The History & Legacy of UMW

UMW Digital History Archive

Then and Now

University of Mary Washington: Then and Now is a digital history project whose main goal is to create and display a digital photography exhibit of the University of Mary Washington Fredericksburg campus. Images on the site range in date from 1908 to the present day, and aim to portray the evolution of student life and […]

University of Mary Washington: Then and Now is a digital history project whose main goal is to create and display a digital photography exhibit of the University of Mary Washington Fredericksburg campus. Images on the site range in date from 1908 to the present day, and aim to portray the evolution of student life and campus structure.

The Then and Now digital history site proved to be one of the most problematic websites the digital preservation team had to work with. This site was created in 2014, yet has held up remarkably well. At a glance the site looks great, yet the deeper we looked into it, the more problems we found.

It was discovered early on that half of the pages that were meant to be accessible through the site’s drop-down menu simply would not show up. Upon gaining admin access, we found that each of the pages were still published and the information contained on them fully intact. We opted to rebuild the navigation menu to try and fix this, only to discover the same problem occurred with the new menu. This prompted us to examine the site’s source code in an attempt to figure out what was wrong. It turns out the students who originally created this cite created a custom WordPress theme for this website, which is not compatible with the numerous update WordPress has undergone over the years. While the menus worked at one point in time, the theme presently does not allow drop-down menus of any kind. To work around this issue, we added new links for the Collections and Works Cited pages on the main menu, making everything accessible on the main site rather than through dropdown menus.

The other major issue we encountered had to do with a map of the UMW campus. At first it looked as if the Then and Now team used Google Maps to create an interactive map of the campus which was simply missing information. This was not the case. Then and Now uses a WordPress plugin called TablePress, which in turn uses Google Maps to display information. Since this site’s creation, the TablePress plugin has become incompatible with the custom theme. This means it is impossible to fix the map.

This site was one of the first instances where the digital preservation team had to come to terms with the fact they are not able to fix every issue these past sites throw at them. For this reason, we chose to add redirect links in the map’s description while leaving the map so that a viewer map zoom in to see the default locations Google chooses to display.

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 University of Mary Washington: Then and Now site for yourself, please click here or navigate to the site’s landing page from the dropdown menus at the top of this page.

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