Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Pequot Museum

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, located in Mashantucket, Connecticut, is a unique institution in that it is a $193.4 million dollar museum on Native Americans fully run and financed by the Mashantucket Pequot nation and located on that nation's reservation. (The Mashantuckets also operate Foxtails, the world's largest casino, conveniently located at the midpoint between New York and Boston.) The museum maintains an active web presence, with its permanent physical exhibts also being rendered into webpages.

The Mashantucket Pequot Museum's website is not a full digital library, but an extension of the physical museum and archives so that material on the Pequots and other Amerindians can be accessed by the public. (The Mashantuckets main purpose in creating the museum is to raise awareness of Native history and the issues facing many First Nations today. Fundraising is handled by the casino.) That being said, online objects are displayed in two ways. First, the website consists of a number of exhibits (corresponding to physical exhibits) that are obviously well curated on topics such as The Pequot Village. These exhibits consist mostly of text providing a nice summary of pertinent historical and archaeological knowledge as well as insights from curators and/or researchers. Sadly, they do not contain many actual digital objects, and what they do have is limited to images of museum displays (typically panoramas) and maps. Furthermore, these objects lack all metadata!

However, the Mashantucket Pequot Musuem also provides a link to a flickr page on which they display a number of images of objects from their archive. These objects are much higher quality, can be enlarged, are described with an abundance of metadata, and are generally primary source type objects. On the downside, there are only about twenty of these superior digital objects, and they clearly serve primarily as a teaser for the Mashantuckets' impressive archive. (There is also an online finding aid for their archive, as well as instructions for ordering copies and/or arranging a scholarly visit to the archives.)

As a self-contained digital library, the Mashantucket Pequot Museum falls a bit short, but as an advertisement to available resources, it strikes me as quite successful. Also, I found the Mashantuckets incorporation of flickr into their normal website to be rather clever. I do believe that the Mashantuckets have made progress on their goal of raising awareness of Amerindian culture to both the general public (thus the panoramas) and the scholarly community (thus the archives and finding aid.)

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