This on-line exhibit by the Smithsonian was the first I have ever viewed-but not the last! As a new student of the Japanese American experience during WWII, this site expanded my knowledge issues such as the racial profiling that took place, but it also took me deeper by providing related documents and posters, pictures of artifacts, and very powerful audio clips. Different from a normal website dealing with history, I suddenly realized I had spent two hours listening to personal accounts, clicking on and enlarging pictures and reading documents, and even spending time on links of other sites that were provided. This on-line exhibit also allowed me to avoid the long lines of the museum and I could take my time and easily click backwards or forward if I missed something or wanted to jump ahead.
The site had a simplistic but effective manner of flowing from background information on Japanese Americans dealing with immigration to the United States, to Pearl Harbor, racial profiling and internment, their decision to fight, and all the way to the present situation in today’s society. The information provided could be useful to all people of all knowledge levels. One piece of information I found very interesting was that the average Japanese American soldier was 5'4" in height and weighed 125lbs and had to have the standard uniforms altered and had trouble finding boots that fit. The use of the gray text, black and white pictures, and somber background music creates an empathetic experience for the viewer. The only suggestion I have for the on-line exhibit is that the background music, while effective, was sometimes random and distracting. I think a more even and flowing background music could create a more entrancing effect without having the sometimes-sudden notes coming from silence.
This is a website that I have already recommended to others and I plan to visit the actual exhibit.
I really enjoyed reading and exploring the “A More Perfect Union” website -- it hardly felt like homework! The museum exhibit translated very well into an online edition, was very easy to use and included various web components that made up for not being able to visit the exhibit in-person.
The online exhibit’s strongest feature was its ease of use. The side-scrolling menus made the site extremely easy to navigate. Also, I really like how each main category listed all of its subcomponents on the top of the page so that you can go through in chronological order or move freely throughout the exhibit. The ability to link to full size versions of each picture or document on the site was also a great feature. This way, your connection does not get bogged down loading every large picture, but at the same time you can see scaled-down versions of each image. The inclusion of the smaller documents made me feel like I wasn’t missing out on any parts of the exhibit. This feature simulated an actual museum walkthrough; you can choose which pieces to study more intensely and which to skip over.
Thanks to my high-speed connection, I could listen to each of the audio links. This was one of my favorite features in the site. In addition to the background music, the audio links gave the exhibit an online ambience that really complemented the viewing experience. Also, none of the links, including the audio ones, moved you away from the main page. As a result, there was no tedious back-browsing.
The choice to display all of the information in one main horizontal window was a wise choice. The entire exhibit fit on my computer screen, so I never had to scroll down on a page to see all of the information. The side scroll buttons provided an easy way to quickly navigate back to quotes or pictures that I wanted to see again without leaving the sub-pages. The horizontal display left the screen uncluttered, an accomplishment that most websites with lots of information do not achieve.
In addition to the web-specific features, I thought that the information on the website was extremely helpful. Though I was already familiar with most of the information because we have reviewed it in-class, the images and first hand accounts added to my understanding of the Japanese experience in World War II. And while there was so much information on the site from the beginning of Japanese immigration to the Civil Liberties Act, the exhibit did not overwhelm me with excessive facts and data. Overall, it was very easy to digest.
My one criticism of the site is minor and one that I have of most of the literature and documentaries we have studied this semester. I feel that the point of the website to represent the atrocities that were inflicted on Japanese Americans would be even better proven if people of other races were represented in the first hand accounts. I recall one audio link in particular that mentioned other Americans staring through the gates as the Japanese were herded into the relocation centers. It would send such a strong message if an American of non-Japanese descent could give their account of the relocation or internment. I suppose I am thinking from a journalistic perspective, but I do believe that the best points are made when more than one type of source (here specifically in terms of ethnic background) is used.
I was going to say that the website might not be easy to use for someone is hard of hearing of visually impaired, but after further inspection of the site I saw that a full print version is available. Therefore, I have no criticisms of the exhibit at all from a technology perspective. It is not only one of the best scholarly websites I have visited, but one of the most advanced and yet user-friendly websites I have explored.
