ABSTRACT: Virtual exhibition can play an important role in archival practice due to the growing volume of digital content in repositories, the growing number and diversity of remote users, and increased sophistication of technologies focusing on Web accessibility. The expanding digital environment affords archives with opportunities to leverage technology to their advantage by integrating archival description and outreach practices. Through virtual exhibitions following guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C-WAI), archives can reach out to users with disabilities who can use assistive equipment for research purposes. With a focus on a disability history virtual exhibition at the University of Toledo’s Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections, this article presents a conceptual framework for developing virtual exhibits comprised of three dimensions: thematic, structural, and semantic. The study presents an experimental methodology involving historical representation, information architecture, and Web accessibility. An overarching theme—the supernarrative—serves as a unifying component, holding the content and narrative together. The relationship between historical representation and the supernarrative manifests itself differently through these dimensions, but supports the position that with the help of planning, sound information architecture, and accurate descriptions, virtual exhibits can be equally effective in presenting history to users of all abilities. Virtual exhibitions should involve archivists, historians, and technologists in collaboration to achieve the best results. The article also presents elements of the W3C-WAI guidelines as relevant to the unique needs of this project.
Archival Issues: The Journal of the Midwest Archives Conference
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The University of Toledo
University of Toledo Libraries
Digital Initiatives, The University of Toledo Libraries
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