Digital Project: Becuna Cartoons

For my digital project I expanded on my Omeka site so that it would include more of the cartoons I had used for my thesis. With the use of additional cartoons, I laid the site out as it would appear if used on a tour of the Becuna, with a different theme for each room that the visitor moved through. On a whole, the tour takes the visitor through the submarine using the various compartments to connect with the different types of cartoons drawn by those in the navy.  While the sailors likely believed that they were just drawing cartoons that would never hang in a museum, their illustrations have been shown to come to life and reveal underlying cultural beliefs that can be used to aid in the visitors’ understanding of the Cold War.

By using Omeka, it was possible to provide users with easy access to the cartoons as well as all necessary analysis and commentary on the themes presented. Being able to visually see how the exhibit/ tour would play out was important since my thesis could only describe how it may look; however, with Omeka it was possible to actually design and create it. The ability to add parts of the Seaport Museum’s oral history collection also is a great benefit as it gives the users a deeper insight into the actual lives of the submariners. While for this site I only was able to use text excerpts, if the tour was fully developed by the museum, it would be vital to include the actual audio files instead.

The main question this project sought to answer was whether a digital tool was the best way to present this information on at the Independence Seaport Museum. The use of an app-based tour is important because it will also allow visitors to interact with the cartoons in more dynamic ways than an exhibit or traditional self-guided tour. Furthermore, it allows the museum to continually update the tour and add new features, such as using audio clips from their oral history collections. A digital exhibit or tour layout is also useful since it allows for the implementation of this new interpretation without much change needed to the physical layout of the submarine. Omeka was a great platform to use as it made it possible to present the findings from my Master’s thesis in a succinct and easily accessible way. I have actually started using it for my work at a non-profit as a possible way for them to enter the digital world to present their historical research beyond academic circles.

In terms of the actual analysis, the Omeka site allowed for the ability to convey a wider range of interpretations on the different types of cartoons. Being able to move from cartoons on technology to ones on sexism while still revealing how it connects to understanding the submariners’ lives was an important function of Omeka. Thus by being able to layout how a new interpretation will function, it will be possible to present this site to the Seaport Museum and make the actual implementation of the tour a more realistic possibility.  This new tour will better fulfill the museum’s mission of fostering “an understanding of the connections between civilization and the sea, particularly maritime aspects of the social, cultural, political, environmental, and economic history,” that is has often overlooked when it comes to interpreting the USS Becuna (Guidestar, http://www.guidestar.org/profile/23-1584971).

Learning how to use and develop an Omeka site has been an important development since it provides an easy to use and direct way to reach a wide audience through a digital platform. Indeed, it has been shown to be the prefect tool for the practical application of making one’s scholarly work open to the public. Due to that, Omeka is a great digital history tool as it accomplishes the main goals of being open, dynamic, and accessible.

To visit and explore the tour for the USS Becuna please visit: https://patricksshank.omeka.net/exhibits/show/becuna-cartoon-tour.

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