Internship Post #4

Post 4:  What are you doing that seems to be successful in the internship?  Challenging? How can you address these challenges?

In response to the question – what am I doing that seems to be successful? – I have been able to introduce a video component to the American Ginseng project. While only a brief video, it provides an easy to watch overview of the website and encourages visitors to explore the site.

The American Ginseng project is about sharing the stories of people with expert knowledge of this fascinating plant. So far, the site’s collection of dozens of stories are text based. But for visitors not familiar with the subject, they may find it difficult to determine where to start or what to search for. As a result an overview video of the project serves several important purposes. It provides a visualization of the overall theme of the site that can easily be shared and translated. It also becomes a key focal point of any social media strategy. Finally, the video serves as a template, on how to produce and develop future multimedia components.

The project team designed the website as a digital collection of “American Ginseng stories”. Individuals are encouraged to upload their stories in a text based format. But like a library full of books, visitors to the site might not know where to start. So there is a need for some resource that permits visitors to get an overview of what is available and where to find it.

Sharing stories, especially oral and written stories, is rooted in the Smithsonian’s mission to preserve folklife traditions. For decades the institution has been a leader in capturing America’s heritage on both audio and video. But the challenge facing the site’s production team was sustaining the Smithsonian’s high production standards while producing videos economically.

Since the site is designed for a broad audience familiar with multimedia, it became apparent that further consideration for including some video components was necessary. The opportunity came when a production team was able to video a wide selection of American Ginseng experts talking about the plant and the Smithsonian’s project. The challenge was how to produce a short video from the available material on a very limited budget.

The solution was to use my background in video editing and leverage a low cost media tool, Apple’s “iMovie.” I was able to demonstrate that a short length, high quality video can be produced economically. The final video addresses the challenge of what is sustainable within the project’s restraints. But most importantly it provides a visible template for future Smithsonian web based projects.

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