I know that the website was produced by an outside company, but I have to give kudos to the people of the American History museum for creating such an excellent product. This online exhibit allows people who might otherwise not be able to see “A More Perfect Union” in Washington D.C. to get a comprehensive experience of the exhibit.
This is a fantastic website. The reason that I like the format so much is because it is easy to follow the different segments. Many times, I find that I get lost on websites that divide the information – I can’t remember where I’ve been and where I should go next. Under the format of the online exhibit, I always new exactly where I was as if I were physically walking through the exhibit. The way the information is displayed is both interesting and easy on the eyes. On many other websites, after I’ve been on it for a few minutes, I feel as if I just cannot look at it any longer. This website did not bother my eyes one bit. In fact, the whole time I was on it, I felt very aesthetically satisfied. Also, the music helped contribute to the comfort of viewing the website. I think this is a interesting because the setup, fonts, and music create a soothing aspect, meanwhile the subject on hand is brutal. The reason that it’s interesting is because it seems like it parallels the attitude of many of the Japanese Americans. They did not respond by acting out violently or harshly. I think that the mirroring of the attitudes helped make the website even more effective.
Regarding the actual content, the writing is very readable without being immature language. I only had to read each segment once through to understand it, but at the same time, I felt that I was reading something geared towards intelligent adults. I think many intellectual endeavors strive to present well by overusing advanced language, and they end up completely negating their cause. Also, I thought that the amount of information in each section was just right. Any more and it might have been too much at once (both for they mind and the eyes), any less and it would not have been enough information.
I think that the major strength of the website, aside from effective design and language, is the use of the photographs and artifacts. I liked that you could look at as many of them up close as you wanted, and that each one had a lot of information to go with it. It’s hard to tell for sure without having seen the exhibit yet, but it really seemed that everything at the exhibit is online. These photographs make it a fantastic resource – for viewing both prior to and post viewing the exhibit, and also just as a highly informative and reliable resource for information on the subject.
I only saw two areas of improvement. The first was that although I saw the scroll instructions in the first segment, I did not immediately see option for the following screens, and in some places the scroll did not show up right away. So, I initially bypassed certain parts, then realized there was more and went back. Maybe it would be better if the scroll was a little clearer. Also, I did not see a definition for “Nisei.” Given, I know what it is, but not everyone who visits the site will. An area with definitions and further explanations of the various legal acts involved might help complete the site.
One last thought – I thought that the “picture-brides” aspect was very interesting and could make for a good future exhibit or sub-exhibit.
First I want to say that undertaking a virtual museum exhibit is a gutsy feat in and of itself. I think this site reaches levels of excellence in many areas. Please bear with me as I take a stream-of-consciousness tour of the site. I think this type of feedback may prove most useful.
When I first enter the site I am impressed by the sense of contrast I see from the light background on the right with introductory text and the changing pictures on the left. Normally, I would not read an introduction, but the page is displayed in such an inviting manner that I will break my normal web-surfing habits.
The color scheme works well because it gives the page a look of historical authority – especially the image of the constitution and the picture of the young girls saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Of course, the Smithsonian symbol gives the site immediate credibility, which is very important when using a median such as the web.
The initial page fits entirely on one screen, so there is virtually no scrolling which is important because research shows that most people do not scroll down (either they do not know how or are in too much of a hurry).
The only thing I would change about the introductory page would be the “A | MORE | PERFECT | UNION” logo. While I like the look of the logo, an image separated by vertical lines usually means that there are separate links to follow, when in reality there is only one link for this image. In web design some people call this a “mind model.” I expect that this image will be four separate links and it confuses me.
I immediately want to click on the “listen” link, especially because it is much harder to read information on the web than it is to read printed text. Good feature. The introduction is brief and to the point. I like the theme of the site – not a negative theme of blame and shame, but a positive theme of striving for a perfect union in the spirit of the Constitution. That energetic introduction makes me want to visit the exhibit and learn more. I wish that after the introduction finished, a pop-up window would tell me what to click on next. Not too difficult to figure out, but I had to think about it.
