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Learning Web Design with Systems and Web Services: The Finding Freedom Summer Traveling Exhibit | Reflections from a Luminary Entry 2

Before working with Systems and Web Services at the Miami University Libraries, my experience with web development was next to none. I’d [a decade] prior placed custom cursors on to web pages, explored a minuscule amount with CSS in setting up a splash page, used “website builders,” and that’s about it. My experience in a generalist “introduction to the various fields that you’ll be studying within your degree” course was negligible even compared to my early 2010s experience, with even divs unaccounted for.

In order to maintain and share the anticipated 2022 exhibit’s digital resources, as well as to gather information on institutional interest, the college and libraries built a website that I was able to directly learn in the process of developing.

I now find it hilarious that I ended up taking a web application development course directly after learning about web design, successfully able to bypass the “wait, what is a div?” wall that a few of my peers (who I definitely otherwise would have counted among) ran headfirst into. A “div” is a division or subdivision of another division of the page. I’m really not sure how I didn’t connect the dots sooner with the ingenious naming scheme employed.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Ken Irwin, Jerry Yarnetsky, and Meng Qu, for your mentorship, incredibly effective teaching, generosity, and patience with my learning.

The Finding Freedom Summer traveling exhibit is an initiative by the College of Creative Arts and the Miami University Libraries to educate fourth- and fifth-grade students about the Black Mississippian voter registration drive of 1964, wherein volunteers from the Western College for Women and Miami University of Oxford organized to assist. Three of these participants (James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner) were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan and Mississippi local law enforcement. 

The most current GitHub deploy of the Finding Freedom Summer home page.

It was while encoding a potential Resources subpage and category implementation that I learned my most key development lesson yet, with this amazing group. Over the course of my degree, I’ve largely focused on building everything from absolute scratch. It’s really only as of now, in year three, that I’ve found myself working on designing automatic processes that do my work. To quote Ken Irwin, and I must say that this came across as a profound thought process at the time, which has also since led to an evaluation and series of massive alterations to how I approach my general use of the computer, “Make the computer do the work for you.”

This was not my first time learning about Freedom Summer. It has been brought up as a topic within a few of my global and intercultural perspectives courses. This was, however, my first time working on any sort of project relating to it. I think that it is a very important event for people to learn about and come to understand, more than ever in the divisive times of today, and I’m grateful to have been able to help out with pulling the website for its exhibit together.

The traveling exhibit’s website was not the only project that I worked on during this time; I also performed some requirements elicitation for software for the inclusive cataloging project; however, I do believe that professional development with MarcEdit, as referenced in my article on Technical Services, should be more convenient in ways that also benefit other ongoing projects.