature over ContentDM’s.
Overall I was quite impressed, mainly with the very high quality images that were provided for the visitor. And it reminded me of the drawings by Beatrix Potter, whom I love dearly.