The Slaughter-Murray Papers is a digital archive for the letters of Montgomery Slaughter, the wartime mayor of Fredericksburg, and George Murray, an enlisted member of the 114th PA Zouaves Regiment. The website houses 80+ documents and letters from both individuals, each of whom had ties to Fredericksburg and the surrounding area. The archive provides a look into two soldiers on opposing sides of the American Civil War, with Slaughter’s letters looking into how the city fared during the war while Murray’s in comparison provide insight into the daily life of a soldier.
The Slaughter-Murray Papers digital history project was one of the first sites the digital preservation team looked at. This site was created in 2016 using Omeka to house all the documents from these two Civil War era soldiers. At a first glance this site appeared to have minor issues. Of those issues there was missing text from the homepage, Photobucket watermarks on images, and a TimelineJS project that was out of sync.
It was soon discovered that the fixes needed for this site were going to be much harder than anticipated. The site had not been updated since 2016 and as a result had many issues related to saving errors and out-of-date plugins.
The first issue we tackled was the images. To embed an image on an Omeka site, the image must be hosted elsewhere on the Internet and a link provided in the HTML web editor. The students who created the site originally hosted their images on Photobucket, and in between 2016 and 2022 the images had been overlaid with watermarks that were originally not present. Thankfully, the links provided allowed us to obtain copies of each of the individual images sans watermarks. We were then able to upload the images directly into the sites file directory. This means the images are now hosted directly on the Slaughter-Murray Papers website and will no longer contain any watermarks.
The second major issue with this site resulted in an overhaul of the homepage. While the homepage does not look that much different to how it did in 2016, there was quite a bit of editing that had to be done on the backend of Omeka. Omeka does not allow for text to be directly inputted it on its pages because it is a cataloging site, and instead uses a plugin called Simple Pages to create pages outside the normal catalogue. However, the Simple Pages plugin is not optimal for customizing a website because it lacks many of the editing features found on blog sites like WordPress. The team who originally worked on this site were forced to upload images explaining the site’s purpose, its history, and usability features. These images were hosted on the same Photobucket site as the rest of the images and had the same watermark issues as previously mentioned. However, an admin feature kept us from embedding any kind of media on the site that did not previously exist. As a result, we struggled applying transcriptions of the photos to the site and ultimately had to keep the images and add a massive alt text file to make the site more accessible. The only other change made to the homepage involved increasing the size of the introduction video, which had been pushed off to the side. The video is now much larger and attention grabbing, drawing the eye of visitors to the site so that they may click on it and be introduced to the sites purpose.
The last issue that had to be fixed was a TimelineJS project that failed to load properly. The timeline would either fail to load or all the events would load at the same time, causing them to overlap one another. This was fixed by directly editing the embed code to make the timeline bigger, making it more visible as well as giving it more room to load on the site.
Here are some before and after shots of the site. To view the full-size screenshot, click on the image of your choosing and it will open in a new window. From there you can view the screenshot like you would a normal webpage.
If you would like to explore the Slaughter-Murray Papers site for yourself, please click here or navigate to the site’s landing page from the dropdown menus at the top of this page.