The layout of the exhibit is nicely done, although nine times out of ten your users will be confused when they have to scroll laterally. This breaks a golden rule of web design – you’re never ever supposed to design a site that requires lateral scrolling. You might want an audio voice-over that explains this navigation feature because it is atypical. The sliding instruction helps.
I like the button that guides me to the next part of the exhibit – it makes me not have to think about where to click next. That’s a good goal for any website – never make the user have to think: “Where do I go from here?” It should be obvious. I wish that the entire tour was audio-driven. I would like that better than reading the exhibit material. I like the music – very subtle and effective in bringing the surfer out of their world and into the exhibit.
Good – more audio on the next screen. I like that it’s the voice of a woman who went through this experience because that makes the event human rather than just historic. I just figured out that I can click on the pictures. Nice feature. Also, it’s good that when I click on one it opens a separate window. I do not want to leave the page and get lost somewhere in cyberspace, so this is a good feature. Also, I do not want the audio to get cut off by my navigation.
I think I should be able to click on the “Next Section” buttons, but instead I have to click on “Go” – both should be hyperlinked. Again, I feel the urge to scan over the text and not to read it fully. Perhaps a voice-over would resolve this issue? I love the audio features. I find myself looking for them first before I look at the exhibit and then listening to the audio while I browse the exhibit.
It’s excellent that the developers included a printable version. This is perfect for those who really want to explore the text and/or use the site as a research tool. Also, the search page is an excellent resource, and the classroom activities are very creative. I can imagine them making an impact on young AND on adult minds.
One of my favorite sections of the site is the place where every visitor can reflect on the exhibit experience. This makes the experience more personal, gets ideas flowing, and opens a forum of interaction with other people from all over the world, which is an exciting possibility. I especially liked the space for internment camp survivors. That made an impact on me because it made me think about how I would react to the site if I had been through the internment experience. I think some of the reflections lost site of the focus of the exhibit.
Overall I think the site is successful in that it presents the exhibit in an inviting manner and provides different medians of experience. I can see, click, scroll, and listen. Interactivity is key to the relationship you need to establish with your viewers in order for them to take something important away from your site – and there is much to take away from this powerful exhibit.
I think the web site is very useful. It is very informative. It provides valuable resources for people such as students and reporters who know about the Japanese-American internment during World War II and want to learn more. It is also informative for the general public who do not know a lot about it. The layout is very good. The balance between pictures and text is good. I like the way each page scrolls in the Rich Media Version. It reminds me of Japanese screens, and it has a Japanese taste to it. The color is very sedate, which suits the topic. However, I am not crazy about the music. The music is too sentimental. I do not know whether this web site needs music all the way through. I think the voices are very effective, though. The interviews with the Japanese Americans help us to understand the impact clearly. The information is presented very orderly in chronological order and it is very easy to locate information. The flow is very natural. The chronological order is helpful to understand the historical context. However, I did not think that I had to click on "begin the story" to go to a different page. To me it did not seem like a link because the words "Rich Media" and "Printable Version" below, which were links. The fact that we can choose from Rich Media Version or Printable Version is very nice.
This site is from the Japanese-American perspective, and I think the web site presents it well, but at the same time, I would like to see how Japanese Americans are Americans. That means, during this period, even though Japanese and Japanese American shared the same cultural heritage, they were very different from each other because of the environment they were in. I think that by presenting the difference, viewers of this web site can see how ridiculous it was to classify Japanese Americans as enemy aliens in general.
I thought of several other topics that, in my opinion, could add more value to the web site. I would like to see responses or interviews of neighbors of the Japanese Americans. I think it might be interesting to know how white American neighbors responded to the whole process. I am interested in what the neighbors did during the absence of the Japanese Americans. I would like to know specifically what happened to their businesses that these people were forced to abandon. What happened immediately after the war? What happened to the young Japanese-American men killed in the war and their parents? I also would like to know the media coverage during the whole period. I would love to see how media responded to the whole situation before and after the war particularly in leading newspapers, such as the New York Times.
It is very hard to say that the web site is "entertaining" because of the seriousness of the subject matter, but this web site makes us think about many things such as the September 11 attack and civil rights. So the web site is successful.